What Would a Government Shutdown Really Mean?
Based on the last one: layoffs, delayed checks, interrupted services
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2011 2:48 PM CST
In this Jan. 4, 1996, file photo the sun gleams down on the still-closed Washington Monument as the federal budget impasse continued in Washington.   (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

(Newser) – If the looming government shutdown actually arrives next month, what can you expect? The Los Angeles Times offers a preview, by reporting what occurred during previous shutdowns:

  • Layoffs: During shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, hundreds of thousands of federal workers lost their jobs. Even federal employees who kept their jobs went without paychecks for the length of each shutdown. About 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. (Currently, there are 2 million civilian government employees, not counting postal employees.)
  • Social security checks: Checks were still mailed, but many government payments were delayed thanks to a lack of employees on the job. (Social security checks will be delayed if the government shuts down next month, President Obama and Nancy Pelosi have warned.)

  • Social security services: Many were halted, like requests for retirement and disability claims, requests for Social Security numbers, and address changes.
  • Museums and national parks: They were closed.
  • Other services: Visa and passport applications went unprocessed, and the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration halted transactions. Claims for veterans benefits were delayed.
  • What kept going: “Essential” services like national security, law enforcement, and emergency assistance continued, and some employees were allowed to remain on the job on an emergency basis.
  • How much it might cost: A three-day shutdown in 1990 cost between $245 million and $607 million.
  • How things are different now: In the 1990s, there was no TSA or Department of Homeland Security, and no electronic transactions for things like Social Security payments or student loans, so it’s unclear how things might be different this time around.
It's worth noting, of course, that Rep. Paul Ryan said today, "We're not looking for a government shutdown."

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Showing 3 of 26 comments
Dro_Trebor
Feb 21, 2011 11:45 PM CST
I predict riots if a government shut down lasts more than a week or two. When the extent is known to which the US economy relies on the smooth flow of money through the federal government, I think it will be rather eye-opening. No-one who doesn't already know this has any business being a US Representative or Senator. Sadly, I think this latest crew is apt to try it just to see what happens. They probably think it'll show the country just how selfish and pampered those rotten federal employees are. If the shutdown lasts a month, I predict a financial meltdown that'd make the last two years look like those halcyon days of yore. I won't say breadlines and great depression proportions. But I also wouldn't rule that out. The other thing to remember is that no matter how long the people are furloughed from "non-essential jobs" the work they were supposed to be doing doesn't go away. They will just be a backlog of X days' work that it'll take a long time to get rid of, if they ever do. If they really want to prove a point, they could time this shut-down for April 15th. I wonder if the IRS is considered non-essential under the scenario?
Reader65069154
Feb 21, 2011 7:26 AM CST
The Republicans/conservatives came to power in November for a reason. The people are sick of the uncontrolled government spending. What tools do they have to make this happen? Few indeed, as they don't have the senate and BHO can veto anything they may pass. Right or wrong, this is one tool they can use as a wake up call for BHO and his spineless party. Just like the Dems think they are elected to spend our country into oblivion, the Republicans were elected to put an end to that.
YouLikeDont
Feb 20, 2011 7:03 PM CST
People will see what these conservative cons are all about: chaos and anti-government anarchy. Conservatives should be profiled as terrorists and must be treated as such.