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What happens (and what doesn't) if the government shuts down?

The prospects of a government shutdown are starting to look pretty good, as lawmakers continue to work on a continuing resolution to provide funding for the remainder of fiscal 2011. If they can't reach agreement in just a week, the government officially runs out of money.

When a similar budget dispute between a Democratic president and a Republican controlled Congress forced a shutdown in 1995-1996, many agency programs simply shut down and employees stayed home, unpaid. Things have changed since then -- the threat of terrorism is more immediate, for one thing, and the relationships between feds and contractors have evolved.

How do you think a government shutdown would affect your agency and your personal sphere of influence? What do you see as some possible unintended consequences?

Posted by Michael Hardy on Feb 22, 2011 at 12:18 PM


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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 mike pendleton marion, ohio

If this shutdown lasted anytime over a month, you would think it would cause a depression or the stock market would crash....corporate america depends on the fundementals of the government and wall street....if there is no government and wall street is unfunctional, there is no corporate america therefore no retail, overseas trading, or value of a dollar....fuel cost, food and everyday living cost will skyrocket because we all depend on other people for our paycheck.

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 Myra Arlington, VA

Yes, Congress does need to stay in session until this mess is settled AND they should not be paid beyond the time that the funds run out. The type of actions now going on (i.e. Holding the entire country hostage) does nothing but make fools of our government and makes saps out of us who voted this non-decision making folks into office. It would be just wonderful is they could remember why they are in office and NOT their party membership; once elected their party membership is America...period. For the gentleman who believes that Exxon buys at $.30 and sells at $3.09 a gallon...a tip is provided for you: Check out the taxes, Federal, State, Local that is tacked on to the price of a gallon. In the end, Exxon is more likely selling that $.30 a gallon gas for less than a dollar and the remainder is tax. It would be nice if the various governments rolled back some of the tax or at least told us what they were actually doing with it. It is a mystery to me...something like what does the govt do with the Soc. Sec. taxes???? It just seems to vanish after being deducted from our paychecks. We sit here and write to each other but no one seems to be able to tell the Emperor that he is not wearing any clothes. Where are the Pattons when we really need them????

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 CT DC

One unintended consequence will be the financial impact on federal workers like me- I've been diligently paying everything I have left at the end of the month to my student loans, and have only $1,300 in my savings account right now. If the furlough starts next week and lasts more than 2 weeks, I don't have any options for paying my rent and bills - no one in my family has any money to lend. I would have to max out my credit cards just to live through the furlough period. No one will know how long it will last, and I'll be eating mac and cheese and sitting at home completely broke until it ends. Meanwhile Congress still draws a salary. Beyond the possible 3-4 weeks of poverty and stress, if congress decides not to pay our salary for the furlough period then I will have no way to pay off the debt I'll acquire during the furlough. I'll be living on mac and cheese for about 6 months until the debt is paid off, and will be unable to see my family this summer. All because someone in Congress wanted to apply pressure to the budget negotiations. I'm extremely concerned that this will happen. And BTW we won't know whether or not congress will cover the salaries during the furlough period until it ends. So the entire time I'll be sitting at home in fear that they will decide not to pay us.

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 Paul America

Who composes the half of the population that's not paying taxes. The uber rich that under pay make up <1% of the population. On the other side, about 14% of the population fall below the poverty line and benefit from social programs. To me, that adds up to 15%. Another 13% are elderly but they've already paid their dues. It just that politicians went and spent their money elsewhere so that the rest of us have to pay their part now. Unless you're saying that we should just let the poor and elderly die off, I'm not sure where you're going with your argument. We all have a responsibility to see to the safety and security of everyone in this country. For the majority, that means paying taxes. I agree that handouts aren't the way to go but a little assistance goes a long way. If we as a country decide to cut any handouts, then it needs to start with these F'd up bailouts.

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 J Alexandria, VA

I would like to know how does homelessness and further debt on the poorer american people help the economy? That's what happens when you live paycheck to paycheck and suddenly you have no money to pay your bills or rent, you get kicked out of your home, so how does stepping on the low to middle class people help the economy? When the rich needed money to "keep afloat" they showed up in DC on their private planes, got their money flew back home and celebrated. Now suddenly the best way to save money is to shaft the people who are barely getting by? I'm a single woman working full time and going to school full time and both me and Sallie Mae are paying for my education. I'm all for spending cuts but this is not the way to do it. I don't blame the Republicans because they stand for the rich and we all know it and they fight tooth and nail for them. I just wish we had someone in Congress fighting on our behalf as well.

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