Politics

Government 'Shutdown' Would Affect Only One in Four Workers

Democrats' failure to pass a budget leads to a game of fiscal chicken
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: April 7, 2011 3:55 AM
Capitol at sunset

Friday's looming government shutdown unlikely to be as bad as thought originally | Credit: Shutterstock - EastVillage Images

Despite apocalyptic scenarios painted by some members of the Democrat-media complex, a U.S. government "shutdown" looming on Friday would affect barely one in four workers.

But it's President Barack Obama's call.

If Obama follows the direction set by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in previous shutdowns, less than half of the 2.1 million federal workers subject to a shutdown would be forced off the job.

And since 600,000 Postal Service employees and 1.6 million uniformed military personnel are exempt from a shutdown, fewer than one in four workers on the federal payroll would be affected.

In an analysis of the situation, the Associated Press reports that Social Security checks would still go out. Federal courts would still be in session. And virtually every "essential" government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, would remain open.

And, of course, Congress would continue to meet in an effort to break the funding deadlock that triggered the "shutdown" in the first place.

"That's the little-known truth about a government shutdown. The government doesn't shut down," the report stated.

Though Republicans were widely blamed for the government shutdown in 1995, current polls show the public evenly divided -- blaming Democrats as often as it blames the GOP.

Florida's Republican congressional delegation is unapologetic about standing against Democrats who did not even submit a budget for this year.

"We are in this situation because Democrats did not pass a budget last year when they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House. Now, Democrats are unwilling to come to the table on real spending cuts," said David Rivera, R-Miami.

"The House passed a budget for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year 45 days ago, and the Senate has yet to pass a bill. The only ones to blame for any interruption of government operations will be those who are unwilling to heed the call of the American people for fiscal responsibility.”

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said, "Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are pushing this nightmare scenario closer to reality through their steadfast refusal to pass any long-term bill that recognizes the need to get our fiscal house in order.

"I hope that as Friday nears, Senate Democrats will abandon their commitment to the status quo of record deficits and debt, and work with us on a responsible bill to cut spending significantly and keep the government open.”

Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, observed:

“The truth is that we now find ourselves in a situation where, if Washington continues down the current path of deficit spending and adding trillions to the debt, our standard of living will decline and our economy will eventually collapse.

“Year after year Washington has continued to add trillions of dollars to the national debt. As a first step toward reversing this trend, I don’t think it is unreasonable to cut one penny out of every dollar in federal spending for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011.

"But a lot needs to be done to put our nation on a much sounder, more financially stable course and I’m still hoping we can all work through this issue together.”

Speaking for the Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York blamed the tea party movement for "pulling House Speaker John Boehner further back and back and back" from a budget compromise.

In Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Obama warned that a shutdown would set back any economic recovery, but former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney discounted that notion.

"Main Street would do quite well if you shut down a good portion of the government, not including defense, homeland security and payments on the treasury debt," the Florida Republican said.

Feeney added, "Republicans don't come to this with totally clean hands." He noted there were "enormous increases in discretionary spending and a dramatic expansion of entitlement programs" during the Bush administration.

"But while the GOP had a bad record, the Democrats have proven no situation is so bad that liberal Democrats can't make it much worse," Feeney observed.

Assuming Obama follows the lead of his predecessors during a shutdown -- and he hasn't indicated he would do otherwise -- the air traffic control system, food inspections, Medicare, veterans' health care and many other essential government programs would run as usual, the Associated Press found.

The Social Security Administration not only would keep sending out benefit checks but would continue to take applications, AP reported.

National parks would be closed to visitors, but park rangers tasked with "protecting life and property" would remain at work.

Selected historic monuments in the Washington, D.C., area, such as George Washington's Mount Vernon home would stay open.

In Florida, NASA could take the biggest hit. In the 1995 shutdown, only 7 percent of the agency's workers stayed on the job, according to Clinton administration data.

The AP speculated that NASA might face widespread furloughs, which could interrupt preparation for the space shuttle Endeavor's planned launch on April 29.

Among the most shuttered agencies would likely be the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where just 4 percent of employees went to work in the 1995 shutdown, and the Department of Education, where only 11 percent of workers continued to clock in.

And depending on your perspective, furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service could be a good thing. Tax refunds would be delayed, and audits would be sidelined.

"From a practical perspective, shutdowns usually aren't that big a deal," the AP concluded. "They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each. During President Reagan's two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically of just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on."

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.



Comments (9)

Conrad Fitzhume
8:02PM APR 7TH 2011
Last December Congressional Republicans held the 9/11 First Responders Health Bill 'hostage' and demanded that house Democrats vote in favor of extending tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. When the GOP got their way, they cut the funding for the 9/11 Health Bill in 1/2 before barely approving it. (Over 400 First Responders were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. Since then 1,000 more have died from illnesses directly related to their daily exposure to the extremely toxic environment at 'Ground Zero', an environment that Republican EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman reassured First Responders had been tested and was safe. There are 10,000 more First Responders who are currently ill from their service at the site of our Nation's worst ever terrorist attack.)

