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Posted 09/10/2013 by sevans

Returning from a conference in the US last weekend, I discovered that the teams from the Transportation Security Administration that were x-raying bags and patting down passengers prior to boarding their flights were effectively working for free. They were all dressed in their uniforms and conducting their work efficiently and in a friendly way, but they weren’t being paid. 

It seems incomprehensible for anyone coming from Europe, for example, that just because the government can’t agree on a budget or changes to the healthcare system, the whole process of running a country, and not just a small country at that, just stops. Now we do have some experience of countries in Europe that have continued to operate without an effective government; Belgium managed quite satisfactorily for almost two years without a government.

But for such a shutdown to continue in the world’s leading economy for what is now over a week is beyond belief, and the anomalies that have been thrown up make it even more unbelievable. Are the members of the US Senate and the House of Representatives also going without pay? Err, no! What about the US troops that carried out the anti-terrorist raids in Libya and Somalia over the weekend? Quite rightly, they continue to draw pay. But not to pay the people who are charged with preventing domestic terrorism? 

But all this affects the scientific and business worlds as well; with government agencies from the US Environmental Protection Agency and NASA to the Food & Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and the National Science Foundation all shut down – and employees told not to even answer mobile phones or emails at home. In some cases, essential services are being maintained but all non-essential services have been stopped, everything from employees cleaning up toxic superfund sites to those assessing to those accepting new drug submissions. Even the Securities & Exchange Commission will see its operations run down delaying the filing and registrations of IPOs.

So the health, security and economic fate of the nation is at present is in limbo.

Here in the UK, our government and civil services may not be perfect, and there may be much that we would like to change, but the idea that everything should grind to a halt because the government and the opposition can’t agree would be unbelievable, as well as being totally unacceptable. Let’s hope the US can get itself sorted out, because the potential impact on the rest of us could eliminate any positive economic improvements that we are being told are now upon us.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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