Are you happy with the government shutdown? You shouldn't be. It costs you, me and every other person in this country.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, the 1996 shutdown cost the government $1.4 billion. In today's dollars, that is more than $2 billion. The Wall Street Journal believes the figure to be higher. But that doesn't take into account indirect costs to the economy. When you add them in, you are beginning to talk about some very serious losses.
Many of the 800,000 or so federal employees furloughed live in Maryland, and more than a few of them live here in Carroll County. While they may receive pay for the time they're out of work, the segments of the economy where they spend money won't be so fortunate. Rent checks may be delayed; the businesses where they buy food, go to the movies or put gas in their cars will see their bottom lines shrink. The ripple effects will reach out.
How many of us were planning a trip to any of the beautiful national parks like Catoctin or Shenandoah or Skyline Drive to see autumn foliage this weekend? Too bad, they were closed. If you paid a camping fee for this weekend, you may get it back - but those leaves will have fallen almost as fast as the stock markets.
Wall Street is allergic to instability. Since the shutdown began, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 2 percent (as of Wednesday's closing), and the NASDAQ composite index shrank by more than 3 percent. Everyone with an IRA or 401(k) or pension fund has lost money this week, thanks to the shutdown.
The federal government drives a significant portion of the economy. In addition to government employees, this area has a large number of contract employees, those who work for companies doing business with the federal government.
Contractors working at Social Security Administration, Fort Meade, Fort Detrick, the Aberdeen Proving Ground and other federal installations may find themselves out of work during the shutdown, and their paychecks aren't guaranteed. Do you think they support the politicians whose actions take food off their tables?
The longer the shutdown continues, the greater its impact on the economy as a whole will be. A number of sources say that if the shutdown continues for three weeks, it could reduce the overall economy's growth by as much as 1.4 pecent, or in the neighborhood of $25 to $30 billion.
And to whom do we owe this economic mess? Everyone is pointing fingers, and by far, most of them are aimed at the House of Representatives, more specifically, its tea party contingent, and rightly so. Mainstream Republicans have taken umbrage at the tea party's rigid, destructive stance.
Referring to the shutdown, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said, "I think it's the dumbest thing I ever heard." Conservative columnist David Frum wrote of the tea party: "It stumbles into fights it cannot win, gets mad, and then in its anger lurches into yet another fight that ends in yet another loss."
This is a fight the tea party cannot win. A bipartisan majority of the House would vote for clean budget and debt ceiling bills, rather than tying Obamacare to either bill. The Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act legal. It is the law of the land and cannot be undone just by fiat. The country had a chance to vote against it in 2012. It did not. The nation rejected the Republicans and their pledge to repeal it on day one.
Now, the tea party has staked out an uncompromising, anti-democratic, unpopular position so radical that even its own party rejects it. Webster's defines anarchy as "a state of disorder due to nonrecognition of authority," and an anarchist is someone who tries to bring about anarchy. By those definitions, tea party extremists are precisely anarchists, who would rather destroy the American political system than to work within it.
Are you happy with the people bringing about these threats to our economy? You shouldn't be.