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Trump's government shutdown gets a price tag (and it wasn't cheap)

By any fair measure, $3 billion is one heck of an expensive tantrum.
A twenty dollar bill. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)
A twenty dollar bill.

It's not a secret that the longest government shutdown in American history hurt the country in a wide variety of ways. From the workers who couldn't receive paychecks to the important government services that were halted, the nation paid a high price for Donald Trump's failed tantrum.

But as federal operations get back into gear following a five-week halt, it's also worth taking the question in a literal direction: how much did the president's misguided endeavor cost us?

S&P Global Ratings published an assessment late last week, reporting that the U.S. economy lost at least $6 billion during the shutdown. This morning, the Congressional Budget Office put together a price tag of its own.

The federal government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reflecting lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand.The report, which was released Monday, estimated a hit of $3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018. The impact was greater during the first quarter of 2019: $8 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP.

The full CBO report is online here (pdf).

Supporters of the president's gambit will probably be quick to note that the $11 billion price tag isn't exactly a final tally. As federal workers affected by the shutdown start to receive their checks, and begin paying their bills, some of the economic hole created by the crisis will be re-filled. This argument will be rooted in truth.

But it only tells part of the story.

As CNBC's report added, "Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days."

The CBO's report specifically noted, "Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business. Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income."

Trump sought nearly $6 billion for a medieval vanity project. It matters that he ended up with zero, but it matters just as much, if not more, that his misadventure has cost the nation roughly half of that total.

By any fair measure, $3 billion is one heck of an expensive tantrum.