Government shutdown: It’s not just national parks. People are being denied cancer treatment.

It was with a certain degree of bemusement I read John’s earlier post, about WWII vets swarming a war memorial that had been closed due to the GOP-caused federal government shutdown that began one minute after midnight on 1 October 2013.

I even remarked in the comments that I had a suspicion the “storming” of the monument was staged. Particularly given the suspiciously timely appearance of certain grandstanding GOP CongressLemmings, the very members of Congress who voted to shut down the government, and the WWII memorial, in the first place.

Then I began looking around the web for various news stories about the shutdown, and was struck by how very many of them prominently feature photos and articles about how the national parks, monuments, and museums have been closed for the duration. It’s nearly always the story lede.  But it’s a lot worse than people’s vacations that are being ruined – they’re also losing cancer treatments, among other outrages.

“Park Closed” stories distract from the real impact of the shutdown

The GOP-caused federal gov't shutdown isn't just ruining people's vacations.

The GOP-caused federal gov’t shutdown isn’t just ruining people’s vacations.

I get it: A “Park Closed Due to Federal Government Shutdown” is an easy visual. There’s no ambiguity. A good photographer might even be able to snag a shot of some pouting kid, disappointed because the National Air & Space Museum is closed.

But for the FSM*’s sake, where are our priorities?

(* = “Flying Spaghetti Monster”)

So the GOP has said they’ll relent and provide some standalone bills to keep parks open, keep the District of Columbia’s government running, and a bit of funding for the VA to keep processing the years-long backlog of unprocessed claims.

I’ll admit those last two are important… but really? National parks? That’s what rises to the level of GOP compromise and an urgently passed House bill? That’s what gets most of the press coverage?

Here’s a list of non-recreational effects of the GOP government shutdown

I’m going to list at least some of what else is happening:

  • Adults and children receiving treatment for cancer through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are being sent away.
  • The National Institutes of Health (parent organization for the NCI) has shut down their hotlines and will not accept any new patients for clinical trials. This also includes kids with cancer, by the way, as well as patients involved in other clinical trials. Each week the shutdown goes on, an estimated 200 new patients will be turned away, 30 of them children.
  • 800,000 federal workers are furloughed without pay.
    • The EPA is essentially completely shut down — 94% of its workers are off the job.
    • The Center for Disease Control has furloughed 68% of its workers. Fantastic timing, with the autumn flu season almost upon us.
    • The Department of Defense has laid off about half of its staff — basically all of its civilian workers.
    • All but 38 of the FCC’s 1716 employees have been sent home. If Apple comes out with a new iPhone, it won’t receive FCC approval until the shutdown ends.
  • By the way, the various workers being told they must stay on the job — such as air traffic controllers, Social Security workers, and border security — are also being told in some cases they can’t necessarily count on being paid for their work during the shutdown.
  • Routine FDA safety inspections are suspended. (Meat inspections continue, though.)
  • FAA safety inspectors and NTSB accident inspectors are furloughed. Better not have any major plane crashes.
  • The Library of Congress, an invaluable tool for research, is closed. So is the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • No matter how serious a manufacturing flaw may be, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will not issue any automobile or truck recalls.
  • It’s hit or miss as to which ones, but many federally-run websites are offline. (Yeah, the ‘Panda-cam’ is off, too.)
  • Head Start programs throughout the country are shutting down.
  • All that cool news from the Curiosity rover on Mars? It stops. 97% of NASA is furloughed. Curiosity will be put to sleep. All NASA research stops.
  • Federally-funded SBA (Small Business Administration) loans stop.
  • Tax cheats: Guess what? Lucky you — no audits during the shutdown. On the other hand, if you have tax questions, don’t call — the IRS phone help lines aren’t being answered.
  • If you’ve lost your Social Security or Medicare card, you’re out of luck until the government restarts. Also, it’s very likely that new applications for benefits won’t be processed until then, too. Don’t bother asking for those income/benefit letters either.
  • Passport and Visa applications may be delayed.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), wherever federally funded, is suspended.
  • When WIC (the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) runs out of money at the state level, no more help there.
  • If the shutdown lasts longer than two or three weeks, the Veterans Administration says they won’t be able to keep paying benefits, beginning in November.
  • Gun owners: Your federal gun permit applications will be delayed. That get your attention?
  • The BATF won’t issue permits for new distilleries, wineries, or breweries.
  • New and pending drilling and mining permits are on hold.
  • Also likely, based on past shutdowns, bankruptcy cases, enforcement of child support (the feds get involved when it crosses state lines), and the training and certification of federal law enforcement officials will be suspended.
  • In fact, the DoJ will be filing briefs to suspend all civil (but not criminal) litigation for the duration.
  • Processing of federal aid requests resulting from the recent floods in Colorado and New Mexico, and any other disasters, will be suspended. (The National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers will intervene in emergencies, but after you’re dropped off at the Red Cross shelter, you’re on your own. Better have damned good insurance.)
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While public feelings about the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) are mixed, there is no doubt about the polling on whether people want the Federal government shut down. And for America to default on its debts in a few weeks, just to weaken or repeal the ACA.

