Is the Republican shutdown going to cost lives? Well, at a minimum it's making it more difficult for federal workers to volunteer to do something that saves lives:
Thirty-eight percent of the population is eligible to give blood, but only 5 percent actually does so. A lot of that 5 percent apparently works for the federal government. Thanks to the shutdown, in just two days, four federal agency blood drives scheduled by one DC-area health care system have been canceled. The regional Red Cross has had to cancel six others in the Washington region.That's just great. Even better: Washington, D.C.-area blood supplies were already low.
Inova Blood Donor Services projects that the cancelations will result in its projected loss of 300 donations that would have helped 900 patients in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Inova's donated blood collections supply 24 hospitals, which bank much of the blood for inevitable disasters or, say, terrorist attacks. The Red Cross is suffering from similar disruptions, projecting the loss of 229 donations, each of which could potentially save up to three lives. A single major trauma event can easily deplete a hospital's entire blood store. The longer the shutdown goes on, the worse the situation is likely to get.
For House Republicans, this is doubtless an unintentional side effect of the shutdown, a bug, not a feature. But it's entirely of a piece with many of the things they did intend, like taking nutrition assistance from low-income women and their babies, depriving domestic violence shelters of funding, and, of course, taking pay from the same federal workers who now won't be donating blood because their offices are closed and the blood drives are canceled. The shutdown is just the latest manifestation of the Republican drive to purge our society of any idea of the common good, to ruthlessly strip us of the notion that helping the vulnerable—with food, with safety, with blood—is valuable or even worthwhile. Tragically, they're in a position to make these things happen even if they can't convince most of us to be as morally withered as they are.