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Government shutdown harder on Black workers

George Curry | 10/3/2013, 1:28 p.m.
Diane Talley spends time with her 15-year-old daughter, Kiani, at their Arizona home on Tuesday. Talley, a medical administrator at Luke AFB's 56th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic received her furlough notice earlier in the day, due to the congressional impasse. Charlie Leight of The Arizona Republic

The shutdown could have dire consequences for our national security, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

According to the report, “Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects,” published Sept. 23: “A federal government shutdown could have possible negative security implications as some entities wishing to take actions harmful to U.S. interests may see the nation as physically and politically vulnerable.”

If the past is any guide, the shutdown might be short-lived. The longest federal shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996.

In the past, furloughed federal workers received retroactive pay for the time they were out. But there is no assurance that would happen this time. Members of Congress are exempt from furloughs.

There is also concern that the shutdown will be another setback for the already shaky economy.

Moody’s Analytics estimates that a three to four week shutdown could cost the economy about $55 billion, about equal the combined economic disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

When the government was shutdown in fiscal year 1996, according to the Congressional Research Service report:

Health – New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health clinical center; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ceased disease surveillance; and hotline calls to NIH concerning diseases were not answered.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety – Delays occurred in the processing of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives applications by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; work on more than 3,500 bankruptcy cases was reportedly suspended; cancellation of the recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials reportedly occurred, including the hiring of 400 border patrol agents; and delinquent child-support cases were delayed.

Parks, Museums and Monuments. Closure of 368 National Park Service sites (loss of 7 million visitors) reportedly occurred, with loss of tourism revenues to local communities; and closure of national museums and monuments (reportedly with an estimated loss of 2 million visitors) occurred.

Visas and Passports – Approximately 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas reportedly went unprocessed each day; 200,000 U.S. applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed; and U.S. tourist industries and airlines reportedly sustained millions of dollars in losses.

American Veterans – Multiple services were curtailed, ranging from health and welfare to finance and travel.

Federal Contractors – Of $18 billion in Washington, D.C.-area contracts, $3.7 billion (more than 20 percent) reportedly were affected adversely by the funding lapse; the National Institute of Standards and Technology was unable to issue a new standard for lights and lamps that was scheduled to be effective Jan. 1, 1996, possibly resulting in delayed product delivery and lost sales; and employees of federal contractors reportedly were furloughed without pay.

In his remarks to reporters on Monday, Obama said, “The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility. And it doesn’t have to happen. Let me repeat this: It does not have to happen. All of this is entirely preventable if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done – and that’s the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process, the same way other Congresses have for more than 200 years.”