The cost of the government shutdown is probably more than you think.
The cost of the government shutdown is probably more than you think. GETTY IMAGES

President Trump has now presided over a government shutdown which, if it does not rapidly conclude, will soon pass the long-standing record of 21 days. But if you think having hundreds of thousands of government workers drinking coffee and playing Fortnite is saving you money, brace yourself. They will eventually get paid.

And the bill is going to be a whopper.

In a government study of a 16-day shutdown under President Obama, researchers found the entire compensation package for all those people sitting at home, was 2.5 billion tax dollars. That’s $156 million a day for nothing. 

Here is another way of considering that. Forbes reported a few years ago, that if you made $100,000 a year for your entire career, and worked 40 years, your lifetime federal tax bill could be around $1.4 million. (I know this math is all fungible, but stick with me.)

 

That means, every federal tax dollar you would ever pay in your lifetime would not make a dent in the current tab for this shutdown. And you’d need to labor close to 1,800 years to pay it off. All that work, all those taxes, again — for nothing.

What else could be done with 2.5 billion tax dollars? You could hire more than 1,400 teachers and pay them for 30 years. Or build 94 schools. Or you could put more than 1,300 cops on patrol for three decades. Or you might pay for the operation of about 6,700 mobile health clinics, rolling across the countryside to serve poor and distant communities. Heck, you could even build a fair portion of Trump’s wall for that kind of money, even though polls show most Americans don’t want it.

Instead, taxpayers will get nothing. And mind you, we’re not even talking about all the money lost in uncollected fees, unprocessed payments, and so on.

Trump laid early claim to the shutdown. Now he and his Republicans are saying it’s all the Democrats’ fault. Blame who you wish. But every day it costs more and more and more. And you are getting the bill. For nothing.

Tom Foreman is a CNN correspondent and author of the book "My Year of Running Dangerously."

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