A Big Loser from the US Government Shutdown

We are facing quite a long queue to get through border security at Miami Airport.

A few flights have come in at the same time as ours, and, with only so many border agents on duty, the line is moving very slowly.

In fact, it is barely moving.

Border patrol officers have started to leave their desks one by one…and now there is no one left to check any of our passports.

The line goes into a complete standstill.

Yep…one of the main US entry points looks deserted.

 

US border officers go on strike

That´s when we notice large signs on either side of the queues, advising on delays because of border officer strikes. They include an explanation as to why they are walking out.

In all my years of travel, this is an unprecedented situation. No US visitors arriving into Miami airport are now going into the country…and we have no clue how long this will last.

Understandably, people in the queue start to get restless. Tiredness from the long-haul flights start to take a toll.

Some of the kids on the queue curl up on the floor to get some rest and people get more vocal to demand a solution…but it seems like there is no one there to listen.

What to do? To be honest, we don´t see many alternatives.

The queue could start moving at any time. But, by the looks of it, we could be stuck here for a long time.

We start to feel a bit like Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. Hanks’ character is trapped at a US airport for years when his country falls apart while he is in mid-air, and his passport is no longer valid on arrival to the US.

But, let me clarify, this isn´t happening right now.

We remembered this anecdote from a few years back, as the US government shutdown hits a month today. It shows you how chaotic things can get when services stop working.

This is now the longest government shutdown in US history, and no one has any clue as to how much longer it will last.

As USA Today reports, it looks like the airports are some of the most affected.

Of the 60,000 employees at Customs and Border Patrol, nine of 10 must report to work, checking passports and manning pieces of the border wall that have already been built. But they’re not being paid. Immigration courts, as of Tuesday, had postponed more than 40,000 hearings, including many of the deportation cases Trump is trying to speed up. 

Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston remained closed through Wednesday. There aren’t enough blue-shirted TSA agents to staff it. Concourse G at Miami International Airport was closed throughout the weekend because there weren’t enough TSA agents to man the security checkpoint there.

What does this mean for the markets?

For now, markets are shrugging off any concerns.

The S&P 500 is up 6.54% since the beginning of the year, and the Dow is up 5.91%.

As we hear more about the shutdown, we can´t help but think about the possible effects this will have on the US economy.

Some of the areas that could see a large effect are consumer spending, and the unemployment rate. From Bloomberg:

In an attempt to force Congress to build a southern border wall, Trump has caused about 800,000 government workers to be furloughed, or in some cases work without pay.

‘On one hand, that’s not a huge number of workers — only about 0.5 percent of the labor force. And those workers are slated to receive back pay once the shutdown ends. But while they’re not earning money, it’s much harder for them to make payments on their credit-card debt, mortgages, cars, not to mention rent and grocery bills.

‘And in the meantime, many government services are simply not being provided.[…]

‘The loss of those services will undoubtedly gum up the wheels of the American economy.

‘In addition to those 800,000 workers, a much larger number of government contractors is going without pay. The shutdown is reducing payments to contractors by about $245 million a day, or about 0.4 percent of daily gross domestic product. Some estimates put the number of workers who will be affected at more than 4 million — and unlike government employees, contractors won’t receive backpay once the shutdown ends.

‘Together, those 4 million contractors and the 800,000 furloughed employees constitute about 3 percent of the country’s labor force. That number is heading into territory that could have macroeconomic implications — for comparison, the increase in unemployment in the typical recession is usually about 2 percent to 4 percent. Furloughed workers and unpaid contractors are not quite the same as unemployment, but the macroeconomic spillovers might be comparable.

And, with workers putting off spending, this could affect business investment. As Bloomberg continued:

But the real damage to the economy could come not from cutbacks by workers, but from reduced investment by companies. Private investment tends to be more volatile than either consumption or GDP; in good times it soars, and in bad times it plunges.

The thing is, uncertainty fuels anxiety.

While we have no clue who will win the fight over the wall, we think that one of the biggest losers could be the US economy. And this comes at a time of high anxiety with the US–China trade war and the US Fed increasing rates.

Both China and Europe could also be facing a slowdown.

But, gotta go.

Seems like our stint with Miami Airport´s border shutdown is finally over. Lucky for us, some of the managers are stepping in before things get really heated. After three hours of queuing, we slowly make our way through the border.

We were planning on getting some dinner, but then again, it´s too late now. Better skip it and save the cash for another day.

Best,

Selva Freigedo

Wealth Morning Stock Market News, Finance and Investments