When common sense tumbled down the Hill…

The negative impact of the two-week stalemate in Washington on the economy and the country’s reputation is probably easy to identify.

Days before the debt ceiling deadline, Fitch Ratings placed the US economy on negative watch; the Wall Street Journal reported the unloading of billions of dollars’ worth of Treasurys; and leaders of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund pleaded with the US to get its act together, according to the New York Times.

Oh, and the two weeks the government was closed for business cost the country $24 billion according to Standard & Poor’s.

How the shutdown affected the country’s infrastructure was not as obvious, but still very real.

“We have furloughed one-third of the US Department of Transportation’s employees, hurting our ability to assess, plan, and respond to needed surface transportation issues,” American Society of Civil Engineers president Gregory E. DiLoreto wrote in a statement on the first day of the shut-down.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in charge of investigating every civil aviation accident in the US as well as significant accidents in other modes of transportation, had 383 of its 410 employees furloughed, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation found during an October 11th hearing called by its chairman Jay Rockefeller IV.

As a result, investigations were either suspended or not initiated at all, causing delays in determining the cause of each accident and the issuance of safety recommendations to prevent future accidents, Rockefeller wrote in a report based on the hearing.

Therefore, an accident that occurred on October 6th in the Washington Metro System, in which one contractor was killed and two metro employees injured, will not be investigated.

As for investigations under way but suspended, they included: Asiana flight 214, which crashed in San Francisco, killing three people and injuring many others; a bridge collapse in Washington state; and an accident on New York City’s Metro North railroad.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is responsible for ensuring the safety of commercial aviation, also suffered with only 100 out of 1,300 employees who certify the safety of aircraft, parts and modifications remaining on the job. The agency also had to put on hold the modernisation of its air traffic control system.

“I regret that I had to call this hearing today,” Rockefeller said in his opening remarks. “This shutdown is doing great harm to our country, and it was totally avoidable,” he said.