Dow down 128 points yesterday on the news that the federal government – the nation’s largest employer and largest industry – is getting ready to turn off the lights.
Gold down $12.
A government shutdown could cost the still-struggling U.S. economy roughly $1 billion a week in pay lost by furloughed federal workers. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
First, there are the estimated 800,000 federal employees who will be off the job. That’s roughly the same number of workers employed by all the auto assembly lines and auto parts factories across the country.
But economists say the impact will come not just from those lost wages, but also from related businesses cutting back or halting their operations. That will lead to a pullback in spending by employees of affected companies.
Then, there’s the impact from increased business uncertainty that trims investments and disrupts financial markets.
The total economic impact is likely to be at least 10 times greater than the simple calculation of wages lost by federal workers, said Brian Kessler, economist with Moody’s Analytics. His firm estimates that a three to four week shutdown will cost the economy about $55 billion.
That would mean that the economic impact from a month-long shutdown would be roughly equal to the combined disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, not counting the property damage that accompanied those storms.
What do you think, dear reader? Would sending the feds home be such a bad thing? Yes, they’re spending money. And yes, if they weren’t spending money, there would be a slow-down in the great money-spinning economy.
But why would that be so bad?
What if the person on food stamps had to find work – or starve?
What if the defence contractors couldn’t pay their lobbyists?
What if the educators at the Department of Education stopped educating? What if the healthcare zombies at the National Institutes of Health went home? What if the paper shufflers stopped shuffling paper, the rubber stampers stopped rubber stamping, and the snoops stopped snooping?
Would that be a bad thing?
Not in our book.
Bill Bonner on markets, economics & the madness of crowds
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We are developing a cleaner, simpler way to understand political economy.
It begins by understanding that politics and economics do not go together. They are two separate things; mix them up and you end up with a mess.
Look, you can get what you want – more or less – by force. Or by peaceful trade and persuasion. Rape or seduction. Force is the easier, quicker way, usually… which is why it is so popular. And that is why people like the government so much – it is the only institution that gets to lie, cheat, steal, and even murder, lawfully. Why? Because it makes the laws!
That is why a government shutdown would be such a good thing. The government-sponsored, taxpayer-supported, voter-approved, Fed-financed lying, cheating, stealing and murdering would stop, if only for a while.
And that’s why this fight over the shutdown is so interesting. Zombies – by definition – are kept alive by force. They get subsidies, hand-outs, contracts, salaries – all directly or indirectly thanks to the police power of the state. They live on politics, not economics. And today, there’s hardly a family in America that doesn’t have at least one zombie in the spare bedroom. So much of the economy has become so zombified that the press can now say that ‘nobody’ wants a shutdown.
And they’re almost right. The fight over the shutdown is not about stopping the machinery of force, it’s about who gets to use it for what purpose. Whose property gets stolen? Who gets the stolen goods?
Of course, that’s what elections are about too, and why so much money is spent on them. There’s a lot of money at stake. And not just money, power too. Bossing other people around is almost as gratifying as stealing their money. And when your group controls a great empire, such as the United States of America, you get to boss around people at home and abroad. This must be a great thrill, judging by the number of people who are eager to do it.
“The government that governs best, governs least,” said Thomas Jefferson. He was right about that. The less ‘governing’ you do, the less you are lying, cheating, stealing and murdering people. The less you are using force to get what you want.
Take away the brute force and all you have is dull economics – making things, trading, providing services, marketing, investing. No wonder government is so popular.
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