WASHINGTON — Ticktock. Ticktock.
If the Democrats and Republicans don’t stop bickering and agree to how the U.S. should pay its bills, the federal government will shut down, come October 1.
And at a time when the economy’s finally showing signs of life, that could be troubling.
Shutdowns don’t come cheap. Federal agencies have to use up time, energy and resources to plan for one. Shutting down and then reopening the government also costs money.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the two previous shutdowns — in late 1995 and early 1996 — cost the country $1.4 billion.
But what would a shutdown mean for you? Would your daily life be affected?
(The answer’s yes, so keep reading.)
Here are 10 ways a government shutdown would affect you.
10. Vacation all I ever wanted: Need to get away? Well, you can’t. At least not to national parks. Or to national zoos. Or to national museums. They’d all be closed. That’s 368 National Park Service sites closed, millions of visitors turned away.
Were you thinking more along the lines of a trip to France? If you don’t already have a passport, you might have to bid that adieu — you might not get your blue book in time. The last time the government threw a hissy fit, 200,000 applications for passports went unprocessed. Tourism and airline revenues reeled.
But according to the State Department’s current shutdown plan, offices will remain open because they generate enough in fees to support their operation. Any offices located in a federal building affected by the shutdown, however, may not be able to open.
9. Holiday. Celebrate: Don’t come to work if you’re a federal employee. You’re on furlough. (Offer not valid for workers in “critical services,” such as air traffic controllers, hazardous waste handlers and food inspectors.)
Do take some time to celebrate. In previous shutdowns, everyone who stayed home was paid retroactively after peace returned to Washington.
8. I won’t back down: The good news (for you) is that the men and women in uniform would continue to keep you safe. The bad news (for them) is that they’d be paid in IOUs until the shutdown ended. In January, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, introduced legislation that would have protected pay for the troops during a shutdown, but it didn’t get anywhere.
Rep. C.W. Young, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, told the Air Force Times, “All military personnel will continue to serve and accrue pay but will not actually be paid until appropriations are available.”
Their mid-October paycheck would be the first affected. In addition, the congressman told the paper, changes of station would be delayed, medical offerings would be scaled back, facility and weapons maintenance would be suspended and most civilian employees would be furloughed until appropriations are available.
Scenarios of the shutdown
7. If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street: You may be thinking, “No functioning government, no need to pay taxes.” Think again. The Man would continue to collect taxes. U.S. bonds would still be issued. And other essential banking functions would go on.
6. Wait a minute, Mr. Postman: You know that whole “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night” thing? Apparently, the U.S. Postal Service works through shutdowns as well. Sorry, you won’t catch a break from the junk mail. But hey, you may already be a winner!
5. I want a new drug: Oh, the irony. The Republicans want to defund Obamacare in exchange for funding the government. But the health care act at the center of this storm would continue its implementation process during a shutdown. That’s because its funds aren’t dependent on the congressional budget process.
4. Pass the ammunition: Not so fast. A shutdown would affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Translation: That gun permit you wanted processed wouldn’t happen anytime soon.
3. Money (that’s what I want): Well, if you own a small business and needed a loan from the government, you’d have to wait. If you were planning to buy a house and needed a federal loan, you’d have to wait. If you’re a veteran, you might have to make a few trips to the mailbox before that check arrived.
If you’re on Social Security, however, don’t worry — probably. Social Security payments were sent during the last shutdown. President Obama’s expected to keep workers on the payroll to process checks. But would there be enough employees to process new benefits for the newly retired?
2. Anything dirty or dingy or dusty: Oscar the Grouch is a company of one. No one loves trash. But if you live in Washington, expect it to pile up if there’s a shutdown. There wouldn’t be anyone to collect your garbage. Washington’s budget has to be approved by Congress. No budget for the city = no trash collection. And, according to The Washington Post, D.C. produces about 500 tons of garbage each week.
1. I’m proud to be an American: Perhaps the biggest hit would be to the collective psyche. America is the largest economy in the world and a beacon for how democracy ought to work. To watch elected lawmakers engage in a high-stakes staring contest with no one willing to blink is no way to do business. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 51% will blame Republicans if the government closes its doors. The U.S. has operated without a budget since 2009 and has avoided a government shutdown with last-minute deals. It’s been one stomach-turning sequel after another.
Not only does the government run out of money on October 1, the nation is set to hit the debt ceiling and go into default in mid-October. Together, they serve — in the words of CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta — as a dysfunction double whammy.