The American people are firmly against it, as in 72% opposed according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on 10/1, while just 22% think the shutdown is peachy-keen and a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

And the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Congressional Republicans. All they had to do was pass a clean Continuing Resolution bill, and raise the national debt ceiling — just like they used to do routinely during the Bush administration, with no strings attached.

Really, national parks, monuments, and museums being closed for a few days or even a month isn’t half as big a deal as all those people — 800,00 of them — who won’t know how they’re going to pay their mortgage or rent and pay their bills. Including all those federal employees who normally work at the parks, monuments, and museums. Plus let’s be sure to include all the businesses that depend on federal employee customers — they’re also S.O.L.

The damage of the shutdown on America’s economy is huge

Moody’s has estimated that a three or four week shutdown will cost the economy about $55 billion. Lost wages for Federal employees: About $1b a week. Another estimate I saw put the overall loss at about $12.5 million an hour. Goldman Sachs (yeah, I know… still, they do know numbers) has estimated that a three week shutdown will reduce the U.S. GDP by 0.9% — and we’ve only had anemic 2% growth so far this year. So there’s that.

Reopening national parks is nowhere near as urgent as dealing with interrupted cancer treatments. And it’s for damned sure the hit on America’s entire economy if this drags on — and, even worse if the GOP follows through with their threat to cause a default on the national debt — is far more important than a few thousand inconvenienced vacationers and tourists.

Update 2 October

It turns out the effects of the GOP government shutdown go on:

  • Domestic violence shelters in Montana and Vermont are no longer being reimbursed for their services; some throughout the country may be forced to close altogether.
  • 23 Head Start programs in 11 states are without funding. Preschools are closing.
  • The USDA’s program to help food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program has been suspended.
  • E-verify, the electronic system employers use to verify a possible employee’s eligibility for work (including whether or not the person is a citizen or eligible visa holder), is inoperative.
  • Washington State’s WIC program only has 9 more days of funding left.
  • Not only isn’t the IRS doing audits during the shutdown, they also cannot clear tax liens on properties, which is mucking up the real estate market. Also, if you’re due a tax refund, you won’t get it until the shutdown is over.
  • What I said yesterday about the NTSB not investigating plane crashes? Turns out I was right.
  • Seniors who want to apply for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can’t do so because the Social Security offices won’t supply the required proof of income letters.
  • Researchers at private universities are being told their continued funding is in jeopardy and work may need to be suspended beginning almost immediately.
  • The Do Not Call registry is down.
  • DNI James Clapper said at a Senate Judiciary Hearing that the shutdown was harming national security and intelligence gathering, because about 70% of the civilian employees of intelligence agencies have been laid off.
  • It turns out the military does take a hit. During the shutdown, there’s no imminent danger pay, no hardship duty pay, and no hazard duty incentive pay. They also won’t receive bonuses, anniversary payments, or tuition assistance. Also, promotion boards are all suspended. And military commissaries are closing, meaning our troops and their families have to pay more (i.e., full retail prices) for food and basic supplies. How’s that for a “thanks for your service” from the GOP?

Oh, and by the way? Republicans are split on whether or not to grant back-pay for furloughed federal workers. Needless to say, it’s the Tea Bagger contingent that wants the pain to go on for workers who’ve already had to endure unpaid furlough days caused by the sequester and a three year pay freeze.

