Shutdown Causes Mass. Historial Sites to Close Doors
Economists Fear for Businesses and Stock Market Should Government Shutdown Continue
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 23:10
After weeks of fruitless negotiation by a divided Congress, the United States government shut down Tuesday, furloughing over 800,000 federal workers. The shutdown—the first of its kind in 20 years—closed the doors of national parks, historic sites, and museums. Most notably, however, the shutdown has turned a spotlight toward the faltering political system in Washington. The overwhelming majority of those interviewed by The Boston Globe used one particular word to describe the state of the government: “ridiculous.”
In Massachusetts, the most glaring effect of the shutdown was the barred doors on national parks and historic sites throughout the state. At a time where fall foliage is reaching its peak throughout New England, the closing will affect a number of tourist groups as well as public school field trips. The U.S.S. Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard, the Bunker Hill Monument, the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill, and the Old North Bridge in Concord were the main attractions shut down starting Tuesday. The national park shutdowns alone affected more than 100 park service workers in Massachusetts. Cape Cod’s North Shore is also closed.
Within the city of Boston itself, the National Park visitors center—located adjacent to Quincy Market—was among the sites impacted. As one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state, the visitor’s center sees more than 1 million visitors a year, bringing business to the locals who set up shop in the always crowded Faneuil Hall Marketplace. While all privately owned businesses in Faneuil Hall remained open this week, traffic through the marketplace came to a screeching halt as a result of the national park visitor’s center closing.
In Massachusetts, the shutdown locked an estimated 8,000 people out of their jobs on Tuesday and Wednesday. When the government shuts down, it furloughs all federal workers, meaning no work and no pay for civilians employed by the U.S. According to reports from the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Defense Department spends more than $500 million a year on wages and salaries for these 8,000 civilian employees. The 2013 shutdown has the ability to take away a whopping $45 million from the workers and the Massachusetts state economy.
For business owners, the economic impact is expected to be minimal—at least in the short term. The real problem, according to The Globe, will come in a short two weeks when Congress must increase the borrowing limit, allowing the U.S. to “technically default on its debt.”
The last time the government tested the debt ceiling, nearly two decades ago, stock markets plummeted, causing global financial turmoil and setting back the already-struggling economic recovery. Now, economists fear the same fate if a solution is not eventually reached.
“The government can be shut down for quite a while without doing serious damage to the economy,” said Nigel Gault, co-chief economist at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “Triggering the debt ceiling would very likely cause a recession. And if we go right up to the last minute, stock markets will panic.”
Massachusetts has already suffered due to governmental solutions to the 2011 debt crisis. With the concentration of hospitals, universities, research facilities, and development contractors, Massachusetts relies more heavily on government funding than most other states. While approximately 8,000 civil employees are furloughed this week, the Department of Defense records a whopping 45,000 workers are employed by the federal government in the state of Massachusetts.
While businesses continued to function, Congress remained eerily quiet on Tuesday as the majority of Washington around the Capitol Building shut down. Reports from Washington said Congress was planning on not only continuing the shutdown through Wednesday, but indefinitely—at least until an agreement is reached. Polls throughout the country show the majority of Americans blaming the Republicans for the shutdown. The GOP refuses to consider any plan of compromise unless cuts are made from President Barack Obama’s health care funding bill. This bill has already passed through Congress, been approved by the Supreme Court, and is now being implemented in early stages. On Wednesday, Obama released a statement concerning the shutdown:
“My basic message to Congress is this: pass a budget, end the government shutdown,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “We’re better than this. Certainly the American people are better than this. Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis,” he added. “It is a drag on the economy. It is not worthy of this country.”
Federal courts will remain open for the first 10 days of a government shutdown before placing employees deemed “non-essential” to the workplace on furlough. The U.S. Postal Service will remain open, as will all prisons and the National Institute of Health. Active duty military personnel will remain on duty with pending paychecks.