It may be tempting to treat the recent government shutdown like a nightmare and just wake up and move on as if it never happened. Unfortunately, the damage caused by this reckless stunt is all too real while the lessons of this sad chapter in American history must be clearly understood so we don’t repeat them again.
The focus of the media has been the cost to America’s global reputation and to our fragile economic recovery, which in both cases has been substantial. By some estimates, the shutdown took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth by 20 percent. Less has been said about the impact of the shutdown (and a backdrop of austerity-laced politics) on the nation’s vital transportation systems and infrastructure, including transit and rail, airports and air traffic control, roads and bridges, and our port and maritime systems that together form the arteries of the economy.
Here are some sobering shutdown facts to consider:
- “Next Gen” air traffic control modernization project charged with making air travel more efficient and safer, suffered major setbacks that could lead to further delays.
- Thousands of aviation safety inspectors and other key personnel were sent home impacting oversight of commercial and general aviation aircraft, aircraft repair facilities here and overseas, and airline operations.
- Department of Transportation grant making to states and their contractors, transit authorities, airports, ports and Amtrak came to a screeching halt because key personnel were sent home. This delayed vital projects and idled construction and transportation jobs.
- $152 million a day was lost in lost travel spending, which hit the pocket books of transportation workers and threatened businesses of all sizes that drive our economy.
- The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to initiate investigations into 14 accidents including fatal ones involving aviation, bus and rail, and suspended work on more than 1,000 investigations in all modes of transportation.
- Runway safety and expansion projects at several major airports, including Dallas Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare and Long Beach, Calif., were halted.
- Federal labor boards (NLRB, NMB) charged with protecting workers’ rights suspended virtually all work.
- Major transportation contractors of the federal government such as Lockheed Martin and United Technologies furloughed thousands of workers in middle-class jobs.
If you’re getting nervous reading this, you should be. The safety and prosperity of Americans and businesses that rely on our transportation grid have been put at risk–all in the interest of pushing this reckless agenda of Tea Party activists who, by the way, rely on the transportation systems and economy they just undermined every bit as much as the rest of us.
So, we’ve seen the playbook. Shutdown the government and send almost a million federal workers home without pay to get your way. Threaten to stop the government from paying its bills to get your way. Oppose investments in our economy such as transportation expansion and modernization to get your way. Force us to live in an economy that loses 20 percent of its economic output every quarter, until you get your way.
This is hardly a tea party – it’s a how-to manual on ruining the economy.
We’re ready to write the manual on rebuilding the middle class before the same game-losing plays are called again in January.