What has many federal workers upset this time around is that the adminstration hasn't been forthcoming with its plans for dealing with a shutdown that the Republicans claim they don't want while cheering its possibility. Not content to wait, the American Federation of Government Employees has put out a detailed shutdown guidance to its members just inc case.
Whatever happens, if Congress and the President can't come to agreement and a shutdown takes place, it's clear that planes will not crash into each other because air traffic controllers have all been sent home, passengers will still be asked to take off their shoes going through airport security, wars and other military activity will continue without interruption, the borders will be patrolled, guards will be on duty at Danbury and other federal prisons, the Treasury will keep running, the mail will be delivered, the Coast Guard will keep rescuing people and interdicting marijuana shipments, and, of course, Congress itself will stay in business.
Emily Badger has written about who may not be coming to work:
1. During the last shutdown, the cleanup of toxic waste was halted at 609 Superfund sites, with 2,400 workers sent home, according to a report compiled by the Congressional Research Service. Government protocol during a shutdown calls for continuing work that is essential to “protect life and property,” but this may not include threats from toxic waste.
2. That CRS report documented another impact for human health — during the last shutdown, the National Institutes of Health had to stop answering hotlines devoted to diseases. Agencies of the federal government such as the CDC operate a number of such hotlines, offering resources on everything from AIDS to immunization. …
4. Parks and federal tourist destinations closed during the last shutdown, and they undoubtedly would this time around as well. This would include national parks, battlefields (amid the sesquicentennial of the Civil War!), Smithsonian museums and trips up the Washington Monument and Statue of Liberty. The resulting loss in tourism would affect nongovernment entities as well, from restaurants to hotels to airlines. …
6. Benefits decisions for veterans could similarly be delayed. During the November 1995 shutdown, The Washington Post … reported on an injured veteran who had waited years for an appointment with the Board of Veterans Appeals, only to have it canceled in the shutdown. …
What else? For the first time, all Social Security checks for May will be delivered electronically, but the switchover from snail mail doesn't mean there will be no delays. It still takes employees to run the system. Last time around, the Social Security Administration initially furloughed 92 percent of its staff. Three days later, after realizing it didn't have enough people to answer phone calls from citizens needing a card for work or providing a change of address where the next check could be mailed, SSA recalled 49,000 of its 66,000 SSA employees.
New requests for retirement or disability claims are not likely to be processed. Nor visa and passport applications except in unusual circumstances such as a real (or fabricated) need to visit a dying relative. Delinquent child-support cases would be delayed. All but critical veterans services would gear down. Employees of federal contractors might be furloughed.
As would be expected, programs affecting low-income Americans would be hard hit. No skin off Republican noses, of course.
The negative economic impact could also be substantial. Take, for example, the National Park Service, which estimates it will pull in $173 million in fee revenue from visitors this year. Who feeds and provides beds, gasoline and souvenirs for those visitors? The local private sector to the tune of 270,000 jobs and $13.3 billion annually. Estimated loss to local economies in the 1995-96 shutdown: $14.2 million a day.
If the Republicans do force a shutdown, perhaps those workers and business owners will remember in November 2012.