If the budget stalemate triggers a series of furloughs for federal workers next month, the Washington area alone would lose $70 million for each day employees are furloughed.

Shock waves from temporary cuts in the federal payroll would roll far beyond the Capital Beltway. In fact, many communities -- from Ogden, Utah, to Martinsburg, W.Va. -- because of their smaller size or weaker economies are more dependent on the federal payroll than the Washington area. But nobody would take a bigger dollar hit from furloughs than this headquarters town.

Officially, there are 357,000 federal workers here in a total work force of 2.1 million. But there also is a hidden government here, which includes workers at the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, that would bring the actual number of civilian federal employees close to 400,000.

The presence of so many federal employees and their $1.4 billion monthly payroll here attracts lobbyists, lawyers, journalists and union staff members, and creates thousands of service and support jobs that assume a stable federal payroll. That has made this area number one in almost every measure of affluence.

Thirty-seven percent of the households here had after-tax income of $50,000 or more in 1988, according to the S&MM "Survey of Buying Power" that is widely used by marketing firms. The same survey listed the San Francisco-Oakland area as having 31 percent of its households in the $50,000-or-more income category, followed by Boston (29 percent), Los Angeles (25.8 percent), Chicago and Philadelphia (21 percent), New York City (20 percent), Dallas-Fort Worth (18 percent), and Detroit and Houston (17 percent).

The economic and political impacts of furloughs aren't lost on Congress. Many members last week signed a letter from the Federal Government Service Task Force. It urges members of the White House/congressional budget summit group meeting at Andrews Air Force Base to settle the budget so furloughs can be avoided.

The task force is made up of 55 House and Senate members who represent large numbers of U.S. workers. It acts as a pro-civil servant caucus on Capitol Hill. Its message is that furloughs spell big problems for the country in lost services, for people and communities in lost income, and for politicians in lost votes.

"Everybody thinks that Congress was on 'vacation' during August," a Democratic staff member said. "But many of the members were back home, getting hell from non-federal people about the so-called budget mess and getting hell from federal workers about the potential furloughs. When the Social Security crowd starts worrying about not getting checks on time, you are going to see some very nervous politicians. This isn't a bunch of politicians playing chicken in Washington, D.C. This thing {furloughs} could touch just about everybody in the country."