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Why shutdown’s impact will continue to be felt for ‘years to come’

Although a second government shutdown has been averted, Yamiche Alcindor reports that repercussions from the one that ended in January are still being felt -- and they extend far beyond federal employees. She also talks to the Partnership for Public Service's Max Stier about the shutdown's long-lasting effects and how they could make federal hiring more difficult.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A second federal government shutdown may have been averted, but there are still ripple effects from the one that ended just over three weeks ago.

    In recent days, Congress has been looking into how federal agencies continue to grapple with the effects of that shutdown.

    And, as Yamiche Alcindor reports, the lingering effects extend to some with careers outside government.

  • LaJuanna Russell:

    How do I plan for my daughter? How do I plan for myself? How do I plan for my other employees? And what do I tell them?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Weeks ago, the government shutdown ended. But LaJuanna Russell is still feeling its impact. Her consulting company's main clients are federal agencies. The 35-day ordeal hit her business hard. It left Russell feeling uncertain about the future.

  • LaJuanna Russell:

    For some people ,it was only 35 days. For me, it was 35 days of revenue that we won't get back again, right, and 35 days of, you know, I had — as a small business, you're always planning. For next year, I want to be able to hire this person or I want to be able to do this to make the company better.

    Well, no, because we don't know how revenue is going to be.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Congress spent last week trying to figure out the scope of the shutdown's impact. One hearing looked at programs funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.:

    Domestic violence shelters attempting to secure HUD funding were locked out of the system. So why were they not able to access that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Another hearing analyzed the Federal Aviation Administration.

  • Mike Perrone:

    There's aircraft certification that didn't happen. There's pilot certificates that didn't happen. And that continues to add to the frustration.

    And if our inspectors — and we have had a few already — say, we're leaving, we're going back to industry, it's going to be a shortfall of staffing. And then, with the academy being shut down, you can't train new inspectors, so it's a compounding problem.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The shutdown had far-reaching impacts. Immigration courts, already backlogged, got even further behind. Judges say, for cases already on the docket, that could add years of waiting.

    Inspections of power plants and oil refineries by the Environmental Protection Agency were also put on hold. Trees and wildlife at national parks, like Joshua Tree in California, were damaged, some beyond repair.

    After weeks of talks, Congress and the president reached a compromise to avoid another shutdown. But Russell is still worried it could all happen again.

  • LaJuanna Russell:

    We were really lucky. All of our folks who were furloughed came back. The day that it stopped, they came right back. And we breathed a sigh of relief. Whew. But if this happens again, I would — right?

    I would — it's the logical thing to do to say, you know what? This just isn't the right place for me. This isn't — this isn't stable. I need some financial security and stability for my family. I need to find something else.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, Russell feels an out-of-touch Congress could mean an unstable future.

    For a broader look at the after-effects across the government, I'm joined by Max Stier. He heads the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. It focuses on issues affecting government operations and federal personnel.

    Thank you so much for being here.

    Now, last week, there was lots of celebrations because there was a government shutdown was averted, but there are still impacts from the longest shutdown in history, that 35-day ordeal.

    Can you walk me through what you think are the biggest and longest-lasting impacts of the last government shutdown on workers?

  • Max Stier:

    You are correct that we didn't get a second shutdown, but we still have the impact of that very long shutdown, longest ever, that will be with us ultimately for years to come.

    And, bluntly, we have the possibility of future shutdowns, whether it's September 30, at the end of this fiscal year, or beyond. But the damages are manifold. And you did a great job at the opening of the segment listing out some of them.

    The American public got hurt, and whether it's the 40,000 immigration hearings that got canceled, or 40,000 homes that couldn't be sold because FEMA couldn't do the flood insurance, whether it's the FBI investigations that didn't happen or the FTC's investigation of Facebook that got delayed.

    Those damages are profound, and are going to happen — the impact are going to — is going to be a long tail to come. You also have a very real damage to the work force itself. You had 800,000 people who were put in an awful situation.

    These are mission-oriented people who are on their job because they want to make a difference. And they were prevented from being — from being able to do so. And they didn't get a paycheck.

    We have lost a lot of that talent. People are looking to go other places. And, bluntly, there are fewer people that are thinking about coming into the government. That's a big problem.

    One stat that I can't help but put on the table is that you only have 5.9 percent of the work force today is under the age of 30. And we didn't help ourselves by shutting down the government for 35 days.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And there's some lasting trauma there from workers. Talk to me a little bit about that.

  • Max Stier:

    You think about it, there is no other work you can do in which someone could tell you, you must go to work or stay at home, but you're not going to get a paycheck.

    And these are really essential people. Our government at the end of the day is our one tool for collective action that has the imprimatur of the public and taxpayer resources behind it. So when you shut down our government, you are burning down your own house.

    I mean, literally, no foreign adversary could do this to us. We have done it to ourselves.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And the Congressional Budget Office says the U.S. economy permanently lost $3 billion.

    Now, Larry Kudlow, who is a top economic adviser at the White House, he says that the shutdown was a glitch.

    What do you make of those two assessments?

  • Max Stier:

    It's no glitch. There was real damage.

    CBO says $3 billion. My bet is that there's actually a lot more damage than just that. When you think about, again, the cost to the people inside government, the cost to the ability of government to get the right people in seat to do all these different jobs, that's going to be a tail that's going to — that we're going to feel for years to come.

    IRS is talking about months, if not years of work that they're going to have to do to catch up. I mean, this was a devastating blow. And what's really important here is, it didn't go away. Yes, we averted another shutdown right now, but what we didn't do is solve the problem of shutdowns going forward.

    And that's what we need to see happen. The news of the day has changed. The damage of the shutdown has not. And we will face this again and again and again, if we don't deal with the underlying budget issues that are really at stake here.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And there are some people who think the pain of shutdowns is a necessary cost because people need to feel the pain in order for there to be political compromise. What do you make of that?

  • Max Stier:

    I think it's a crazy argument.

    Again, I'm going to use the metaphor burning down your own house. You ought know that you take care of your house without having to burn it down in order to understand that lesson.

    There are some very simple near-term fixes that could be done. An example would be to say that, if the Congress and the president can't get their work done and get actual budgets and appropriations done, that the default is a continuing resolution, not a shutdown.

    Another example would be that they shouldn't get paid, and the federal work force should. Those are all things that could be changed, that should be changed, and I hope that Congress will do that in the near — here and now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Max Stier, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Max Stier:

    Thank you so much.

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