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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

how is the shutdown of the U.S. government affecting you?


This one is mostly for my American readers, though I’d be curious to hear if anyone outside the U.S. has a story to tell:

How is the shutdown of the U.S. government affecting you?

If it’s not affecting you yet, do you foresee an impact if the shutdown continues for much longer?

Rant away…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • My wife has not worked since the shutdown. That is on top of the furloughs we already had to absorb. I’m working part time as I’m allowed. We are getting hit pretty hard financially. But at least I’m allowed to work some. Could be worse I guess and I am attacking the honey do list pretty solidly.

  • amanohyo

    FAA controllers are essential personnel apparently, so we’ve been working for free. If we get sick now, it’s potentially a leave without pay situation, so people have been coming to work sick (welcome to the real world… I know, I know). On the plus side, at my tower we’ve got a reduced workload due to decreased air traffic at military bases.
    I saved up an emergency fund, so I’ll be fine, but a lot of my coworkers who live paycheck to paycheck are struggling. Grumpy, sick, broke air traffic controllers are bad news for everyone (and many of us are already grumpy on the days when we are getting paid – I dare you to work Atlanta Tracon traffic for ten minutes and not have a permanent frown etched on your face). I gotta admit though, I have a hard time feeling pity for most of my coworkers – we’re paid well and it’s easy to set aside some money for emergencies. I do feel bad for the federal employees whose jobs aren’t as cushy or families in which both parents have been furloughed. If this shutdown drags out to Thanksgiving, it’ll be a complete disaster.
    I just heard about a crazy shutdown protest plan that truck drivers have to fill up the entire beltway with 18-wheelers and drive really slow which would bring all of DC to a virtual standstill. As long as they don’t delay any ambulances, I say they should go for it. The whole thing is ludicrous… if there isn’t a significant uptick in the number of people voting for independent candidates next election, I’ll be surprised and disappointed. Then again, American voters have short memories, and outside of the beltway, most people probably aren’t feeling any ill effects yet.

  • LaSargenta

    Personally, not much yet. I have had some issues on some federal websites, though. (Hello FEMA? I get why you might not be able to work on grants, etc., but why did I have such trouble accessing Insurance Map data for flood zones, eh? Isn’t that an existing database? It’s not like a little gremlin inside a box has to go through a card catalog for me and s/he’s not being paid.)

    NYC is normally such a cuckoo house that I think it would take a while to register here. I’ve been crazy busy at work for weeks and keep meaning to ask the company comptroller if there’s some federal contract bills not being paid.

  • MisterAntrobus

    Thanks to gerrymandering, I very much doubt you’ll get your wish re: independent candidates.

  • MisterAntrobus

    My business sells software to government workforce agencies. Between the sequester earlier this year and the shutdown, it’s pretty tough to convince anybody in the government sector to buy anything, because they literally don’t know where the money’s going to come from. Even though our software is designed to help people get jobs, which is the kind of thing our lawmakers really should be paying attention to.

  • LaSargenta

    PS: A friend tells me that her EBT card for WIC doesn’t work as of today. Really regrets not shopping for food after work earlier in the week. (Yes, you can get WIC if you are working…a shocking number of people who work two jobs — or who are in the armed services — are ALSO eligible and needing food stamps.)

  • Essential… but not essential enough to pay. Ridiculous.

    Of course, one must also wonder: Why is the Federal government (or anyone else, for that matter) employing *anyone* who isn’t essential? Isn’t there more than enough essential work to be done that would keep everyone employed?

  • Hasn’t directly affected me yet, but sooner or later something I need to do involving the federal government is going to be a problem. I do plan on traveling by plane soon, Lord knows how that might be a conflict.
    On the bright side, I’ve been seeing more traffic at my political blog… I’ve taken to calling this shutdown fiasco The Long October.

  • it may be administered via the state gov’t but it usually involves block grant money from the Federal level. Meaning sooner or later the states are going to feel the pinch. And then there’s your trickle-down of state funding drying up, and the county offices closing, and the cities…

  • Apparently it was a tech problem at Xerox, which administers the program, and not anything to do with the shutdown.


  • the trucker turnout didn’t prove to be as big as they’d expected. Also, there was a joke going around that considering how bad Beltway traffic is when the government is working, the truckers trying to slow up traffic now wouldn’t even cause a fuss.

  • the problem is that the “first past the post” winner-take-all election system is designed for a two-party either-or system. Very few independent or third-party factions can make a dent in the congressional AND Presidential campaigns. This is combined with a generational history of voting one party or another, and a kind of tribal intimacy akin to loving a sports team for life: while it’s easy to quit one party it’s HARD to switch support to a party you’ve hated (which is what a lot of NPA voters are: ex-party voters). As a result, voters feel trapped to vote for either R or D, and usually voting for the candidate they hate the least rather than love the most.
    What makes gerrymandering a problem is that it creates “safe” seats where a candidate can be assured of a +R or +D advantage in voters that makes it a virtual lock for the party (but not necessarily the candidate) to win that district. While gerrymandering has been proven to waste votes this way, the real danger comes from the primary system: the incumbent becomes more afraid of losing to a more ideologically pure challenger than afraid of losing to the opposition party, which is why a lot of incumbents appease the ever-increasing extremist base that always turn out to vote rather than appeal to general, more moderate voters who tend not to turn out.

