5 Things We Could Have Spent $2.1 Billion On, Instead of the Government Shutdown


As the partial government shutdown enters its second week, many Americans are waiting to see if and when they will be affected by Congress' inability to agree upon terms for a continuing resolution. While the exact costs of this Republican political maneuver are not yet known, past experience tells us the longer this impasse lasts, the more money it will end up costing the economy.

At the heart of the ideological battle currently taking place in Congress is disagreement over the government's role in society. Opposition to new spending for such things as natural disaster relief brought debate over taxes and government interference in the market to the forefront. With effects of the shutdown estimated to be costing the U.S. economy $300 million a day, its safe to say that this money could be put to better use. Here is a list of five things $2.1 billion dollars should have been used for last week.

1. Education Funding

Improving educational outcomes for America's youth is vital to economic  growth. In 2008, nonprofit organization the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) produced a 2008 report outlining 3 priorities in education: early childhood, teacher quality, and high school redesign. 

This $2.1 billion wasted over the last week could have paid for the $750 million in competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems and $1.4 billion investment in expanding high quality early learning and development opportunities for infants and toddlers.

$2.1 billion could also be used to hire 35,000 new teachers at the $60,000 starting salary Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes they should be paid, and could have paid for almost two years worth of remediation courses that a third of college freshmen need each year.

2. Worker Training

The financial crisis triggered sustained bouts of unemployment, compounding the affects of the country's continued shedding of manufacturing employment. Many Americans could benefit from training in industries currently in need of qualified workers. $2.1 billion could have paid for the entire multi-year Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, which aims to expand targeted training programs for unemployed workers, especially those impacted by foreign trade.

3. Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a D+ rating earlier this year. $2.1 billion could have been put to better use trying to implement some of the recommendations McKinsey & Company suggested for improving infrastructure productivity, as we continue to struggle to deal with outdated and failing structures.

4. Drug Rehabilitation

A 2012 study conducted by RTI International and Temple University found billions of dollars in potential savings from sending drug abusers to community-based treatment programs rather than prison. $2.1 billion dollars could have been used to help establish more of these types of facilities to help treat some of millions of substance dependant prisoners and future offenders. 

5. Health Care

On paper, the reason behind the current budget impasse is partisan opposition to Obamacare. House Republican willingness to block passage of a new budget in order to weaken the Affordable Care Act is somewhat less popular than the law itself. Ironically, the $2.1 billion dollars wasted in the past week could have paid for investments by GE to develop software and applications over the next five years that can expedite or improve clinical processes in the U.S.