When the GOP-led House went head-to-head with the Democrat-led Senate earlier this month to negotiate defunding the Affordable Care Act as well as asking for a number of other concessions in order to pass a budget, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, standing up for certain principles and not budging unless there is at least some sort of compromise is at the backbone of American culture. For example, we commonly see it happen with public and private unions and correlating government and business entities. And sometimes, both sides seem to win a little and lose a little, but nevertheless, it’s business as usual and the general population doesn’t seem to be affected. But when the federal government shuts down because legislators won’t work together, and one party appears to be the root of the problem, the ripple effects are pretty pronounced.
So what exactly happens when the government shuts down for 16 days, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, and national parks, research programs and community services, etc., are halted?
First, individual businesses that depend, at least in part, on the federal government lost thousands of dollars, which included Island Packers out of the Ventura Harbor that makes daily trips to the Channel Islands National Park. With the government shutdown and the national parks — 59 in the nation, eight in California — inaccessible, many Island Packers customers went elsewhere, resulting in a $30,000 to $40,000 loss for the company, and consequently impacted Ventura Harbor businesses. Financial services company, Standard and Poor’s, projected that the country lost an estimated $24 billion in economic activity, while Forbes argued that what was lost in one place was spent somewhere else. Though that may be true, those who lost business probably won’t share Forbes’ perceived laidback sentiment. And the fear still remains that this could happen all over again when budget talks resume in February.
Secondly, whether the shutdown was perceived as a calamity or an inconvenience, polls conducted by reputed sources all over the country, including ABC, The Washington Post and Princeton Survey Research Associates, reveal that constituents are fed up with their legislators. By no means has this shutdown left the general public feeling this is just business, or politics, as usual. In fact, many business owners reeling from the shutdown will most likely pass their feelings about the nonsense on Capitol Hill on to their employees, creating a ripple effect, and just maybe, come 2014, enough people will be disgruntled to really change their voting patterns.
The idea of the Tea Party that less government or no government is actually better, has only proved to have a crippling effect on the economy and on Congress’ approval rating, with the GOP and Tea Party especially hard hit.
In a New York Times article, a visitor at the National Mall on the first day it reopened after the shutdown encapsulated the apparent changing attitude in this country:
“If you have the unity, you have the prosperity. And then everything comes after that,” said Shafiqullah Noory.
Perhaps it’s time for Congress to take some notes.