Republicans characterize the ordeal they just subjected the country to as a war. House Speaker John Boehner said, “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.”
Sen. John McCain said, “Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable.”
Just like any war, this one cost blood and bounty. Republicans wounded their party with their failed gambit to defund the Affordable Care Act by shutting government and threatening default. But what’s worse is they bloodied the economy. At a time when millions are struggling to find work, the Republican hostage taking depressed growth and killed jobs. It’s one thing for the GOP to blast itself in the foot, it’s unconscionable for Republicans to shoot America.
Deservedly, the GOP is suffering from its self-inflicted injury. A Washington Post-ABC poll found nearly three-quarters of Americans disapproved of Republicans. And it wasn’t just Democrats and Independents griping. The poll showed 47 percent of Republicans disapproved of Congressional Republicans.
A Doylestown Republican’s comments to the New York Times explain that disgust. Jean Naples is outraged that the government shutdown disrupted funerals for U.S. soldiers. But more pertinent to supposedly Main Street-loving Republicans was her complaint that the shutdown caused a severe cash flow problem for her husband’s business.
McCain conceded the damage to the GOP, again using combat language: “This is a hard blow to the Republican Party.”
Republicans can pummel their own party if they want to, but what’s amazing is that 18 of them in the Senate and 144 in the House voted against restoring government services and paying America’s debts. They voted to continue pulling billions out of the economy, hurting businesses like those owned by Jean Naples’ husband, and furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers. They voted to continue battering America.
The economy was cannon fodder for these Republicans. Standard & Poor’s estimated that the 16-day shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy and suppressed growth. S&P predicted growth would decline to 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s significantly below the 3 percent projected before Republicans closed government. Growth means job creation; slower growth means fewer jobs.
With government workers furloughed, the work they did that is essential to business stopped. That included inspecting imports, financing exports and issuing permits for oil and gas wells. The nation’s king-crab fishing fleet, for example, couldn’t leave the Seattle harbor because these small business owners couldn’t get the necessary permits. Companies and home buyers couldn’t get federally backed financing. Businesses dependent on visitors to federal parks and monuments lost money and laid off workers.
“This is as dangerous to us as an earthquake,” the owner of a restaurant near a closed national park told the New York Times. The economic toll from the shuttering of Zion National Park forced four counties in Utah to declare a state of emergency. The National Park Service calculated the monument and park closures cost the economy $76 million a day.
Similarly, the U.S. Travel Association estimated that the shutdown cost $152 million a day in lost travel. Around the capital, $217 million a day was lost in federal and contractor wages. They were sitting ducks in the GOP war on government.
The conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation estimated that crisis-driven fiscal policy – like Republicans threatening to shut down the government any time they don’t get their way – and the uncertainty in the market that has caused over the past several years – already cost the country 900,000 jobs. The October shutdown killed even more jobs. A survey by the Business Roundtable, a trade group, found that half of top executives cut their hiring plans because of the government closure and default threat. To the GOP, job losses are just collateral damage.
The shutdown may continue to bludgeon the economy for months to come. After Republicans went to the brink of default in 2011, S&P downgraded the credit rating of the United States. This time, another major agency, Fitch Ratings, issued a negative outlook. A downgrade by Fitch could roil markets and raise borrowing costs – not just for the government, but also for home buyers and businesses.
The uncertainty caused by the threat of default already increased the cost of government borrowing. HIS Global Insight estimated that a rise in rates on Treasury bills means taxpayers will have to pony up an extra $114 million in interest for one week’s worth of borrowing.
Business confidence dipped in October. And consumer confidence plunged, similar to its nosedive when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, starting the Great Recession. That means the holidays may not be very happy for retailers or seasonal job seekers.
Businesses and consumers justifiably fear that Republicans will close the government again on Jan. 15, when financing expires under the deal approved last week. GOP Representatives John Fleming of Louisiana and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois already threatened to do that. Kinzinger happily recounted Boehner assuring the Tea Party last week, “This isn’t the end of the fight.”
The deal to open the government, Fleming said, “will get us into Round 2. See, we’re going to start this all over again.”
To Republicans, governing is a fistfight, a war. It’s about destruction: defunding the Affordable Care Act, dismantling Social Security, demolishing Medicare, disassembling the National Labor Relations Board. It’s gunning down America.