Question from the gallery:
Now that you’ve written about the shutdown, can you tell us how it’s affecting you personally? How will the debt limit issue affect you, if we default?
With regard to the shutdown, it’s not really affecting me directly (yet). The only federal government service I use directly on a regular basis is the US Post Office, which is up and running because it’s funded outside of taxes. Everything else the federal government does for me is at least one step removed from my wanderings during the day, so as a practical matter I don’t yet see or feel the impact. I don’t suspect this will last if the shutdown drags out, because the federal government underpins quite a lot of the functioning of the US, and those holes will show up more frequently, and I suspect will become more alarming at an increasing rate.
One step removed, I know a fair number of people who are federal government workers or have businesses that rely on the government being up and running in order to function (and for them to get paid). These folks obviously have it worse off than I do at the moment. Congress has said the federal workers, at least, will get paid for all the time they’re furloughed, which is nice, but in the meantime they’ve still got bills to pay, etc.
Also, here in Bradford there are a number of people, adults and children alike, who use the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which is substantially funded through the federal government. The Ohio Department of Health notes on its Web site that the program is funded through October. After that, things could get tight. We already donate to local food banks and charity programs here in town, so we’ll keep doing that.
With regard to a debt limit default, well, like a lot of people I have a 401(k) and other market-engaged retirement accounts, and I don’t like thinking what a default will do to the market. The only “good” thing about that is that I still have at least 25 years until I retire (to the extent that one retires from my particular line of work) so there’s a good chance this immediate stupidity will be flattened out over time.
That said, in the wake of the first US debt default ever and the resulting financial chaos that will ensue from it, to a very real extent we’ll be in uncharted territory afterward. The only thing that I’m fairly certain about is that the folks in Congress and out of it who are currently trying to suggest that we’ll just shake off the default as if it were no big deal are both wrong, and of course monumental hypocrites, as in, if it really were no big deal, they wouldn’t have maneuvered to use it as leverage to force concessions out of Obama. Simply put, it is a hell of a big deal, they know it, and the end result isn’t going to be good for any of us.
The short version of all of the above is that I’m in a good short-term position not to have either the shutdown or the default affect me directly — but the long-term fallout will affect me like it will everyone else. If this were a flood, I’d be on high ground. But if the flood keeps coming, sooner or later I’m going to get soaked like everybody else.