The First Casualties of a Government Shutdown: Public Workers, Scientists, and Sick People

The Atlantic

View photo

.

REUTERS

The US government will, after a congressional vote last night, almost certainly shut down when the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

But “shut down” doesn’t really capture the impact of what’s more like a spending freeze that will gradually spread through the government like ice forming in water. That means its effects may creep up on citizens who don’t interact with the bureaucracy daily. Initially, a shutdown will be little more than a symbol of US dysfunction, but each passing day will make its economic impact more tangible, especially if prolonged squabbling spooks consumer and business confidence.

The shutdown is essentially a legal problem: Republicans in Congress refused to endorse a spending bill unless it delayed the Affordable Care Act, the law delivering health insurance to poorer Americans, which starts to take effect on Oct. 1. Now, when the new fiscal year starts, government officials won’t have the authority to spend new money.

The government doesn’t shut down “essential” services that protect life or would be more costly to suspend than keep going. That means soldiers stay on duty (though their pay is delayed) and nuclear reactors stay open, but most financial regulators  and trade negotiators are sent home without pay. Medicare and Social Security will keep paying out, since they are paid for out of trust funds, though the checks may be late arriving. Many departments and contracts will be able to continue using money that is already appropriated before that, too runs out.

Here are the first people who will notice the shutdown:

  • The first people to notice will be federal employees, when some 800,000 will be sent home without pay. This will be felt in the regular economy—imagine the market reaction if the jobs report showed 800,000 lay-offs in a month—to the tune of about 0.32 percentage points of growth in the fourth quarter, per economist Mark Zandi, who expected the economy to expand at 2.5% annualized pace if there were no interruption. That assumes only a two week shut-down: If  it drags into a month, fourth-quarter growth could be reduced by as much as 1.4 percentage points.
  • Eggheads are going to notice the shutdown. A significant portion of the spending freeze will affect the long-term investments the government makes in science and technology. NASA will be mostly closed, and government-funded medical researchers won’t accept new cases. Climate and weather scientists will take a break. Statisticians and economists will stop producing public data that many markets rely on. The Centers for Disease Control and Surveillance will stop tracking epidemics—just as flu season is approaching!
  • US trading partners will notice. The representatives negotiating trade deals with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries will have to take a break, which could throw a wrench in plans to have a Pacific trade deal for president Obama to present at an October meeting of Asian leaders. There will likely be delays in the approval of visas to enter the United States—the last time the government shut down, some 20,000-30,000 applications went unprocessed each day—or to obtain trade licenses. US lawyers contesting disputes at the World Trade Organization will have to ask for a time-out.
  • Home-buyers and small businesses will notice. The government programs that guarantee about 30% of new home loans (remember, housing is driving the economy!) and provide capital to small businesses will be shut down. Many workplace health and safety inspections will also be put on hold.

The longest shutdown ever lasted 21 days. Let’s hope US lawmakers don’t try to beat the record.





More From The Atlantic

Rates

View Comments (0)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • Our Best-Ever Value Plan for Your Business

    New prices on our Mobile Share Value Plans on the nation's most reliable 4G LTE network.

    AdChoicesAT&T® Small BusinessSponsored
  • Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia

    Tycoon's arrest sends shock wave through Russia MOSCOW (AP) — The arrest of a Russian telecoms and oil tycoon has sent shock waves through the country's business community, with some fearing a return to the dark days of a decade ago, when the Kremlin asserted its power by imprisoning the country's…

    Associated Press
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • As Fed takes baby steps, Cramer's trick for profit

    In turn, Cramer says making money in the market, involves looking at the environment through the lens of the Fed. "The trick is to remember that they speak for the common person," Cramer said. "The Fed wants the common person to make money." With that backdrop always in mind, Cramer says it becomes…

    CNBC
  • Costco Stores in Canada to Stop Taking American Express

    “The credit card relationship between American Express and Costco Wholesale Canada will not be renewed when it expires” on Dec. 31, the company said today in an e-mail to Canadian customers. The message was attributed to Lorelle Gilpin, vice president of marketing and membership for Costco…

    Bloomberg
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Life Insurance Doesn't Have To Be Complicated

    We'll help you understand the basics. Create your personalized estimate with USAA Life Insurance Company. Life brings obstacles, We bring advice.

    AdChoicesUSAASponsored
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Start a Family Tradition of Savings with USAA

    USAA auto insurance rates beat the competition 4 out of 5 times. When you switch to USAA you can save an average of $426 a year. Get a quote today.

    AdChoicesUSAASponsored
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • 10 rock-solid stocks for conservative investors

    10 rock-solid stocks for conservative investors Shares with low volatility can beat their indexes with less risk Bloomberg News/Landov U.S. Bancorp is the cheapest S&P 500 stock

    MarketWatch
  • Don't buy Alibaba stock: 'Dean of Valuation'

    Investors should steer clear of Alibaba , valuation expert Aswath Damodaran said Wednesday. On CNBC's " Fast Money ," Damodaran, a professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business, noted that he was looking at Alibaba stock from the perspective of a long-term investor, not a…

    CNBC
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • 1 Tip To Lose Belly Fat

    It's Hollywood's Hottest Diet And Gets Rid Of Stubborn Fat Areas Like Nothing Else.

    AdChoicesagoodcooksSponsored
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.