Shutdown’s permanent collateral damage

Happy (fiscal) New Year! The good news is that Congress and the White House last week agreed to defer any government shutdown until Nov. 21.

The not-so-good news — you knew this was coming, right — is that having postponed the shutdown threat by not getting its basic job done, Congress immediately left town for its eighth break of the year, with four more to come. The Senate calls them “state work periods.”

The reason for the new shutdown decision deadline is that senators and representatives havn’t approved appropriations to keep all federal agencies operating after Oct. 1. The House had approved some, the Senate hadn’t approved any. One reason may be their frequent and generous timeouts. Many private sector workers envy, or bristle at what they think is a generous civil service benefit package. But Congress puts that, and most others, to shame. Here’s the work and nonwork schedule announced by the Senate in January:

Jan. 3 Convene
Jan. 8 Reconvene
Jan. 21 – 25 state work period Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21)
Feb. 18 – 22 state work period Presidents’ Day (Feb. 18)
March 18 – 22 state work period
April 15 – 26 state work period
May 27 – May 31 state work period Memorial Day (May 27)
July 1 – 5 state work period Independence Day (July 4)
Aug. 5 – Sept. 6 state work period Labor Day (Sept. 2)
Sept. 30 – Oct. 14 state work period Columbus Day (Oct. 14)
Nov 11 Veterans Day
Nov. 25 – 29 state work period Thanksgiving holiday (Nov. 28)
Dec. 16 – 31 state work period

A PDF version is also available here.

The most recent shutdown was the 35-day, record-long event over Christmas and into January of this year. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers were ordered to stay home, without pay. Although they were later reimbursed, even given a surprise pay raise, for many the damage is long-lasting if not permanent. Thousands had to get hardship loans from friends, creditors or Federal Employee Education and Assistance, a feds-helping-feds charity that operates within the Combined Federal Campaign. Many in Washington, D.C., and other major centers went to food banks to feed their families. Many if not most government contractors who work alongside feds and who were locked out of their jobs didn’t get any back pay. And they never will — businesses don’t operate that way.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, and although much would be recouped once feds returned to their jobs at least $3 billion of that amount would be lost forever. At the time it predicted that economic growth would slow this year to 2.3%, down from 3.1% in 2018.

For small businesses that provide services to government workers nobody came to their rescue. There was no back or late pay. It was a very hard winter. Some went out of business, others are struggling. Some have stumbled to the point where it may take a year, or two, but they are probably finished.

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In downtown D.C. and its many suburbs, food trucks are everywhere. They serve a variety of international and American-style foods. From my office building I can seen a dozen lined up. Downtown and in some suburban locations federal buildings give them most of their business. But not during the shutdown. Many of them come into town from the far suburbs. Others leave their food trucks in centrally located areas although many still have a long a.m. and p.m. commute to get to their work. Long days either way.

Lloyd B., owns (along with his creditors) and operates a food truck depot. He said everything was fine until the shutdown started in December.

“The first four months of the year are always difficult for the food truck industry during winter and following short holiday months. The shutdown … crushed this business,” he said. He’s been on a payment plan since May, with a big chunk of money owed by Dec. 1. And its unlikely he will get an extension.

“It’s been the biggest struggle of my life not to lose everything I’ve worked for and be left with zero,” Lloyd said.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

The first Spanish-language newspaper published in the U.S. was El Misisipí in 1808. It was written by Hispanic intellectuals in New Orleans — a hub for such ex-pats along with Philadelphia and New York — who had fled Spain because of French interference and Napoleon’s puppet government in the Iberian Peninsula. Once in America, this crop of thinkers and writers translated the Constitution and other political writings into Spanish, which were them disseminated in Spanish newspapers both domestically and back in Europe.

Source: Readex

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