Oh, and one potentially annoying nondisruption: Members of Congress don't get furloughed.
Saving money. Not.
Government shutdowns tend to cost money, not save it, according to the committee. Already, there's a lot of time being spent simply preparing for a shutdown, regardless of whether it comes to pass. The 1996 shutdown cost taxpayers $1.4 billion, according to estimates from the Office of Management and Budget. That's a lot of money to make a point about the need to save money.
X date scenarios
No hype, a government default could have ramifications that ripple through the whole economy. Even the threat of a default had big ramifications in the summer of 2011, when the stock market dropped, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded (making future borrowing potentially more expensive), consumer confidence slipped and businesses stopped hiring. But because default is unprecedented, no one's sure exactly what would happen.
While the Treasury Department probably would continue to make interest payments to bondholders, it wouldn't be able to make other payments on time, which could mean delays in Social Security benefits and in paychecks for federal workers and U.S. troops.
How exactly would a default work? The government could decide to pay some bills and sit on others, or it could wait until it has enough tax dollars to make an entire day's worth of payments — all of them late.
The first strategy would be hard to implement because the government might not have the legal authority to do it or the computer reprogramming ability to quickly pull it off. Under the latter scenario, nobody would get paid on time but everybody would wait in the same line, which would create its own problems.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew thinks the government will exhaust its borrowing authority no later than Oct. 17, with $30 billion left in cash on hand, and before long wouldn't be able to pay all its bills. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, calculates that if X Date arrived on Oct. 18 and Treasury then decided to gradually make all payments, Social Security payments due on Nov. 1 wouldn't go out until Nov. 13.
Still more trouble
Remember when everyone was worried about threatened budget cuts called the sequester? Sequestration seems so yesterday — last March, to be exact. But it's still around, driving defenders of military and social services budgets crazy, and not disappearing any time soon.
This budget animal reduces spending across the government, with the goal of saving $1.2 trillion over a decade, and stays in place until politicians agree on something big to replace it with. Do not hold your breath.
If lawmakers find a short-term budget fix to prevent a partial government shutdown or to end one, that alone won't do away with sequestration. It's going to take a megadeal to accomplish that. Right now, even a microdeal on budget matters is hard enough to get.
In early 2013, Obama administration officials came forward to warn that the public (known by all politicians as The American People) would feel great pain if these automatic budget cuts went into effect. Terrible lines at airports, food inspection hiccups, "a perfect storm" at national parks and much more.
But while many federal workers have had to take unpaid furlough days, most Americans have barely felt a pinch. So the administration doesn't have a ton of cred when predicting fiscal doom and gloom. Yet there's fairly widespread agreement that the longer these cuts go on, the more they will hurt.
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