As if that wasn’t a hearty enough F.U., there’s the (Diaper Dave) Vitter Amendment, which would strip all Congressional staffers — including the Republicans’ own people — of all health insurance benefits, and make them buy insurance on the PPACA exchanges, entirely out of their own pockets. Right now, Congress picks up 75% of insurance cost for these staffers, some of whom make as little as $28k a year, and the Obama plan was to keep that 75% coming. The Republicans couldn’t have that.

Want to know why heartless bastards like Senator Ted Cruz don’t care, and are willing to exploit their own staffers just to score political points? Here why:

Senator Ted Cruz's income statement from last year, showing he made over $1.7m (hat-tip to Jamison Foser, @jamisonfoser on Twitter

Senator Ted Cruz’s income statement from last year, showing he made over $1.7m (hat-tip to Jamison Foser, @jamisonfoser on Twitter


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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  • ComradeRutherford

    “The majority of the US public do not want it”

    Well, that is a lie. Every one of the individual parts of ‘Obamacare’ poll very well, it’s the name ‘Obamacare’ that polls poorly, because of years of GOP propaganda.

    “I can not imagine how twisted your mind must be to blame Republicans for this”

    Because the GOP *is* responsible for this. The radical extremists are demanding a revote on a two year old, settled law. They have said for the last two years that they want to shut down the government, and now they have done exactly that. Now they are eager to force the US into default, another goal of the radical extremists.

    And today they moved the goalposts yet again, a new demand from the radical right terrorists. If the Dems did agree to ‘negotiate’, the GOp would simply move the goalposts yet again.

    My mind is not twisted, because I don’t have to believe all sorts of brazenly contradictory lies like Conservatives have to.

  • verbracity

    Only problem is this was the choice of the DEMS to refuse the offer of the Repubs to fund 100% of the gov’t over and over and over and over….

    THE FACT IS the Repubs have offered to fund 100% of the US gov’t as
    long a O’care is removed from it. The majority of the US public do not
    want it so why are all the ‘democracy loving democrats’ having such a
    problem with it? I thought you guys were all about freedom of choice
    and democracy?

    He agrees to negotiate with every single terrorist on the planet yet
    he won’t negotiate with those who are trying to see the will of the
    majority of the citizens done?

    I can not imagine how twisted your mind must be to blame Republicans for this….
    GO ahead and worship your tin god…he is a petty murderous tyrant.
    And the whole world is wising up to this fact.

  • verbracity

    Obama has given orders to make the public suffer:

    Someone in command of the Park Service police said those were the exact orders they got.

    OBAMA said we could not afford to keep monuments open…BUT
    He used more Park Police to keep ppl out than were ever there when they were open (often none).

    (And more guards at WW2 memorial to keep citizens out that he allowed at US Consulate in Benghazzi)

    He has shut down the road to Mt Rushmore so no one can even take pictures.

    He has threatened to jail any military chaplain who ministers during the shutdown halting
    all wedding, baptisms, services etc.

    He has blocked people from getting into their own homes because their house is on or behind federal lands.

    He has shut down national monuments that are not even funded by the US gov.

    This is a petty arrogant little man who will trample ppl to get his way.
    But he is more than petty…he is murderous.
    He was one of 2 or 3 in the Senate who voted for the most extreme abortions up until birth and
    killing babies born alive.

    So denying cancer treatments to a whole bunch of ppl including about 30 children should not surprise anyone who knows the truth about this man.

    THE FACT IS the Repubs have offered to fund 100% of the US gov’t as long a O’care is removed from it. The majority of the US public do not want it so why are all the ‘democracy loving democrats’ having such a problem with it? I thought you guys were all about freedom of choice and democracy?

    He agrees to negotiate with every single terrorist on the planet yet he won’t negotiate with those who are trying to see the will of the majority of the citizens done?

    And BTW – you are being LIED to by “Big Media” (BM).
    Since this all started there have been ZERO stories by the media blaming the Dems.
    There have been 4 stories giving blame to both parties.
    And ALL of the rest of the stories by all major networks have blamed the republicans…despite the fact that they have offered to fund 100% of the gov’t over a dozen times.

  • Kiterea

    Apparently you choose not to actually read my statement. We have worked the same jobs for over a decade, and pay payroll and property taxes. We’re not on any of your “free stuff”. But between cut hours (we added a third job) and our car breaking down, we just couldn’t catch back up.
    I AM one of the people of the UNITED States, my father served in France in WWII, and we are supposed to be a country of people working together to make a better life for all, not a scattered group of selfish brats going “I got mine, nyah,nyah,nyah!”

