For those hoping to live in more enlightened political times: Sorry.
Government web sites were suddenly replaced Tuesday by one-page shutdown notices, markets around the globe winced, children’s playgrounds in Capitol Hill parks went silent, military academies suspended intercollegiate sports competitions, and government Twitter accounts stopped tweeting, according to a near-Apocalyptic depiction of Tuesday's federal government shutdown painted in the New York Times.
There were no signs yet this week that House Republicans would back down anytime soon from their dangerous, ideologically entrenched political strategy – essentially a blackmail attempt in protest of President Obama's successfully passed Affordable Care Act legislation, major parts of which are set to go into effect this month – that precipitated the shutdown.
Among the most egregious effects of the U.S. government shutdown include the furlough of more than 2 million government workers, the prospect of Head Start
programs for low-income families closing, and the risk of veterans not receiving benefits if the shutdown lasts a few weeks. Although many key government functions carry on
during a shutdown, some of the intricate lesser-known business and environmental impacts of even a temporary shutdown are formidable.
Adverse impacts most relevant to Sustainable Industries
readers, as tracked through a variety of media outlets such as the Washington Post
While subsidies and tax breaks for large corporations remain in check, small businesses with limited access to capital
are taking a hit as the U.S. Small Business Administration has stopped initiating new loan guarantees
. The SBA, which has provided guarantees for some $106 billion in loans to nearly 200,000 small businesses over the past four years, is also forced to freeze programs to help small firms win government contracts, help veteran-owned businesses and boost international trade.
- The U.S. Labor Department is ceasing enforcing wage and hour laws or occupational safety.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is halting most of its routine food-safety operations, including "establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making."
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture must cut off funding for its Women, Infants and Children program, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals. The program reaches some 9 million Americans. USDA estimates most states can continue their programs for "a week or so," but they'll "likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period."
- The National Park Service immediately closed more than 400 national parks, museums and sites across the country, including Yosemite National Park and Alcatraz in San Francisco – all having a devastating economic impact on travel and tourism. Day visitors were forced to leave immediately; campers had two days to pack up and get out. [pagebreak]The National Parks Conservation Association estimates local communities could lose some $30 million in business for every day of the shutdown.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission is stopping recalls of products it says do not present an imminent threat to consumer safety.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, scheduled to issue its monthly jobs report this Friday, is also closing and will likely postpone reporting.
- The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees America's vast derivatives market, will close up shop.
- The National Institutes of Health has stopped accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering medical question hotline calls.
- Passport and visa applications are no longer being processed. In the 1996 government shutdown, more than 200,000 passport applications and 30,000 daily visa applications went unprocessed, according to U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).
The overall impact of the federal government shutdown will largely depend on its duration – one most everyone expects to be abbreviated. Yet even a temporary shutdown has far-reaching impacts on the U.S. economy, and by extension, the global economy.
Meanwhile, Congressional leaders continue to draw full salaries and, ironically, robust health benefits funded by taxpayers.