Shutdown cost $2 billion in lost federal employee productivity, White House says

November 7, 2013
National Park Service personnel remove the barricades from the World war II Memorial as the government reopens Thursday. (Astrid Riecken/Washington Post).
National Park Service personnel remove the barricades from the World war II Memorial as the government reopens. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post).

October’s 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government cost taxpayers about $2 billion in lost productivity from 850,000 furloughed employees, the White House budget office said Thursday in a report aimed at showing the economic toll of the gridlock in Congress.

Three weeks after the government reopened,  “We believe it was important to have in one place the articulated impact of the shutdown,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a conference call with reporters.

She described a cascade of “negative ramifications on a number of fronts” from closing the government Oct.1, from $500 million in lost local spending by visitors to closed national parks to $1.9 billion in delayed deliveries of 156 aircraft when the Federal Aviation Administration could not register them.

The Obama administration has said the shutdown and uncertainty over raising the government’s borrowing cap will curb fourth-quarter economic growth by 0.3 to 0.6 percentage points.

The budget office estimated in 1996 that the two shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996, which lasted 26 days total, cost the government $1.4 billion, or roughly $2.1 billion in today’s dollars.

The analysis released Thursday was requested by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who called the report “proof-positive that shutdown, slamdown politics is the wrong way to govern our country.”

“This manufactured crisis damaged the economy, cost us jobs and hurt middle class families,” Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate  Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “We now have the facts to prove it.”

Republicans, however, said the White House was using the dire claims of the shutdown’s cost to deflect the public’s attention from the issue that forced the showdown between the GOP and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

“We would have preferred to avoid the shutdown and any economic impact,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “But this report is little more than a transparent attempt to change the subject from the epic and growing failures of Obamacare.”

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Steve Vogel | November 7, 2013