Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 7, 2011

EVEN THE THREAT OF A SHUTDOWN IS EXPENSIVE.... If congressional Republicans go through with their threat and shut down the government tomorrow night, the costs will be considerable. It's ironic that those hoping to cut the budget will force a shutdown that's needlessly expensive.

But while we wait to see what happens, it's worth noting that the GOP's game of chicken is already costing us money. I spoke to a friend who works in the Obama administration last night, who sent me this email. I'm republishing it with permission.

I spent most of today prepping what to do with our online properties and presences in the event of a shutdown.

Lots of decisions are still to be made, but it appears that almost all of our websites will be offline. We are literally unplugging our servers from the wall and the internet. We need to do that since neither the content nor security people are allowed to monitor the websites during a government shutdown.

So what does that mean? Rather than have a 404 error, we want a simple "away" message to explain that, because of the shutdown, the website isn't available. I don't want it to appear that my team and I are incompetent! It isn't our fault, Mr. Web Surfer, that you can't get the info you need.

Since there is no time for me to put out a contract offer (nor is there any money appropriated for it, anyway), I had to attach myself to a five-figure contract we already had with a cloud host provider to ensure we can display a simple "away" message. This is amazing overkill. I don't think it will cost that much, but we just don't know how long their services will be needed.

Starting tomorrow my tech guys will be working with the provider's tech folks to ensure a seamless transition Saturday morning. In addition to lost productivity by my team, the provider's tech team isn't cheap.

In the event we don't shutdown (and I don't want to), I'll still be out the pay for the provider's tech guys AND several days' worth of lost productivity.

Just think of this multiplied across other offices and 20+ other departments.

For a party that doesn't want government money wasted, their obstinance sure is causing it.

Can we get some adults in charge of the House please?

That point about multiplying this throughout the government is especially interesting. My friend is just one person in one government office, but there were plenty of other people in plenty of other agencies spending time and money this week in preparation for a shutdown.

House Republicans have the ability to end this. They don't want to.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

You should see what is going on with the scientific infrastructure. Toxic materials etc. All this stuff has to be shut down in a safe and responsible way. Very very expensive both to shut it down and to start it. Expensive and time consuming.

Posted by: SW on April 7, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but: The Republicans are "big picture guys", all those inconvenient details can be dealt with by- somebody. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 7, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Well, here we are. What a sad state of affairs!

I never realized John Belushi was a visionary - The Tea Partying Republicans have turned our revered House into an Animal House!

Political extremism is ugly, and in 2010 our illustrious electorate served up quite an eyesore! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 7, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

What happens with tax returns. Returns this time of year nearly always contain checks. Will they stack up in a mailbox someplace?

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 7, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of govt IT is handled through long-term contracts. This may be an issue for small agencies, but far less so for the large ones that are the lions share of the govt.

Posted by: Rich on April 7, 2011 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Another simple tax cut should offset any & all worries about costs.

Posted by: mickey g on April 7, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

For someone who is always crying about it, Boehner seems to be creating a lot of uncertainty in the economy right now.

Posted by: martin on April 7, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

The continuing state of limbo over this year's budget has already occupied a great deal of time and energy in my corner of the government as we game various alternatives. There are areas where money will be used way less effectively if we don't spend it now, but it's dangerous to spend it before we know how much money we'll really have for the rest of the year.

It's driving us bonkers - and that's even without the prospect of a shutdown. And shutdown prep, rather than any genuinely useful work, is pretty much all I'll be doing for the next two days.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on April 7, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

See, this is just another example of government waste, and this worker clearly is just another parasite sponging off the taxpayer. If it weren't for him/her, this problem wouldn't occur.

And if it weren't for the librul media, we wouldn't be hearing about any of this, so they should go away too.

Then we could all live in unicorn land.

Posted by: bleh on April 7, 2011 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a simple thing to remember: voting Republican is an act of treason.

Posted by: Mike on April 7, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Rich, don't be surprised if there are bottlenecks that require government employee participation. My guess is a short term shutdown won't see much loss of it service, but if the shutdown lasts more than a week the larger agencies are going to start running into problems.

In any event the government contractors aren't going to be paid during the shutdown. After a few weeks they will have to shutdown government services since they won't be able to pay their employees. Working businesses aren't made of money.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 7, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

This comes down to their fundamental (and I think I mean that literally) lack of belief in science:

Newton would tell you that it take less energy to keep a body in motion, than it takes to stop it and start it up again.

Let us pray!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 7, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

There's a reason why they extended the shutdown. Could you imagine all those people not getting their checks the first of the month? Can you imagine how pissed they would be? People would be shouting recall/impeachment like never before! This way republitoopids can blame the democrappers because these people won't feel the pain of reality. It would have been a much better show for the shutdown the first of the month.

Posted by: Schtick on April 7, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

What about those poor couples in California who delayed their divorce proceedings because they had early reservations for Yosemite?

Posted by: berttheclock on April 7, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

I am looking forward to less radiation monitoring and testing of air and seafood for cesium 137.

I mean, ya can't see it or smell it so why worry?

Will our nuclear experts (if federal) in Japan stop problem solving Fukushima with the Japanese?

What about the armed forces helping out with the nuclear disaster? Do they just say sorry and go get a cup of coffee while 1,000s are in need of the basics of life?

Embassies? Do we just turn off being American and play video games while the dems and repubs duke it out?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 7, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

My mother sells furniture in DC and works on commission. For two weeks now, her sales have fallen off a cliff. Everyone's cancelling their orders and she can go days without a single sale. Because of this, she's going to have to borrow money from me to pay her bills.

