Unsurprisingly the big story here in the Washington DC Metro area is the potential government shut down. While most Americans go about their business, hardly giving it a second thought, dire predictions of the doom to come are broadcast throughout all media institutions. We should expect rioting in the streets (no, seriously, I heard someone suggest this), mass mayhem, a crippling of our Nation’s infrastructure, and worst yet – feline and canine cohabitation.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Washington Express – the free, Reader’s Digest version of the Washington Post – had a headline this morning that blared “NOT THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS!!!” It seems that this weekend’s cherry blossom parade would be canceled if there is a government shutdown.
This is indeed horrible news. Sure American troops are in harm’s way around the world, and we are printing money hand over fist as our country goes deeper into debt to totalitarian regimes, but that’s nothing compared to the sheer terror of tourists being slightly inconvenienced by the cancellation of a hokey parade in downtown Washington. Leave aside the fact that they will still be free to see the cherry blossoms themselves (even if they are now past their peak bloom), and that many of the tourist attractions in our Nation’s Capital are outdoor sites that will still be open. It is surely worth compromising on such an insignificant thing like the federal budget in order to avoid this catastrophe.
The Express goes on to detail some of the ways in which we are all going to be affected by a shutdown. I would recommend listening to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as you read the proceeding paragraph in order to set the appropriate mood.
The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery; delay pay to troops fighting in three wars; slow the processing of tax returns; and limit small-business loans, and government-backed mortgages during peak home-buying season.
The Express then calls this a “dire message.” Indeed.
Now that you’ve had the appropriate amount of time to digest this warning of the coming apocalypse, let’s take these items one at a time.
a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery
This is a “show me the work” statement. At least the other predictions are factually supportable, but this is mere guesswork. Could there be some negative economic consequences? I suppose that there will be direct and indirect impacts on the economy, but will the economic recovery come to a grinding halt as a result of the shutdown? Besides, the shutdown won’t do as much to undermine our economy as will continued neglect of the national debt.
delay pay to troops fighting in three wars
No one wants to place a financial burden on troops fighting for our country, but notice the word is delay, not cancel. Unlike other federal employees, the troops would still receive back pay in case the shutdown lasts long enough to even cause a delay.
Tangentially I would note that the article mentions three wars. Didn’t President Nobel Peace Price come into office with America engaged in two wars, one of which he wholly opposed and implied that we’d withdraw from? Now we’re up to three? Very curious. I’m sure ObamaCaths will explain that this is somehow all Bush’s fault and FOUR MORE YEARS!
slow the processing of tax returns
Today’s date is April 7. January 1 was 97 days ago. Okay, no one other than Ned Flanders actually does their taxes after the break of midnight on New Year’s, but April 18 is not the only date that tax returns must be filed – it’s the last day to file taxes without penalty. So while I certainly sympathize with people whose federal tax returns might come a little later, you did have three months to do this. And again, this is a delay. You’ll still get your checks.
and limit small-business loans, and government-backed mortgages during peak home-buying season
Yes, a nuisance to people buying homes. But it’s temporary inconvenience, not a crushing of one’s dreams to buy a home. So the closing date might be pushed back a week; I don’t think that qualifies as a national crisis.
Lest I be criticized as being overly dismissive of the negative consequences of a government shutdown, I recognize that some people will be more significantly impacted by it. Many of my friends are federal workers, sothey’re not going to be paid as long as the government is closed, and they are not likely to receive back pay (as it stands now – that could change). Contrary to what some people think federal employees don’t spend their evenings dining on champagne and caviar in their 20-room mansions overlooking the Potomac – well, most don’t anyway. Losing a week or two week’s pay is going to be a hit. And there will be hiccups as people will be unable to resolve any disputes that might arise in that time frame. But people receiving government benefits will continue to receive government benefits. Our army isn’t going to have to close shop, so our borders will remain protected, or at least the ones to the north, east, and west.
The government shutdown is going to be at worst a minor inconvenience to a small proportion of the population. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t care about the people who might be more meaningfully impacted, but it does mean that the warnings of dire consequences sound a bit overheated. Considering the financial mess we’re in, I find it reprehensible that we’re more worried over a potential government shutdown than we are about seriously addressing our budget concerns. I’m sorry if someone’s trip to Yellowstone might have to be canceled, but I would hope that making sure our grandkids don’t end up working for the Chinese government might be a bit more of a pressing concern.
And if you think I’m minimizing the impact of this potential shutdown, here’s the last paragraph of the article:
Under long-standing federal rules, agencies would not be affected if they provide for U.S. national security; dispense most types of federal benefit payments; offer inpatient medical care or outpatient emergency care; ensure the safe use of food or drugs; manage air traffic; protect and monitor borders and coastline; guard prisoners; conduct criminal investigations; oversee power distributions; and oversee banks.
In other words, unless the government agency performs a task that actually matters, it’s going to be shut down.
Shudder. How will we weather this crisis?