For many of us, especially those far removed from the hyperpolitical haze inside the Washington Beltway, the immediate impact of your federal government not at work likely has been minimal.
As the partial shutdown of federal government operations enters its third week today, many in Ohio and the Mahoning Valley may scoff at the characteristic intransigence between the White House and congressional Democrats that sparked and continues to prolong the shutdown affecting about 800,000 government functionaries, including about 50,000 federal workers in the Buckeye State.
But chances are good that many do not yet feel personally pinched or tangibly inconvenienced by the closures and simply chalk them up to dysfunctional Washington being dysfunctional Washington.
In reality, though, the shuttering of many government services already has directly pounded many ordinary Americans in ways big and small. And because the magnitude of those adverse impacts will magnify as the shutdown lengthens, all of us – Democrats, Republicans, friends and foes of President Donald Trump alike – should encourage those who created the shutdown to strip negotiations to end it of political gamesmanship.
After all, the shutdown’s toll already has trickled down to many common Joes and Josephines. All American taxpapers are victimized by increasingly massive waste in public spending with each additional day that the shutdown endures.
Standard and Poors estimated Thursday that the current partial closing of a host of federal departments and agencies is costing taxpayers $1.3 billion per week, much of it in paying laid-off workers back pay for work never done. During the 16-day federal government shutdown of 2013, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that $2.5 billion in pay and benefits was paid for hours not worked governmentwide.
Those billions of wasted dollars clearly translate into lost opportunities to make a concrete dent in repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure or helping states more ferociously tame the monstrous opiate epidemic.
Aside from that big picture, the shutdown is producing angst from anyone seeking a hodgepodge of specialized government services.
According to the Congressional Research Service, here is just a partial list of some of the vital functions government shutdowns affect:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cease disease surveillance.
Recruitment and testing of federal law-enforcement officials stop. In 2013, that included the hiring of 400 border patrol agents.
The National Park Service sites and national museums and monuments close to visitors or their operations are curtailed. Imagine, for example, taking a vacation to the nation’s capital this week, only to find some of its most cherished taxpayer-financed treasures such as the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, the U.S. Air and Space Museum and even the storied National Zoo closed off to all visitor traffic.
Even in nearby Summit County, those wishing to explore the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the only national park in Ohio, likely will be troubled by the unsightly collection of litter and trash reportedly piling up throughout the park because of the furloughs of maintenance employees.
Work on visa and passport services stop.
Inspections for food, consumer products, and workplace safety cannot be carried out, potentially endangering the health of millions of Americans.
And with 2019 tax-filing season just beginning, a prolonged layoff of tens of thousands of Internal Revenue Service workers at sites across the United States will ensure the shutdown hits deep into the pockets of millions of early filers seeking quick refunds to meet long-delayed obligations.
After the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days, a whopping $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed, according to the OMB.
As of today, there is no one to respond to taxpayer questions, review tax documents or perform other administrative functions. Electronic tax returns can be processed, but the refund will not be issued.
That’s why it’s critical that the impasse at the White House and on Capitol Hill end swiftly. Toward that end, President Trump and Democrats in Congress must show their compassion to everyone touched by the closures and then muster up the requisite will to hammer out a workable agreement. Then and only then will they prove that government indeed can work.