Shutdown Winners and Losers

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By on December 27, 2018 in Current Events with 0 Comments

Word 'shutdown' written on a road sign with an American flag design

With the partial government shutdown now in its 5th day, it is a good time to look at who wins and who loses in a shutdown.

Winners

The media

With shutdown clocks in the chyron and constant coverage of the shutdown, the shutdown feeds the 24-hour news channels. Since the beginning of all-news channels (that have devolved into some news and mostly opinion), cable news channels have craved content. A government shutdown, even if it is not the entire government, is great content.

Opponents of government

Anyone who does not like government in general can get satisfaction out of seeing a portion of the government shut down without immediate consequences. The fact that shutdowns are really faux shutdowns that make certain people doing jobs that affect national security and public safety are on the job makes it likely that the negative consequences take time to be seen.

Some politicians

Believe it or not, some politicians are going to benefit from a demonstration of our government’s inability to function effectively. It may be the President, if he gets what he wants, or it may be once and future Speaker Pelosi, or it may be someone who comes up with a face-saving way out of this mess.

Losers

The people

We elected members of Congress and a President to do the jobs the Constitution assigns to them. So far we are not getting what we paid for.

The media

Yes, the same ones who are winners. We may watch the coverage, and they may collect the ad revenue, but we eventually get sick of non-stop coverage and tune out.

Opponents of big government

Another winner that eventually loses. Reducing the size of government might be a good idea, but mindlessly shutting it down, then spending a fortune to undo the damage is certainly not the way to do it. The last long-term full shutdown had a $25 billion price tag. Taxpayers are not happy about seeing their money going down the toilet.

Supporters of big government

Anything that sends a message, even a false message, that large parts of the government can stop functioning without an immediate negative impact encourages people to view federal workers as inconsequential bureaucrats. It is not true, but it still does damage.

Contractors

When we see stories about shutdowns, the focus is typically on federal workers. Those federal workers who are not working are almost certainly going to get back pay. Many contractors (particularly in small businesses) who are not working now are not getting paid. They are not going to get back pay and this shutdown is taking money out of their pockets. The companies that employ them are also not being paid, so their bottom line will suffer.

Businesses patronized by federal workers and contractors

These folks drive a lot of economic activity. Some of it is as simple as eating lunch. Restaurants that have a large federal worker/contractor customer base are hurting. They lose revenue and no one makes them whole. Other businesses suffer the same fate. Businesses buy goods and services from other businesses. Workers do not spend money when they are not being paid. For many companies, a shutdown could make the difference in profit and loss for the entire year. Who writes the check to make them whole? Nobody.

All of us

The truth is that shutdowns are bad, no one wins, and everyone loses. The sooner it is over the better off we will all be.

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal's blog, ChiefHRO.com, and has been reposted here with permission from the author. Visit ChiefHRO.com to read more of Jeff's articles regarding federal human resources and other current events along with his insights on reforming the HR system.

© 2019 Jeff Neal. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Jeff Neal.

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About the Author

Jeff Neal is a senior vice president for ICF and founder of the blog, ChiefHRO.com. He has 33 years in federal service, including serving as Chief Human Capital Officer for the Department of Homeland Security and Chief Human Resources Officer for the Defense Logistics Agency. Jeff is also a Fellow and Director at the National Academy of Public Administration and a Partnership for Public Service SAGE.

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