What Would Happen if the Government Really Shut Down?

A last minute piece of legislation may extend the budget negotiations in congress and put off the need for shutting down the government. Unfortunately, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are still widely divided on many issues related to the budget. The longer both sides argue over budget line items, the higher the risk of the government shutdown because it will run out of funding for this year. The current extension should buy lawmakers another two weeks to work things out before a shutdown would be necessary.

Key Disagreements over Budget Items

Republicans have presented up to $100 billion dollars in spending cuts for this year’s budget. Their representatives have agreed to lower that number to $61 billion in order to get the budget passed to avoid a government shutdown. The democrats feel that the proposed cuts would be incredibly harmful to the fragile economic recovery that has just begun. In fact, the president has said he would veto a budget that included some of the planned massive cuts. If someone doesn’t come up with a new idea soon, a shutdown may become inevitable.

Previous Government Shutdown Statistics

The United States has gone through government shut downs 15 times in the last 40 years. The longest shut down lasted for 21 days, while the shortest was just three days. During each shutdown, hundreds of thousands of government employees took furloughs until the budget was passed. Since the government doesn’t keep track of independent contractors working for them, there are no statistics to show how many independent contractors were out of work during the shut downs. Government agencies that provide national security and health services remain open during a shut down.

Typical Impact on the General Public

In general, most government services remain closed during a shut down. Regular citizens will notice that health hotlines are not available. The application process for owning a gun or gaining a liquor license through the Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco administration will slow dramatically. Bankruptcy cases going through the system will stall until the new budget is passed. National parks and monuments will closed to the public. Foreigners who are waiting for passport and visa approvals will be put on hold. Military veterans who rely on federal agencies for services will also have their services cut off during the shutdown.