Fallout From The Shutdown

Grind for January 11th, 2019
“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in hope of pulling out an eel.”

– Leonardo da Vinci


The Headline

How the shutdown is affecting Americans and the economy

The Grind

If the current government shutdown persists through the end of the week, it will become the longest shutdown in US history following a 21-day gap in 1995 under Bill Clinton.

The shutdown affects these federal agencies and a handful of smaller agencies: Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, State, Interior, Treasury, and Transportation.

Direct effects of the shutdown include:

— 800,000 workers are without a job or forced to work without pay

— There are longer lines and fewer safety checks at airports

— The FDA is not conducting routine food safety inspections

— There are fewer guests at hotels and restaurants near closed attractions

— E-Verify is offline

— All Smithsonian museums are closed

— Some national parks are closed

— Scientists from NASA and NOAA won’t be attending the climate summit in Vancouver this month

— The IRS doesn’t know how it will process tax refunds

“If there’s no check on the 26th, I have no idea what we’re going to do,” says 36-year-old Jacinda, whose husband works for the TSA.

Paying bills during the shutdown is a major concern for federal employees. Even the White House said it was unable to pay $5 million of its quarterly water bill this month.

The Details

The situation is even more dire for the millions of Americans who depend on the government for food or housing assistance. SNAP is only funded through February and the government has already asked landlords not to evict tenants who rely on federal assistance to pay rent.

Meanwhile, all immigration courts are closed and the federal judiciary says it only has enough cash to sustain paid operations until January 18th.

The shutdown also affects the 40,000+ active duty members of the Coast Guard, who are still working but don’t know if they will be paid on January 15th.

“I think it’s pretty bad,” says former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen. “I think when you have people providing emergency services to this country without pay, I think we ought to take a serious look at how we’re governed.”

To Make Matters Worse

The Headline

Hubble telescope breaks while NASA operates without funding

The Grind

NASA on Tuesday was forced to switch off the Hubble Space Telescope’s “Wide Field Camera 3” following a hardware malfunction.

The malfunction isn’t anything to worry about, but getting it fixed is.

NASA is among several government agencies operating without funding thanks to the partial shutdown that began on December 22nd. With many of its employees sitting at home, NASA doesn’t have access to the experts it needs to analyze and solve the malfunction.

“This is when everyone gets a reminder about two crucial aspects of space exploration: 1) Complex systems like @NASAHubble only work due to a dedicated team of amazing experts; 2) All space systems have finite lifetimes and such issues are bound to happen from time to time,” tweeted Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.

The Details

The “Wide Field Camera 3” is one of four instruments the Hubble uses to make observations. It was installed in 2009 and has played a role in nearly half of the scientific investigations to take place involving the Hubble since then. As long as the shutdown persists, there’s no way to predict how long the camera will remain suspended, or how long it will take to bring it back into operation.

The way I see it, NASA has three options:

— Wait it out

— Attempt to solve the problem using workers already struggling to keep NASA operational

— Apply for an emergency exception to bring employees back to work

Luckily, the Hubble’s three remaining instruments are working and taking photos like normal.

Did you know… More steel in the United States is used to make bottle caps than to manufacture automobile bodies.