Republicans believe that a bad economy works for them at election time. The thinking is that the public will turn on Democrats for not making things better. So they do what they can to make the economy bad. But maybe they went too far this time. This hostage-taking episode has done real, serious, lasting damage to the economy on top of the ongoing damage Republicans have been doing. Will the public still blame Democrats, or will they finally see what is going on here?
The Damage Last Time
Look what happened the last time (2011) Republicans threatened to force the country to default on its debts.
The 2011 hostage-taking hit jobs. In Debt-Ceiling Deja Vu Could Sink Economy Bloomberg reported that, "Growth in nonfarm payrolls decelerated to an average 88,000 a month during the three months of the debt-ceiling impasse, compared with an average of 176,000 in the first five months of 2011." Consumer confidence plunged to a 31-year low. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell from 59.2 to 44.5.
In November, 2012, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a "Debt Limit Analysis" estimating the costs of the 2011 hostage-taking:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing additional costs to taxpayers as a result of the 2011 debt limit increase
- A substantial cost to taxpayers stemmed from elevated interest rates on U.S. securities issued in 2011 prior to when the debt limit was increased in August
- GAO conducted an economic analysis to estimate the resulting change in interest rates
- For Fiscal Year 2011, GAO estimated additional interest costs to taxpayers of $1.3 billion
The cost of the event to the federal government, however, continues to accrue because many of the bonds issued during that period remain outstanding
- BPC extended GAO's methodology to analyze the long-term cost to taxpayers stemming from the elevated interest rates
- Estimate of the ten-year cost to taxpayers of the 2011 debt limit standoff = $18.9 billion
- To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the "Doc Fix" to prevent the scheduled 27% cut to Medicare physician payments for 2012 cost $18 billion over ten years
That is serious damage. And, of course, the 2011 fight resulted in a downgrading of the US credit rating.
(See also: Think Progress, CHARTS: How The Debt Ceiling Debacle Hurt The Economy)
The Damage This Time
In this hostage fight the immediate damage is much worse than 2011. Consumer confidence, for example, has plunged even more dramatically than during the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking. But these measurements were taken only a week into the fight.
Standard & Poor's ratings agency has done some early calculations of the damage and says, "the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6% off of annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24 billion out of the economy." Note the words "at least." This is an early estimate and does not count direct costs to government and costs to government contractors.
The NY Times today summarizes some of the damage from this hostage-taking, in Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running,
"Containers of goods idling at ports. Reduced sales at sandwich shops in downtown Washington. Canceled vacations to national parks and to destinations abroad. Reduced corporate earnings forecasts. Higher interest payments on short-term debt.
"Even with the shutdown of the United States government and the threat of a default coming to an end, the cost of Congress's gridlock has already run well into the billions, economists estimate. And the total will continue to grow even after the shutdown ends, partly because of uncertainty about whether lawmakers might reach another deadlock early next year."
One example of the damage from this fight -- just one...