Wednesday Shutdown Reader: Museums, FOD, Beer, Giant Killer Robots

Chronicles of the needlessly destructive "new normal"

One of my three favorite cartoonists, the wonderful Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins), in two panels from his latest Daily Kos offering. It seems unsporting to copy and paste the whole multipanel thing, though I am tempted. Check it out yourself, including for the Giant Killer Robots context (here's the link again). 

I watched Fox News while in a gym yesterday and heard the repeated references to the "government slimdown." Har-dee-har! Meanwhile ...

From the Northeast:

I attended an event at Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts (home of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women) on Friday.  The museum’s director mentioned that their visitation numbers had plummeted to a quarter of what they would normally expect (and depend upon!) in early October. 

Tourists are not coming to Concord in the numbers that they otherwise would during leaf peeping season because the National Park Service sites in Lexington and Concord are shuttered.  Orchard House is a small, independent nonprofit, not affiliated with the NPS, but is suffering real financial pain from the shutdown nonetheless.

From the Midwest:

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) has a long and distinguished history in the service of corporations seeking to get or keep a competitive advantage (e.g. no one ever got fired for buying IBM/Microsoft).  And FOD (foreign object damage) is well known in aviation as a peril from pieces of foreign material entering engines, causing damage to the fan blades, compressors, etc with potentially disastrous consequences (see Air France Concorde disaster).

In politics, FUD has been a recurring theme in cries from the Right that the doubts about Obamacare were killing jobs.  Given the reality of Romneycare in Massachusetts and governmental healthcare systems in the rest of the developed world, this always seemed to be a particularly ineffective and unpersuasive course of FUD... 

As a part owner of a business that manufactures and sells utility wagons in Minnesota we have just taken our first action due to political FOD (fear, obstructionism and doubt) because of the inability of some House Republicans to even acknowledge the potential dire consequences of a debt default.

We had planned to place a Purchase Order today with one of our Minnesota suppliers for some large molded resin parts. These parts would have been manufactured to service sales from both a trade show in November and the Christmas season.  However, until we are sure that debt default chaos has been averted and therefore there will be such sales there is no reason to proceed with this PO given current lead times.

No, this isn't millions of dollars, but it is a real consequence of the growing political FOD being generated by the Republican refusal to even acknowledge the chaos and calamity that a debt default would bring.

From all over the country (thanks to countless readers who sent this in):

The craft-beer problem arises because the agency that approves new breweries is now closed. The AP story quotes Mike Brenner, an entrepreneur in Milwaukee: 

"My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery," Brenner said. "I've been working so hard, and I find all these great investors. And now I can't get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington.... This is something people don't mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer." 

From the Mountain West:

I have come to the conclusion that Boehner is willing to shut down the government and breach the debt ceiling in hopes of somehow holding together the two viciously conflicting parts of the Republican party. He does not want to be remembered as the Speaker, the currently highest ranking member of the party, who presided over the Republican party violently fragmenting into two warring parties, neither one of which can win a national election or, perhaps, even survive. 

Boehner puts the traditional Republican party, his lifelong home and comfort zone, before the country as whole. The party has given him his whole identity and career. It is all he is. He just can't walk away.

So we have come to this: Risk destroying the economy to save his party.

And from Tom Tomorrow once again, for more context on the panels above. I hope he'll forgive my copious picture-quotation, given that one of the prouder moments in my often-troubled tenure as editor of US News was sneaking him past the owner to be our regular cartoonist—along with the also-wonderful Tom Toles. 

Giant Killer Robots! Craft beer crisis! All this is the amusing side of the "slimdown."

Meanwhile many of the countless small buying-and-hiring decisions that collectively constitute an economy are instead being turned in the direction of not-buying and laying-off. 

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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.


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