So what happens if the government shuts down? I mean, I know all those federal employees get sent home without a paycheck (except for Congresspeople – they get paid, you betcha!). But what about services? What effect, e.g., on air travel? Does the TSA go home, leaving us without security checks and molestation? How about the FAA? Air traffic controllers are federal employees; without them, planes can’t take off and land (at least not with any assurance of safety). So I guess air travel comes to a grinding halt. That’s sure to help the economy.

Digression: By the way, for everyone who says that The Gubmint can’t provide services effectively, I point to the FAA, which, on an annual budget of about $14 billion, oversees a $170 billion industry that moves more than 600 million passengers per year, with a better safety record than any other mode of transportation. I don’t think any private enterprise could manage any better; and if you privatized it, you wouldn’t get one company doing it, you’d get multiple companies competing, which would lead to all sorts of inconsistencies and conflicts. 

UA1703: Chicago Departure, this is United 1703. Any idea when we’ll get a runway?

ATC1: United 1703, I’m sorry, but United’s contract with ControlCo hasn’t been renewed yet. We aren’t authorized to give you clearance to take off.

ATC2: [breaking in] United 1703, this is Mandy with BigATC Inc. I can give you a one-time clearance for a low rate, no obligation. I just need a United Airlines corporate credit card and we’ll have you on your way to New York in just a few minutes. And be sure to ask for BigATC when you get into LaGuardia airspace!

No way that could lead to higher accident and fatality rates, right?

Anyway, I think there are probably dozens of ways we can’t predict in which a government shutdown will hurt people and hurt the economy. And don’t think the Republicans don’t realize it – they just don’t care. Their goal right now is to improve their chances at taking the White House next year. A bad economy is a boon to the party out of power, even if they caused it, because it’s much easier for the electorate to blame the current administration than to puzzle out who’s truly responsible for the problems.

Some people are comforted by the fact that the government shutdown in 1995 backfired so dramatically against the Republicans – the circumstances are pretty similar to today’s, with the GOP assuming midterm success gives them free reign to dictate everything in Washington, and most of the right seems to have total amnesia about the last time this happened (though I suppose part of that is because it was 16 years ago, when a good portion of the current crop of Tea Partiers were still in high school).

But I’m not one of those people who wishes for bad things to happen just so the “other side” finally understands how stupid they have been. The possible effects of a shutdown are pretty serious – I just found a few more in this post at the Harvard Political Review – and it would be much better to avoid them. On the other hand, I am not sure the shutdown effects are worse than the current Republican proposal from Paul Ryan – which includes, among other things, the ultimate dismantling of Medicare.

There is a small part of me that holds out hope that people of good conscience on both sides of the aisle will come out of the woodwork and slap some sense into the rest of Congress. But I’m not holding my breath. The next couple of months could be very bad times indeed.

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