17 Ways the Shutdown Devastates the American People

Categories: The Insider

17 Ways the Shutdown Devastates the American People 

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the 35-day government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, with $3 billion that will never be recovered. This does not include indirect costs such as companies not being able to hire employees or launch products as they couldn’t access licenses, for example.  


The casualties of the shutdown? All of us. When 800,000 employees whose work touches all aspects of our lives were locked out of work without pay or forced to work without pay, it affected everyone. Here’s how the longest shutdown in U.S. history has harmed the American people.  


1. Public health

Furloughed EPA employees were barred from cleaning up toxic sites, pursuing criminal polluters and other activities that ensure we have clean air and water. 


2. Food safety

For almost four weeks, furloughed FDA food inspectors couldn’t inspect food processing facilities, medical devices, and drugs. They were called back only after public outcry and concerns about food-poisoning outbreaks. 


3. Environment 

National parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone were overflown with trash and human waste, endangering animals and park visitors. Joshua Tree was vandalized with damage that will be irreparable for the next few centuries. Death Valley’s tire marks from off-road vehicles will take centuries to fade.


4. Justice  

Criminals ran free as prosecutors didn’t have the funding to conduct investigations and get the bad guys off the streets. Innocent people accused of wrongdoing had to spend more time in jail as courts had to curtail bail hearings as U.S. marshals who transport prisoners cut back their hours. 


5. National security

The FBI had to limit its investigations including those on counterterrorism. Cyberattacks from Russia, China, and other adversaries may have gone undetected as most employees protecting our country’s cybersecurity were furloughed. Secret Service officers were forced to work without pay. Bureau of Prisons correctional officers worked longer hours without getting paid guarding dangerous criminals.


6. Government accountability

The Office of Special Counsel was closed with only 17 of about 133 employees working, which means waste, fraud, and abuse reports were not followed up and whistleblowers were not protected. Several inspector general offices – agency watchdogs – were also closed. 


7. Government workers

800,000 federal employees were directly harmed by the Trump shutdown as they missed two paychecks and were not able to pay their rent, mortgage, medical treatment, and other bills.


8. Government contract workers 

Lowest-paid workers like janitors and guards working for government contractors were locked out of work at shuttered agencies and most likely won’t get back pay.  


9. Air travelers

Travelers missed their flights and security lines were long as airports had to close terminals due to TSA staffing shortages. A shortage of air traffic controllers also resulted in flight delays. 


10. Patients

Missed paychecks forced patients to miss appointments and skip or ration their medication, risking their lives. Hundreds of CDC’s vital research and functions were halted, including their efforts to prevent infants from acquiring HIV and hepatitis B at birth and to help people with diabetes avoid having their feet amputated. 


11. Homeowners, tenants, housing developers, lenders

Home buyers couldn’t get a loan as the IRS couldn’t issue income transcripts. Lenders couldn’t close loans. Tenants who depend on housing subsidies to cover their rent faced eviction. Developers, especially those in rural areas, couldn’t get loans or guarantees as USDA’s Rural Housing Service was shut down. That means fewer affordable homes for people. 


12. Small businesses 

Small businesses like restaurants, museum vendors, cab drivers permanently lost income as people didn’t have money to spend.  


13. Vacationers, tourists

Several attractions including museums and zoos were closed. The panda cam got shut off.  

National parks were open but not staffed, resulting in overflowing of garbage and feces. A hiker at Yosemite died from a fall on a dangerous trail that park rangers would have prevented him from being on.  


14. Military personnel

For the first time in U.S. history, Coast Guard members were not paid for the important work they do protecting our homeland and rescuing disaster victims. Also not getting paid were those aboard Coast Guard ships defending us against threats like Russian ballistic missile submarines.  


15. Consumers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees the safety of products like strollers, cribs, appliances, normally updates its recall lists sometimes more than once a day, did not post any new product recalls on its website www.saferproducts.gov during the shutdown.  


16. Indian tribes

The federal government is obligated to provide basic services to Indian tribes under treaties signed centuries ago. The shutdown cut off access to these services, such as disaster relief, health clinics, food, and police protection. 


17. D.C. government

During the shutdown, the D.C. government had to step in and provide services like trash removal at the National Mall and national parks in the city. It cost $46,000 a week to remove trash. The city also had to handle more unemployment benefit claims for city residents losing income due to the shutdown. The shutdown also hurt local businesses and thus tax revenue as several tourist attractions such as the National Zoo and Smithsonian museums were closed. 

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