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Government Shutdown: Who's Out Today?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Liberals and conservatives united in cheering on the Mississippi World War II veterans who "liberated" their monument on the Capitol Mall on Monday, pushing aside the fence and ignoring signs saying it was closed due to the government shutdown.

We should just hope they left someone behind to police the area, and protect it, because it's the cops and the trash collectors whose furloughs caused the fence to go up in the first place.

It would also be great if we could re-enlist those veterans to liberate some of the following, all of which are closed until Congress and the President Barack Obama come to an agreement.

  • The people who calculate unemployment statistics for the Bureau of Labor Statistics are out, so traders are going to have to rely on the ADP numbers.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site is down.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped monitoring the progress of the seasonal flu.
  • Half the civilian employees at the Defense Department are off the job.
  • If there's a chemical spill or major industrial accident during the shutdown, only the Environmental Protection Agency is available to investigate.
  • If your kid has applied for a Pell Grant, or student loan, that may not be coming.
  • E-verify, which is used to check the status of new employees, is down.
  • Civil litigation at the Justice Department is delayed. So are antitrust reviews.
  • The National Science Foundation is closed.
  • There's no one to investigate government ethics until this ends.

Generally, employees deemed "non-essential" are those performing regulatory functions, or those delivering information to the public, or those who are both visible and expendable, like those who would have been manning the World War II monument.

It's the administration's success in keeping vital functions going during the shutdown, in minimizing its impact, that has emboldened political opponents, who have taken to calling it a "slim down." ( CNN has a running tally of the number of furloughed workers, by department, on its Web site.)

These numbers could change if the "slim down" continues, according to the USA.gov Web site. The Mississippi veterans' pensions and disability payments may stop coming soon. Services that help seniors and children get healthy food are going to fade with time. New applications for small business loans can't be taken.

While stocks rose during the first day of the shutdown, they began falling as trading began Tuesday. As time goes by traders will be flying in an increasingly blind environment, as the numbers we're used to getting from the government stop coming.

As the shutdown gets mixed in with the arguments over the debt ceiling, which could be hit Oct. 17 and end all government borrowing, this downside move could accelerate. Traders are already warning that a default could end this country's status as a reserve currency. Future loans may have to be made in yen or euros or yuan.

The Street is going to notice the shutdown only when it hits our asset balances. When you start squealing, in other words, then Washington may hear. When you tell your Congress-critter that your checkbook is about to shut down, in other words, then we'll see some action.

If you're politically invested in the causes that caused the shutdown, you're going to keep your mouth shut and your ears closed to this damage as long as possible. The rest of us will just have to see how long you can hold out, how "slim" is too slim.

At the time of publication, the author was still a U.S. citizen.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.

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