AUDIE CORNISH, Host:
Welcome to the program, Marilyn.
MARILYN GEEWAX: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So, before we talk about the broader economic impact, please remind us, where is Congress on the fiscal 2012 budget?
GEEWAX: Last week, lawmakers agreed to a stopgap spending bill to keep government open until Tuesday. And then on Tuesday, they'll take up another extension, and this one would keep government operating through mid-November. But it'll be months before the full budget process is completed.
CORNISH: The annual budget process has become such a circus.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: And it's so routine that that it's a circus and we all pretty much accept it as normal. But what do economists say about the impact of that?
GEEWAX: I called up a bunch of top economists this past week to ask them that question, and see what they're thinking. And I got very consistent response: They all say that this is a broken process that's hurting individuals and businesses very directly.
CORNISH: OK, what does that mean in detail? How?
GEEWAX: And that put a damper on their spending. Should they go ahead and buy a car? Do you make a down payment on a new house? At the time when car dealerships and realtors really need people to be feeling as confident as possible, that kind of uncertainty certainly didn't help.
CORNISH: Okay, but most people are not federal employees. So how does this affect the rest of us?
GEEWAX: And it's not just the money, it's also the squandering of time and talent.
CORNISH: So what do you mean by that? I mean how could you quantify that?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GEEWAX: Well, you know, FAA leaders can't focus on planning for next generation technology when they have to spend their time making contingency plans for shutdowns, deciding which workers are essential, which ones are non essential. And, of course, that's pretty demoralizing for the employees who have to go through that process. The best ones may end up leaving government just to avoid this constant drama that involves Congress.
CORNISH: Is this problem though really any worse than usual?
GEEWAX: I think that economists would say yes, it really is worse this year because the economy is so fragile right now. The European governments are struggling, they have all kinds of political problems with their economy. So investors around the world would like to see some clarity and direction from Washington. The fact that we're starting another fiscal year without a budget is a confidence killer.
CORNISH: NPR senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Marilyn, thanks.
GEEWAX: You're welcome, Audie.
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