  • Honestly, not at all as of yet. I like to visit natural areas, but we have no national parks near us so there are no immediate plans to do so. otherwise, we’re just doing our thing just like normal. I feel bad for all those it IS having an effect on, though.

  • beccity98

    My mom is on furlough or whatever it is, but my parents do pretty good with saving money, so I’m sure they’ll be fine. She just might not be able to go on a cruise this year. And maybe my Christmas present of about $300 in gift cards may be less.

    My cousin and uncle were on their annual father-daughter trip when the shutdown happened, and they had to re-route their trip because of the closure of the national parks.

    And other than my mom waking me up too early in the morning to ask questions about unemployment, it hasn’t affected me yet.

  • RogerBW

    To this non-US person, the main impact has been that the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site has been down.

  • Dokeo

    In my experience, the FEMA flood maps have always been glitchy and slow. That’s not a special effect of the shutdown. I think your card catalog gremlin theory may be correct.

  • Dokeo

    In DC, the “essential” category is mostly “for” when there are snowstorms, etc. It’s a simple way to categorize who gets a snow day and who has to suck it up and go into work. It’s not going to seriously screw anything up if someone in the Dept. of Education stays home for a day (unlike the air traffic controllers). But when you get into multiple weeks, it becomes a problem. In fact, lots of agencies are expanding the rolls of people who are essential and calling people back in to work.

  • bronxbee

    that was a big complaint for me as well.

  • WHAT?! Storm the Bastille!

  • LaSargenta

    Mine, too. But this was a total inability to access data. And, today I found that I couldn’t use the tools for benchmarks and datum planes (like VertCon) at the National Geodetic Survey. That’s a another thing I thought was automated. I mean, if something is automated, and you’ve still got power, can’t you leave it running? As long as the SysAdmin is keeping the servers going…

    Nice to know NOAA is still looking at the weather.

  • LaSargenta

    OK, something more ‘frivolous’: I often go to the NYC National Museum of the American Indian. Not only is it the one place I can see Buffy Sainte-Marie in New York on anything like a regular basis, they also have interesting programming. Everything’s shut for the duration of this. Come the end of October, there’s a Dia de los Muertos celebration and exhibit there that’s traditional for me and the pixie to go to. Hope it is open again by then.

    When they do re-open, those in NY ought to check out the Anishinaabe art exhibit they’ve got up. Old and new. I’m a big fan of Norval Morrisseau’s work and some is in the exhibit.

  • LaSargenta

    Yeah. So, it was a coincidence. Unfortunate one, at that.

  • David_Conner

    Yeah, the “essential” designation is not as simple as it sounds, and the “Why don’t you just fire all the non-essential workers permanently, then?” makes as much sense as the superficial hack comic line about “If the black box always survives a crash, then why don’t they just build the airplanes out of the black box stuff?”

    There are lots of “non-essential” employees who pretty much everybody (even evil small-government conservatives like me) would agree are doing things that the government – any government – should be doing.

    “Essential” kinda-sorta boils down to “Is there a non-zero chance of people getting killed if we don’t have them on the job?”

  • David_Conner

    I’ve been directly affected, but hurt less than most in that category.

    I’m a DoD contractor. My contract was fully funded (i.e., the money was already appropriated), which means as long as there is billable work to do and the workplace itself isn’t closed, I’m not directly harmed financially. And I work at the Pentagon, which never closes, so that’s not an issue.

    For 4 days, our office was just 1 boss, 1 military officer, and contractors – all the other civil servants were furloughed. Then the DoD lawyers figured out that the same law that let the active-duty military stay on the job also let about 90% of the civilian workforce stay on, so we went back to normal….

    Except that my team’s #1 event of the year, the 33rd Annual DoD Disability Awards Ceremony, was scheduled for Oct. 1, then rescheduled for Oct. 9, then cancelled because the aforementioned lawyers figured things out one day too late for us. So over a month’s worth of my work ended up being pretty much for nothing.

  • texphile

    Hasn’t happened yet, but if the stock market slides as a result of all this petulant stupidly …. I will be in a world of hurt , as will everyone else with a 401 K who has invested in the market. Don’t have much, but cannot afford to lose ANY. {Thanks loads, tea party shit heads. May they all be voted out of office}. Btw if US defaults , better start learning Chinese. They hold $ 1 Trillion of it .

  • Dokeo

    And the Baby Panda Cam went dark. That one’s killing me!

  • Kathy_A

    My department deals a lot with federal court cases and agency rulings and regulations, so we are going to start processing fewer cases than normal if it doesn’t get resolved in a few days–they’re predicting that the federal courts are going to run out of cash within the week. I personally deal more with state legislation and regulation, so I’ll still be busy, but it’s been…interesting.
    If they default and the economy hits meltdown, then my job is at risk, since a lot of our customers are already struggling and paring down their costs.

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