Annals of the (Idiotic) Shutdown, Harm to Small Business Dept.

A speaker of the House protects his job; countless other Americans lose theirs.

From a pilot-reader in the San Juan islands of Washington state (right), about a local small business that is under pressure because of the shutdown:

The attempt by the Rs to minimize the effects of the shutdown totally ignores the ripples and magnifiers wrought by this behavior.  

A local example:  my flight instructor not only owns and runs the local flight school and FBO ["fixed base operator," or small-airport terminal and service center] but also runs one of the several air charter services that are part of the lifeblood of this archipelagic county.  Much of what he does involves fairly short hops between islands and the closer mainland towns and small cities, for which a 172 [Cessna 172 "Skyhawk" -- a workhorse 4-seat, single-engine propeller plane] is perfectly suited.

Well, his routine Part 135 check ride in that aircraft fell into the shutdown period.  ["Part 135" refers to charter and other business-oriented pilots, who must go through periodic recertification, or "check rides," to stay in business.] He can't take the ride (no FAA examiner available), so he can't fly the 172.

 Not only is he losing much-needed revenue (which I suspect was just starting to recover after the recession), but all sorts of travelers, including business and government folks, are hampered.  For instance, the state electrical inspectors, who sometimes fly here, and the folks who service furnaces are likely affected.

Pretending this doesn't hurt anyone is adding injury to insult. 

All this because 30-odd members of the House of Representatives have frightened John Boehner out of bringing a "clean" budget resolution up for a House vote. It's the cumulative specificity of these accounts -- from exactly the kinds of small businesses that both parties say they want to promote -- that is depressing. 

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.

Elsewhere on the web


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Politics

From This Author

Just In