Government Shutdowns: A Brief Primer


Chances are, you’ve heard about the government shutdown (who hasn’t), but seeing as the last major shutdown was back in the 90’s you might not be entirely familiar with what a ‘shutdown’ really is. In America’s history there have been a grand total of 18 shutdowns, the first occurring in October 1, 1976 when Gerald Ford vetoed a bill, citing overspending as his reasoning. The result was a partial shutdown which lasted until early October 11.

Generally speaking, major government shutdowns are somewhat rare. So why are we currently shut down?

In a nutshell the current reasons that we are in a government shut down are these:

  • Republicans had hoped to dismantle Obamacare
  • Congress members have been trying to dismantle support in each others’ parties

Or more succinctly, we are currently enduring one of the most ineffective congresses of our time.

So what in effect does this mean?

  • An estimated 800.000 Federal employees are furloughed, or an unpaid leave of abscence
  • National parks are closed
  • Passport offices are closed
  • Members of Congress continue to receive pay 
  • Government websites and social media will effectively go silent
  • National Zoos are closed
  • Domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, and other federally-funded efforts will lose funding
  • Certain school receiving federal funding will close
  • Intelligence agencies will lose 86,000 of its civilian employees, and their ability to detect threats will be diminished.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will lose funding towards vaccinations (including the flu) and disease-prevention research and will be unable to monitor or track outbreaks of infectious diseases.
  • Military paycheck will be on hold despite the fact that military personnel are still working.
  • Coast Guard patrols will be weakened (less patrols in water)
  • Death benefits for military families will be cut
  • Gun permits put on hold
  • Visa applications on hold
  • The National Institutes of Health will not accept patients unless ordered to do so by director
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will halt all safety inspection
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s e-Verify program is now offline.
  • 45 public fountains will lose water
  • The Federal Housing Administration and the USDA will be unable to process loans
  • The Social Security Administration says it won’t respond to Freedom of Information Act Requests during the shutdown. (via Mother Jones)
  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will stop all new offshore renewable-energy projects
  • The National Zoo’s “Panda-cam” will go dark
  • The Environmental Protection Agency will all but shut down at midnight
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will run out of funding for regular payment checks
  • US Geological Survey will cease scientific research & water analysis
  • Disability payments will cease
  • Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro adoption program will cease to function
  • Winery permits put on hold
  • Food stamps are in essence, gone.
  • Automobile defects will be left un-monitored and recalls will not happen on defective machinery
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will furlough 52% of its staff (including FDA)

Etc, Etc, Etc (or keep reading more effects at Mother Jones)

So what is a ‘government shutdown’? In a nutshell, the simplest way to explain it to family and friends would be:

“A federal clusterfuck”

Let’s hope no wildfires break out or zombie-virus outbreaks happen while we are federally  compromised.

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