  • ArthurH

    In other words, “America: Love It or Leave It.” But what if you love America so much you want to correct its mistakes and shortcomings and restore the promise for everyone. The folks who created that slogan back in the 1960s were actually saying, “Change Frightens Me.”

  • Acadian216

    Just so we’re clear here, you clearly don’t live in a town that is losing the last month of it’s season (usually the best of the whole 5 months we get) to make the money that keeps OUR bills paid and keeps OUR families fed throughout the winter when we only have that saved money to get us through because there is NO OTHER INDUSTRY HERE. A national park may just be a place to hike to you, but for us it is OUR HOME. It is our bread and butter, the land across the street that we’re being told we can’t go into, the majority of the land on our island, our EVERYTHING! I and thousands of others who live here were counting on this last few weeks as our last chance to power through and get that money we need to pay our heat throughout the winter and so much more, and instead businesses are having to close weeks before they normally would, leaving many unemployed until next spring. So while there is no question as to the importance of children with cancer being helped, or these people who have been furloughed and may get paid back pay (which we will definitely NOT be getting compensated in any way for OUR losses) getting their jobs back, how dare you undervalue what these parks mean for the people who live in the communities surrounding them or the detrimental effect it has had on our lives. We’re just all healthy, hiking, entitled people I guess, no single mothers trying to scrape by and not be a welfare statistic here (in a state that 50%of is on some form of government assistance)! Your view is a narrow, ignorant, and self righteous one while hiding under the guise of bring oh so socially concerned…

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Except Republicans don’t support the old white men who are veterans, well, not unless they can use them as political props. They don’t even support our current generation of veterans, that many of them voted to create. Might have something to do with the dwindling number of veterans, and growing number of chicken hawks, in Congress. Their kind of old white man has his own PAC.

    The WIC program serves nearly 10 million people. Yeah, taking food from children is obviously the best way to needle at those horrible liberals. How dare they want to make sure people get enough food. Taking out your perverse political derangements on the lowest in our society is definitely the best choice for the country.

  • TJ

    We the people of the United States do not owe you anything. I work and it sucks always have. I am sick of paying for other people to get free this and free that and I cant afford a cat scan I need and HAVE insurance that I pay for myself.. It’s time for people to take care of themselves. And stop blaming everyone else including the Government which is me. Sorry maybe a good ole depression will wake everyone up. BRING IT ON!

  • TJ

    Then leave this place. Quit bitching and just get a plane ticket and go to where you think its Great! Can we help you pack.

  • Best of It

    Really, wow that’s intelligent. Those old white men fought for your freedom to say this,by the way if you need WIC to raise your child keep it closed honey..

  • Kiterea

    Add to the list the problem I ran into today. All the talk about “you people should just provide for yourselves or get help from charities and churches, instead of sucking off the government” just hit reality.
    Due to unexpected events, for the first time in 12 years we need help to pay either our house payment or our power bill. If we could get one of them taken care of, we could pay the other. Went to the Salvation Army, sorry-no funds, but here’s a list.
    Called 3 other charities and then at the second church I called, someone finally told me that we were out of luck. And why? Because all of them get money to help with power and housing FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
    Sorry to yell, but after all the slashing of the safety net, when you need help and go to the ones we’re told will make up for the lack of programs and learn they depend on gov. money also and can no longer assist, it just makes you want to spit.
    Well, this should be fun, temperatures are going to be about 90 this weekend, My place is a mobile home (big metal box) and no AC, fridge, or water. Shut-off is tomorrow.
    GOP, kiss my big juicy behind!

  • carla

    It is one thing to close a building/museum, understandable, staff need to be involved, but to recall employees from furlough to block off an outdoor monument or statue, which is normally open 24/7, w/o federal government presence? or even worse, to send NPS employees to barricade a jointly private/public parking lot in front of a privately owned national historical site, like Mt Vernon? Or to barricade off parking spots at scenic overlooks of 5 spaces, without even a trash barrel in sight?? THIS is the highest priority for federal employees?? This is spending our precious federal funds for spite!

  • Anonymous

    How long until the Dems are blamed? In another country we’d put these politicians on trial and jail them. Not in the sac-less USA.

