While too many Washington politicians are approaching the federal budget battle as a way to score points for their party, the people of Los Angeles face real consequences if their gamesmanship results in a shutdown of the federal government.
First and foremost are the tens-of-thousands of federal employees in our City who could find themselves without a paycheck with very little notice. Not only will they and their families pay the price, but so will the markets where they buy food, the stores where they buy clothes, and the mechanics, dry cleaners, contractors and other people who provide them with services. And, ultimately, the Los Angeles City budget that pays for police and fire protection, pothole filling and street sweeping will suffer as the revenues driven by those employees' economic activity drops. A similar direct and ripple effect will occur if people filing their taxes on paper (not electronically) see delays in the processing of their return checks. At a time when the Los Angeles' economy and budget are facing challenges not seen since the Great Depression, we simply cannot afford this kind of gridlock in Washington.
More directly impacting the City budget is the potential delay or loss of federal dollars that pay for transportation projects to ease our traffic; jobs and housing programs for those families most in need; and funding for an education system already reeling from the gridlock in Sacramento. This will certainly result in direct costs to the City in addition to unknown indirect costs caused when people turned away from federal services seek help from local government.
Tourism, which is a cornerstone of Los Angeles' economy and one of the few relatively bright spots in our financial picture will also suffer as people avoid planning trips built around California national parks and forests that could close, whether the Santa Monica Mountains and Angeles National Forest here in the Southland or Yosemite and other parks statewide.
Los Angeles' international trade sector, which is a primary driver of our economy, is already facing challenges due to the earthquake in Japan. The marketplace abhors uncertainty, and a shutdown of the federal government would shake international investors to the core and reverberate across Los Angeles' diverse business communities and international sea-and-air ports.
In the event of a shutdown, Los Angeles is prepared. Public safety and essential services will be maintained. But there is no preparing for the economic cost. There are simply only so many dollars to go around. And if the federal government is unable -- or unwilling -- to pay their share, we will all pay the price. I hope those responsible for the current stalemate in Washington understand the real-life stakes along with the political ones.
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