Surprised to wake up to a partially shuttered government…


Peter Coyne

If you’re not a bureaucrat or you try not to read the news, then today is just another Tuesday. For everyone else, the federal government is shut down until Congress funds it. We know that because told us so.

Here’s what the site looks like right now…

Soon after the DR hit your inbox yesterday, we received an email from a reader.

“Because of the current federal government shutdown,” it read, “I am unable to receive any messages at this time. I will respond to your email when I return to work.”

At first we thought it was a joke. But then we looked closer at the email address. It came from a government address. From the EPA, no less.

Heh. Our humble publication …read in the halls of the Environmental Protection Agency? Who’da thunk it?

The bureaucrat reader had prematurely set his auto-response eight hours before official word of a shutdown. Clearly, he knew something we didn’t. We thought for sure that both parties would come together in the last minute and pass some makeshift funding bill.

But the Rs and Ds weighed the political risks and stuck to their guns. That’s the story we read, anyway. It seems fishy to us. Politicians don’t take principled stands… especially en masse. It’s more plausible that they were drunk. Not only would that be a simple explanation, but rumors suggest that House members reeked of alcohol throughout the shutdown debate.

One Politico reporter tweeted from the scene on Friday…

A BuzzFeed reporter confirmed that…

Another reporter from HuffPo confirmed the same scene last night as midnight fast approached…

That sounds like the Congress we know. Blame it on the demon rum.

Quickly checking the market’s reaction — stocks flipped Congress the bird and headed higher today. All major indexes on the big board are in the green. Meanwhile, gold jumped off a cliff. As we go to press, an ounce of the yellow metal is down 3%, around $1,286.

We find the hullabaloo amusing. About 800,000 “nonessential” federal employees have been furloughed — put on unpaid leave. It’s a crime for these employees to do any official work during the shutdown. They can’t check their email… or even keep their precious BlackBerrys on. As if Research in Motion didn’t have enough problems…

Of course, it’s unclear why the government has 800,000 nonessential employees on the payroll to begin with. But never mind that. Now that the fun has begun, the blame campaign takes center stage. Already registered, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has bought the website domain, and another source has purchased

“What about the American people?” politicians of both parties will cry.

National parks will be closed. Monuments will be roped off. Tours of government buildings that weren’t already suspended due to sequestration will be unavailable. Some Boy Scout’s notion of a government of and for the people will be shattered. The hot dog vendor who depends on Yosemite’s tourists will have to eat his own franks to make ends meet. GDP will drop… the sky will fall. You get the idea.

“Of   course, it’s unclear why the government has 800,000 nonessential employees on   the payroll to begin with.”

According to Bloomberg’s James Rowley, the shutdown costs taxpayers $174 million per day in salaries alone. It’s true that Congress will likely pay salaries retroactively. But if it didn’t, that would be $174 million we could save each day. And that doesn’t account for all of the harm not done by bureaucrats off the job. After today, no new rules or regulations will be published in the Federal Register. That has to count for something.

Yet according to Bloomberg, the shutdown could be a net loss. Especially when employee reimbursement, lost national park fees and other fines are totaled. And don’t forget that the federal government’s work doesn’t stop just because it shuts down… it simply piles up. Which means that costs will rise due to the backlog.

We agree the shutdown will be a net loss. For government.

But have no fear, citizen. The essential agencies will continue their work. Shutdown be damned. The NSA will still spy on you. The Fed will still quantitatively ease on your behalf. The Mint will still make and store those Sacagawea dollars you don’t use and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will finish its $95 million palace so it can store information from each of your financial transactions.

“I am amused by the circus of it all,” writes Chris Mayer in today’s episode of The Daily Reckoning. “I’m rooting for a good, long shutdown” and “any long-term investor ought to be rooting for a good correction.”

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