This year, Congressional Republicans are holding the paychecks of our Nations Military 'hostage' in an effort to force House Democrats to vote in favor of massive cuts that will have a severe impact upon the middle class, the elderly, the poor and the disabled while adding yet more tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

The GOP is the party of the ultra wealthy, they have no regard for the concerns of America's backbone ... the patriotic, tax paying, hard working middle class ...
CY
9:36AM APR 7TH 2011
Only 1 in 4 because all of those poeple will still work. Aren't you forgetting to mention something? Like the fact that those people will be working with NO GUARANTEE OF PAY. Which is almost WORSE then the 800,000 federal employees who will be forced off the job. That sounds to me like most federal employees will be pretty effected.

PS: DOD has not yet made a statement on soldier's pay, it is pretty widely reported that they too would be expected to keep fighting with no gaurantee that their family back at home would get the paycheck in time to pay the bills.

You're right, government shutting down wouldn't effect the COUNTRY that much, but federal workers would be left in an ambiguous situation with no knowledge of when we would or would not get our next paycheck. Don't diminish that just because you want to be a "hard ass conservative."

What no conservatives seem to REALLY be talking about is how the government shutting down doesn't teach anyone a lesson except the hard working federal employees who get screwed out of the job or screwed by having to work without knowing if they're going to get paid for it. Congress keeps getting paid for NOT doing their job. But federal employees with kids to feed I guess aren't as important as bickering partisan politics, don't be such an a-hole by downplaying the very very real effect this could have in over a million american households.
Terry
8:51AM APR 7TH 2011
Susan, you are a typical hypocritical Democrat. You know, as well as I do, that your pay will be retroactively paid to you and the only downside is it might be a week or two later. If you can't survive for two weeks without a paycheck you need to rearrange your priorities. The one in four being mentioned here is GOVERMENT workers and to quote Rhett Butler, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn".
CY
9:39AM APR 7TH 2011
So government workers are less human and less in need of feeding their kids then private sector employees? A lot of people haven't recovered their savings after the last three years of recession douche. Don't talk about what you don't know.

And there is NO gaurantee that we would be retroactively paid. We will only be retroactively paid if that is written into the next year's budget and with the way things are going now...I wouldn't be surprised if that did not, in fact, happen.
CY
9:59AM APR 7TH 2011
You know what else I forgot to mention? That the entire economy of Washington DC relies on the federal employee workforce.

All the contracting companies with federal contracts? They don't get paid. All the restaurants and shops and stores and small businesses from Northern Virginia and some counties in Maryland would suddenly see business dramatically drop off as a huge population of Washingtonians begin to count pennies to save up.

They aren't "government workers" as you say with such derision. They are a whole other group of average Americans who will be effed over by the shutdown. So stfu, have a little compassion and grow up.
Susan
7:32AM APR 7TH 2011
Wow! Thanks for making the 800,000 federal workers who will be out of a job insignificant. I have two kids and bills to pay. I think a government shutdown would be a major issue. When you're writing an article at least try to be human. Shutting the government down is not for the greater good. I guess you're a Republican - as long as you're getting your paycheck then who cares about the 800,000 who are not getting their paycheck. Here's a message to Congress - federal workers vote too.
Kylie
10:07AM APR 7TH 2011
You are a bit of an idiot.

One your math is severly off. The end strength of the military and the postal service does not comprise 75% of the Federal workforce. And by the way, military support would be drastically reduce..meaning they have to work--but they would not be compensated to the usual standard.

There is no way that kind of workforce can be impacted and it not affect the greater ecomn

Plus walk up to a local business right now that is adjacent to our supported by government (local and federal workforce) they are now talking about a reduction in shifts. The private industry workforce will be very much impacted.

The last time the government closed it cost the taxpayers 1.4 billion dollars. What it cost the states in lost revenue and grant money has not been calculated.
Simone
9:09AM APR 7TH 2011
This article is a disgrace. I cannot believe that it seems to be a normality in this country to just stop paying people in federal jobs to bail everybody out. Why do they have to carry the burden alone? A pay check is essential for them and their families, otherwise they would just be on permanent vacation. Doesn't anybody see how wrong this is? Make everyone pay for this mess, especially the politicians who got us into it. America! What a joke!
Rachel
8:57AM APR 7TH 2011
EXACTLY Susan!
How insignificant do all the rest of us feel now? Wow... only 1 in 4? 1 in 4 is a big dang deal when you're one of those "1".

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