It's not just her either, everyone in the department store is in a panic, it's like a ghost town and no one's buying. At this point, if Boehner showed his face there, he'd probably be tarred and feathered.

Several of my friends also work for the gov't and have put off major purchases, they've hunkered down and are in survival mode. It's bad out there and people are scared and angry.

Posted by: FoxinSocks on April 7, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

And then there are real life consequences:

I'm currently aware of an American citizen critically ill in China. The family needs to get him out but is having major communication problems. What they hadn't thought of is that the American Embassy there will help them. Knowing that, they need to get on the gov't website to find the phone # for the consulate nearest his location. When they find this is a possibility, are they going to find an "away" message? Will the guy live long enough to wait for the phone numbers to reappear online? Will anyone answer the phone at the State Dept.? Will there be enough time to send an email down the pipeline I originally heard about this, then for me to contact my person in China who knows this stuff (don't forget the 15 hour time difference), get the info from him, and send it back up the pipeline?

A fluffy tour of the White House online is one thing, critical information is another. Why do the people we elect think this is all a playground game of chicken?

Posted by: Fess on April 7, 2011 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Folks, you gotta break some eggs to make an omelet. If people have to go without life-sustaining government services, if govt employees and contractors have to go without pay and if superviruses have to escape the CDC and cause a pandemic, all in the cause of permanently preserving tax cuts for the Top 0.01% and preserving our "more than all other countries on earth combined times a couple" Military, so be it. It's The American Way...vote GOP!

Posted by: Bigby on April 7, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

My comment about Yosemite supra was from an old joke in California. However, the reality of the cuts was demonstrated, last evening on Lawrence O'Donnell, by Senator Barbara Boxer about the real economic loss to small business owners and workers surrounding Yosemite during the last government shutdown. The losses were in the millions which were never recouped.

There are ever so many ripples which will adversely affect millions in this country and around the globe.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 7, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

I hear on WYNC just now that many researchers at the National Institutes of Health will not be going to work, and that cancer patients will not be allowed to enroll in trials.

Boehner must be worried about interviews with indignant cancer patients.

Posted by: bob h on April 7, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

bob h wrote, "I hear on WYNC just now that many researchers at the National Institutes of Health will not be going to work, and that cancer patients will not be allowed to enroll in trials."

Of course not. Only essential personnel will perform tasks. So if someone is in a current trial I figure that will continue. No new trials etc.

Posted by: liberal on April 7, 2011 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

So the fact that Federal IT organizations are incompetent is supposed to make me upset that they are having trouble? There should be a backup plan in place already, in case of natural disaster (etc).

Posted by: James Robertson on April 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Rather than have a 404 error, we want a simple "away" message to explain that, because of the shutdown, the website isn't available. I don't want it to appear that my team and I are incompetent! It isn't our fault, Mr. Web Surfer, that you can't get the info you need."

This doesn't seem like a good reason to spend five figures' worth of tax dollars to me! I get the overall point, and I'm sure there are other areas where shutting down a government function responsibly will require additional costs, but this example isn't a very strong one--spending money to make it clear that it's not the web managers' fault! Just not very persuasive to a large audience, in my opinion.

Posted by: Ben Goodwin on April 7, 2011 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Another earthquake in Japan makes this Pacific Coaster wonder about what happens to the tsunami warning network when the government shuts down, and what happens to the National Weather Service? Storm warnings, weather reports? Are those "essential" services? Anyone know?

Posted by: biggerbox on April 7, 2011 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Robinson:

It's in the Republicans' power not to shut down the government and cause the extra expense, in case you missed that point.

You're quite welcome.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger on April 7, 2011 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Well James Robertson, the manage persona business seems to be going well for you anyway.

Even talk of a shutdown was insane in this economy. where the hell is all the work on job creation Boehner? At what point does destroying the economy become unpatriotic in the media? How many jobs has this Republican Congress already managed to spike? It is evil. No other word for it.

Posted by: Sparko on April 7, 2011 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Robertson - Doubtless you don't know much about "continuation of business" planning - what you do in case of natural disaster, or you wouldn't be making the comparison.

Backup websites, contingency operations, storing critical info and process in off-site servers/storage/warehouse etc. would still be monitored/operated by designated personnel in case of a NATURAL DISASTER.
Get that? They would be EMPLOYEES of the GOVERNMENT, doing their jobs of managing the contingency operations, from somewhere other than their earthquake/tornado/nuclear bomb-destroyed normal work site.

But they would still be earning their pay, and be entitled to get that pay as soon as feasible.

This is a whole different animal. Because the designated disaster-contingent EMPLOYEE can't legally work during a shutdown, there's nobody to do what they would do during a NATURAL DISASTER. So they have to rig up something else.

Do you get it NOW?
Yes, I'm yelling a bit. Deal with it.

Posted by: Sheryl on April 7, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Leave mr Robertson alone. He's looking at the big picture. Unfortunately he's looking from so far away and his rose colored glasses are so dark that he can't see any of the details. Or that the big picture is not rosy at all.

Posted by: Ruckus on April 7, 2011 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

1. How in the world did we reach the stage when it mattered at all that the federal government might shut down? No wonder we're broke -- we've created a huge unnecessary superstructure! And the public believes it's necessary -- $1.6 trillion worth! Yikes!

2. The pitiful Republicans entirely missed their chance. They could have forced a government shutdown by holding out for a $1.6 trillion cut. Instead, they let the Democrats force a shutdown for less than $10 billion. The entire deficit needs to be addressed.and neither party will do it. We're doomed. Run fir the hills.

Posted by: GeneH3 on April 8, 2011 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK
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