(THE NATION) — The shutdown of the government is a crisis for Americans, who rely not just on the services provided by the affected agencies but on the efficiency of their delivery. When 800,000 federal employees are furloughed, it is not just the immediate damage that is of consequence; over time, the whole system begins to fray and weaken. While those furloughed employees will eventually be paid, the abrupt cutoff in pay has a ripple effect in the broader community. At a time when America’s economic recovery is at best uneven, the financial uncertainties brought about by the shutdown have idled not just large federal contractors but small businesses on Main Street.
Another crisis is playing out as well, one that must be understood and addressed if this country is to avoid the kind of blackmail that might satisfy Ted Cruz and the Tea Party firebrands in the House, but that most Americans will understand as a threat to democracy.