Being Right: Reflecting on Consequences of the Shutdown

Nobody likes a partial government shutdown. It’s inconvenient and embarrassing. Even worse, the thousands of federal employees, federal contractors and business owners who provide services to those on the federal payroll and their families suffer from not being able to work and collect pay. Lapses in appropriations that lead to furloughed workers belie the point of a government: to work. We need to be serious, however, about the effects of the longest lasting partial government shutdown in American history.

We can start by placing this latest byproduct of the President’s unchecked ego in the context of how many funding gaps have led to a cessation of non-essential government functions in the modern budgeting era: four. We also should be sure to understand that this was not a full government shutdownonly seven federal agencies suffered from the lapse in funds. This is not a diminution of the pain and stress experienced by the aforementioned federal employees, contractors, their families and business owners. Rather, this is to put things to scale. These hard-working Americans, who are usually underpaid and underappreciated, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, represent about .5 percent of the American workforce. We should also be much more optimistic about the resiliency of the American economy under conservative economic policies; the Congressional Budget Office reported that while $11 billion were “lost,” more than 2⁄3 of that is recoverable. The Bureau of Economic Analysis last reported that the American GDP stands at about $20-21 trillion. What is the total sum of the salaries of the federal employees who didn’t receive pay (but will, thanks to the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019) during the partial shutdown? About $9 billion, according to the CBO.

Are people really citing this as the end of days for the American economy and the American worker? Less than .05 percent of the federal GDP that will be paid back? Even if you add in contractors, many of whom will see some kind of payment for work lost during the partial shutdown, that number doesn’t come close to being calamitous. I know that many American families had to pinch pennies, tighten their belts and make sacrifices. Many have had to put delays in their life plans and things they’ve worked hard for. As I said before, they should not have had to. I acknowledge with gratitude the members of Congress working to end shutdowns and fix the broken budgetary process. This partial shutdown was hard, yes, but it was no worse than economic downturns that hurt the vast majority of the American workforce and business owners when they occur. I hope that a partial government shutdown doesn’t happen again for the sake of hardworking federal employees who serve in uniform, deliver the mail, maintain and protect our national parks or serve their county in another capacity for they deserve our thanks, our appreciation and our support. I also hope that our institutions are strong enough not only to weather these tribulations, but to prevent them from having to occur in the first place.

Contact Wil Stowers at [email protected].