Cry Wolf Is the Federal Fiscal Budget Policy
The program is aimed at reducing the toll of false alarms by having people register them and pay fines when they go off needlessly.
But it's a pretty good analogy as to why this latest government shutdown threat isn't being heeded. Washington has no cry wolf program.
In the classic story, a shepherd boy gives the alarm of "wolf" when there is no wolf, repeatedly, until his neighbors ignore him and the wolf eats him. That's what is happening now with Congress. They've threatened to ignore the need to authorize spending, or borrowing, so many times that we're inured to it. Wall Street is ignoring the latest alarm, and this time the threat is real.
When the government shuts down for real it costs everybody money. Work doesn't get done, laws don't get enforced, people don't get paid. Even the threat is costing us because no planning can take place.
But most people only notice the obvious things that don't happen. When national parks close, or your new passport doesn't come through, people notice that. Even in the event of a shutdown "essential" spending goes on. The NSA keeps spying, the drones keep flying, even Obamacare continues. Less than half of the federal workforce actually stays home.
The city of Washington has declared its entire workforce essential. The whole thing looks like a way to sell t-shirts.
So some groups, like the conservative Heritage Foundation, insist even a prolonged shutdown is nothing to worry about.
Another reason Wall Street is ho-humming the threat of a shutdown involves the sequester. This was supposed to be a terrible thing, a slow motion train wreck. But most businesses aren't noticing it. It's cutting economic growth, but most businesses aren't directly impacted so, again, we don't see a wolf.
That's partly because the most noxious cuts, like the lay-off of air traffic controllers, were averted. You can still fly from LaGuardia to National Airport for lobbying, so what's the problem?
The problem is that the economy is stagnating. Consumer confidence is down. Housing sales are down. Yet even that seems to have a silver lining, as it means the Federal Reserve may continue quantitative easing.