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Audit target? You're getting a bit of a shutdown break

Government shutdown effects trickling down to real people

Nearly 800,000 federal employees are off their jobs.

Bills-to-pay-worryThose who are still working won't get actual money when their paydays arrive. They are working on a promise (also made to furloughed workers by a House vote Saturday afternoon) that they'll get what they are owed when Congress finally agrees on a budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year.

Some agencies are offering their working-for-free employees a form letter explaining the financial situation that workers can show or send to creditors in lieu of the money they don't have.

That might convince the electric or phone companies not to cut off service, but I suspect the local grocery store isn't going to accept a letter in exchange for milk and bread and hamburger meat.

So people will siphon off their savings (if they have any), overload their credit cards or simply cut back on purchases.

That's just one way the federal government shutdown, about to enter a second week, is trickling down to real people.

Real shutdown, real people: The shutdown is more than just the blackout of the panda cam at the National Zoo or temporary end of posting great photos sent from space by NASA satellites.

Those fun government activities get a lot of attention because, well, they're fun and a lot of us miss them. But the focus on them is symptomatic of how we and especially the lawmakers responsible for the shutdown have approached the loss of federal services.

For the most part, the politicians calling for and celebrating the closure of federal offices have framed everything as affecting the institution of government. The big, nameless bureaucracy. Guv'ment.

But a government is comprised of people. Real people. You might not like the jobs they do, but don't forget they are filled by people with families and responsibilities that depend on the income from those jobs. And we depend on them, too.

All of us tax geeks know that most Internal Revenue Service employees are now off the job, even though extended Form 1040 filings are still due Oct. 15. That means that there's no IRS help for tax pros or individual taxpayers who are working to finish those returns and other tax tasks that are still coming due.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: It also has consequences beyond the standard tax considerations. Take the job fair table sign pictured below.

IRS absent from college jobs fair_via Reddit
"Saw this at my school's accounting career fair.... (imgur.com)," says LittleNuclearReactor in a posting at Reddit.

Folks looking for jobs at this other job fairs -- and there still are plenty of people seeking work although we don't know exactly how many since the weekly employment report from the Labor Department was not issued Friday because, yes, of the shutdown -- have, at least in this case, one less option now.

Jobs and paychecks are important. Just ask members of Congress.

Some Representatives and Senators who haven't taken the primarily political step of refusing or donating the part of their $174,000 annual salary earned (loosely speaking) during the shutdown. They say they are keeping their paychecks because they need the money. Duh!

Their jobs, our lives: The lockout of federal workers from their jobs also will eventually affect most of us who think we are far removed from the shutdown. We're not.

CNN Politics lists 10 ways the government shutdown will affect many of us who aren't directly connected to Uncle Sam when it comes to our pay.

Mortgages and the entire housing sector will be affected. "This shutdown does come at an especially bad time as new home sales and home construction are building back up. More uncertainty is not what we need," said David Hall, president of Troy, Mich.-based Shore Mortgage.

Food safety inspections are on hold since the Food and Drug Administration sent home 45 percent of its employees and suspended many of its day-to-day operations. Just something to think about as you peruse the seafood counter at your local grocery.

Don't forget that Christmas is just down the road, as if you could with decorations already showing up in some stores. The National Retail Federation says that the next 45 days will make or break the 2013 holiday shopping season, which is critical for stores and the overall economy. The NRF originally forecast that Americans will spend $602 billion this year, about 4 percent more than last year.

But if 800,000 of us have less to spend, that amount, along with overall consumer confidence, likely will drop dramatically. So will seasonal hiring, putting more individuals and small business owners into financial straits.

And the trickle down effects of the shutdown from federal workers to the rest of us will only grow the longer U.S. agency offices are closed.

Time for Congress to do its job: I didn't intend to be so serious on a Saturday. In fact, I was going to post a brief lighthearted item based a variety of photos, including the IRS job fair snapshot, of shutdown signs that are more humorous, albeit black humor. I encourage you to check them out for a chuckle or two.

But I also ask that you consider the real-world effects of the shutdown.

Yes, Uncle Sam needs to be a responsible trustee of our taxpayer dollars. But the Representatives and Senators -- mostly Representatives and all Republican ones -- need to figure out how to handle our finances without using real people as political weapons.

Remember, members of Congress, many if not most of your districts' voting constituents are going to end up being hurt in some way by the shutdown.

If Congress can't do its job, its members need to pay, not the people whom they ostensibly were elected to represent. The kind of real-life financial and personal collateral damage that the shutdown is causing is cowardly and unacceptable.

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