Some Things You Just Can’t Shut Down

“Standing still and doing nothing are two very different things” – Jackie Chan, The Karate Kid

With the federal shutdown looming, I asked myself “just how much money does the US save each day of the shutdown?” (no kidding, I really asked myself this). Forget, for a moment, the productivity lost; let’s assume all non-spent dollars represent a savings. Just how much money are we not going to spend, that we otherwise would have?

I saw an estimate that federal workers who will be furloughed (the non-essential ones) get paid roughly $320 million per day – but this is really rough math: average federal pay ~ $100,000, furloughed workers ~800,000, annual workdays ~250.  So this is $80 billion if we kept it up for an entire year – that’s 5% of the federal deficit.

But what about the money that is not being paid out even though the workers are still working? Well, last year there were an estimated 2.65 million federal employees. If we assume none of them get paid, that would be $1.06 billion per work day. That’s $265 billion for an entire year … out of a $1.65 trillion deficit.

OK, need to expand. In 2010 the total U.S. federal discretionary spending was $1.368 trillion … still less than the $1.65 trillion projected deficit. That means we could shut the government down for an entire year, pay nobody, close down the DoD, Health and Human Services, Transportation, the VA, the State department, HUD, Education, Energy, Justice, NASA, EPA, and all the rest … and still have a $282 billion deficit.

Even if we got a zero-percent interest refinance on the national debt we’d only save $164 billion – we’re still short $118 billion.

Maybe you just can’t shut the government down after all.

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