  • Anonymous

    A conservative wet dream. Better check their pants.

  • Anonymous

    2nd Amendment rights only exist so hillbillies can teach their small, fragile kids to fire guns.
    Not to overthrow tyrants.

  • Anonymous

    A true Republican lemming.

  • Anonymous

    Except the 1%.
    Hopefully Republican lemmings (supporters) can see these callous asshats for what they really are. No, wait, that would require critical thinking.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Oh for Christ’s sake stop babbling and do the homework!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    One of the real problems is children — especially those born to conservative families — are indoctrinated from a very early age to believe that America is the greatest country ever in the history of humanity and every single thing about us is the best.

    If it’s assumed to be true that we have the “best” healthcare system in the entire world, there is absolutely no reason to change the least detail about it, right?

    This mindset applies in just about every area, too. The ‘best’ education system. The ‘best’ system of highways. The ‘best’ military.

    Unfortunately, most of the time ‘best’ simply means ‘the world’s most expensive.’ And the rest of the time, it’s merely a willing suspension of critical thinking and denial of facts.

    So part of it is we’re not a ‘decent’ country, and the other part is too many of our citizens have no idea things could be way better than they are.

  • Badgerite

    Compassionate conservatives, aren’t they?

  • ArthurH

    The Tea Party people are paraphrasing Woody Allen. He noted “comedy is you falling off a cliff; tragedy is me getting a paper cut.” The TP is saying that during the government shutdown “good is denying necessary food assistance to the very poor; bad is my kid not getting to tour the White House.”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I hope you never plan on making use of Medicare then. Y’know, to really make your point and not be a hypocrite.

  • ComradeRutherford

    The list of victory for the GOP:

    Children not getting cancer treatments! YAY!

    Nearly a million Americans suddenly without paychecks! YAY!

    Air Trafic Controllers ordered to work for free! (And no backpay for those lazy-assed SOBs!) YAY!

    No more food inspectors, no more aircraft inspectors! YAY!

    No Library of Congress and National Archives! YAY!

    No recalls of dangerous vehicles!!! YAY!

    No early education for Children! YAY!

    No more space exploration! YAY!

    No more help for Small Businesses! YAY!

    Tax cheats get off scott-free! YAY!

    SS and Medicaid users are screwed! YAY!

    No more passports! (Americans shouldn’t be allowed to leave anyway.) YAY!

    Poor families that can’t find jobs are screwed! YAY!

    Women and infant children starve to death! YAY!

    Veterans refused health care! YAY!

    No more help for victims of disasters! YAY!

    No more gun permits! YA— Wait, what???

    Increasing misery for no reason on hundreds of millions of Americans is a HUGE Republican victory! Because the constituents that the GOP actually does represent, insanely rich, aren’t affected by this at all.

    As some self-righteous, smarmy cµnt said in an interview today, ‘[Rich] Americans will realize they can get along fine with less government!’ Poor Americans, well, fuck them!

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Well, the National Parks are more visible, and the people who spend time there are more active. People who are poor and have children at home to feed can’t afford to go out and spend the time and effort making a stink with their Congressperson. Of course, these are the people the media should be speaking for.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I was struck by how WIC, TANF, and the cancer treatment programs don’t rise to the level of an emergency budget resolution for the GOP — but re-opening national parks did.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Kinda like how health insurance corporations can… but at least government wouldn’t do it because you’re not making them a profit.

    And of course, government isn’t providing health care through the Affordable Care Act… it isn’t socialized medicine by any measure, except in the addled minds of people who don’t care to accept reality. The whole point of it is that government continues to cede any and all health care decisions to your insurance company.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    GOP members said today that it “isn’t the end of the world” that the WIC program is also shut down. I mean, who cares about babies that lack access to proper nutrition, right? But then, WIC = Women, Infants and Children. Three opponents of the Republican party. Now if it was Men, Fetuses and Corporations, then they’d be fighting tooth and nail to keep it running.

  • nicho

    Only if we let conservatives get at it.

  • Indigo

    That sounds reasonable. Of course, the operative term is “decent.” That doesn’t exactly apply, does it?

  • Indigo

    D- because 1) flawed punctuation and 2) too, not to. Flawed logic as well, F after all.

  • guest1

    A government that can provide healthcare and take it away to

  • caphillprof

    Any decent country would already be in full blown revolution.

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