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The Wait Begins: Read Up on the Shutdown

Department of Labor Website Screenshot

As you probably already know, Congress ignored the pleadings of the Project On Government Oversight along with almost everyone else in the U.S. and failed to meet yesterday’s midnight deadline to avoid the debilitating government shutdown.

Now, the minute, hour, and day count begins (Government Executive, by the way, has a handy but depressing to-the-second ticker). It’s impossible to say how long it will take to get things up and running again, but senior Republicans privately said the closure would last at the very, very least a week.

Things need to go back to normal as quickly as possible, and not just so we can tune into the now offline National Zoo Panda Cam. Almost every U.S. Department is stripped to the bare minimum.

While we wait, we’ll be reading up on the shutdown and its devastating effects.

The Washington Post has a helpful, easy-to-navigate compilation of where each Department stands, including the number of furloughed employees, overall impact, impact on workers, and links to the Departments’ shutdown plans.

The story reveals some startling numbers. Only 1,024 out of 16,205 employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are on the job, for instance, and about 82% of the Department of Labor is sitting at home, twiddling their unpaid thumbs while Congress figures this out.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which operates under the Department of Labor, will be especially hard-hit.

According to The Center for Effective Government, the 400-500 safety complaints OSHA receives each day will pile up and up since only 10% of OSHA employees will be working. The Department of Labor has estimated that only 5% of complaints will be answered during the shutdown. Obvious conclusion: our nation’s workers’ safety is seriously compromised.

The gaunt staffs of essential, regulatory agencies means the standard oversight of various industries simply won’t be happening. Yesterday, Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about how would-be fraudsters will likely jump on the opportunity the shutdown provides.

Plotting a pump-and-dump stock scheme? Waiting to trade on that hush-hush tip you got from a friend? Looking to corner the market on pork bellies? Now might be your chance for any and all of those shenanigans.

A few days ago, Bart Chilton, head of the U.S. Commodity Future Trading Commission, said the shutdown could have “disastrous impacts” for consumers. “You can bet the do-badders are licking their chops,” his statement read.

The government will continue to employ workers “needed to…protect life or property.” At the CFTC, this amounts to a skeleton crew of about 30 people overseeing active court cases and performing a “bare minimum level of oversight and surveillance.

Also worth a look is a visual from The New York Times summarizing the ping-ponging of the spending bill that could have avoided the shutdown. Over the last ten days, it’s gone back and forth between the Republican house, led by John Boehner, and the Democratic Senate, led by Harry Reid.

It’s early yet, and only time will tell the shutdown’s true impact. Let’s hope our elected representatives in Congress end this nonpartisan standoff soon.

Image from U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA website.

By: Avery Kleinman
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Avery Kleinman At the time of publication Avery Kleinman was the Beth Daley Impact Fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Checks and Balances, Democracy

Authors: Avery Kleinman

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