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Five ways to spend time during the government shutdown

October 01, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • "You need to think of something scientific, Mr. White!"
"You need to think of something scientific, Mr. White!" (AMC )

My options:

1. Catch up on "Breaking Bad": 43 episodes to go. (No spoilers, please.)

2. Make it to page 39 of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” (My record so far: page 38.)*

3. Find out what a “Kardashian” is. (Top possibilities: 1. Traditional Russian pastry. 2. Dance from “Die Fledermaus.” 3. Shadowy figure in the new Pynchon novel.)

4. Call Time Warner Cable to demand better blackout refund. (Hold time: 72 hours.)

5. Read totality of baseless tech pundit speculation about new Apple iPads, due out this month. (Note: may require two government shutdowns).

In reality, of course, this shutdown is no laughing matter.

If it lasts through Friday, 864 3- and 4-year-olds will lose their Head Start classes in York, Pa. Head Start programs around the country will lose funding, too. The National Institutes of Health has stopped accepting new patients and suspended action on grant applications and awards.

As Aaron Carroll observes at the Incidental Economist, the Centers for Disease Control is suspending its flu program just as flu season rolls around. Several nutritional programs funded by the USDA, including Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), will run out of money within a week; school lunch and breakfast programs are on the edge of shutdown.

Market oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission, where 91% of employees are to be furloughed, will be hobbled. At the Environmental Protection Agency, 6% of all workers are to remain on the job.

Nearly 3 million government workers will go without paychecks, even if they're deemed to be "essential" and therefore kept on the job. Others told to stay home -- an estimated 800,000 of them -- may never be paid for their lost time.

No. No laughing matter. Saddest of all, no one seems to have any idea how to make it stop.

*But his nonfiction is terrific.

Reach me at @hiltzikm on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or by email.


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