If you're running a business, the partial government shutdown suddenly became a very significant concern in the last 72 hours or so.

As of today, it's the second-longest shutdown in U.S. history (17 days)--and just a few days shy of the dubious record for longest shutdown ever. Vice President Pence met with Democrats over the weekend, but there's no reported progress.

The shutdown affects 800,000 federal employees, a number that's growing every day as more agencies run out of money. It works out to an estimated $5 billion a month in missed payroll.

Another way of looking at it: It's just a bit shy of what would happen if if Amazon and Target (about 900,000 U.S. employees together) laid off every single U.S. worker at the same time. 

For many federal employees, their first skipped paycheck is this Friday. But that's not the biggest problem on the immediate horizon. Over the weekend, we learned that the administration was scrambling to figure out exactly what a prolonged shutdown would prevent the U.S. government from actually doing it.

Two other big, negative milestones:

  • $100 billion or more in potential tax refunds that can't be issued; and
  • $5 billion in SNAP (food stamps) that can't be distributed.

Add to that a growing concern about "the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system" that a union representing pilots at Delta and United Airlines wrote to President Trump about

You begin to get a sense of what a shutdown that lasts "months or even years," as President Trump warned, could do to the economy.

As Mike Allen points out at Axios, the shutdown has been abstract for most Americans, but it's about to start hitting people in the pocketbook--the kinds of stories that will also likely start to dominate headlines. Among a few he found already: 

  • a government janitor afraid he won't be able to pay bills, 
  • an IRS worker who wants to take a second job to pay the bills--but can't because the IRS employee who has to sign off on potential conflicts of interest isn't working, and 
  • a federal contractor who says he's postponing an anniversary trip with his wife because he doesn't know when he'll be paid again.

It's doubly depressing, since the Trump administration revealed some amazingly good December jobs numbers on Friday--a sign of a still-strong economy.

But those 312,000 new jobs already seem like ancient history. The shutdown is now something nobody was expecting, but in just a few days we'll be in entirely uncharted territory.

Here's what else I'm reading today: 

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Published on: Jan 7, 2019
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