How close

Robert Reich hours before the shutdown:

I was Secretary of Labor during the first government shutdown in 1996, and, believe me, it’s not pretty. I recall people in tears because they wouldn’t be able to pay their bills, piles of unopened letters, uncollected data, frustrated workers, a mystified and angry public.

What happens when the government shuts down? Millions of people who work for the government are put on unpaid furlough. They don’t get their paychecks, and will never be repaid for the time lost. Millions of federal contractors are also left out in the cold. Essential government functions protecting public health and safety continue, but much of the enforcement of government regulations comes to a grinding halt.

Congressional offices are partially closed because most personnel are also furloughed. The federal courts continue to function, barely, but many of the employees normally at the court houses are no longer there. Military personal on active duty continue to report for duty but will not be paid until the shutdown ends. The mail will continue to be delivered. Federal Emergency Management cleanup efforts in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and California are likely to continue but will surely be hampered.

If you are a recipient of Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, TANF, or food stamps, you’ll continue to receive your benefits. But if you have problems or questions, forget it. There’s no one there to answer them.

If the shutdown lasts a few days, the damage will be minimal. If it continues into next week, you will begin to feel its effects.

The 3 previous government shutdowns occurred during periods of divided government, when Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on funding. Never before have we faced a shutdown when the same party runs both houses of Congress and the White House.

That the world’s leading democracy and richest nation should be on the brink of shutting down its government shows how close to a banana republic we’ve come.

Any bets on how many times it will happen before Trump goes? Five? Ten? Fifty?

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