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04.07.2011 1

Your Guide to a Government “Shutdown”

Government Shutdown

By Adam Bitely and Rebekah Rast – What happens if the government shuts down? Well, nothing really, and the consequences of a shutdown are really rather mundane.

The worst part of it all, Congress would still be working, oh, and all government museums and tourist sites will close.

For a more in-depth look at what day-to-day life would be like during a government shutdown, here are a few common questions answered:

Federal Workers

What will happen to federal workers in the event of a government shutdown?

First, not all federal employees will be affected by a shutdown. Non-essential employees will not report to work, but essential employees will. In the past, even though the non-essential workers were at home and not working during the government shutdown, they still received all of their pay retroactively. According to the Houston Chronicle, “[f]ewer than half of the 2.1 million federal workers subject to a shutdown would be forced off the job if the Obama administration followed the path taken by presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.”

Defense/Military Workers

Will funding cease for military engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?

The answer is no.  Fox News states, “Certain activities in the Defense Department are required by law to continue even if funding temporarily ceases so national security interests are not at immediate risk.”

Will federal defense employees still get paid?

Since Department of Defense employees’ paychecks are electronically scheduled, they should see no gap in their pay if the government shutdown is short-lived.


Will Social Security checks still be sent?

Yes. Anyone receiving Social Security checks can rest easy—the checks will still be mailed.

Will Medicare benefits be interrupted?

No. Medicare benefits will continue to be funded—at least for the short-term. In all likelihood, Congress will allow Medicare to be funded throughout the entirety of the “shutdown.”

United States Postal Service

Will I still get my mail?

Your local post office will be open for business and your mail will be delivered without interruption.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Does this mean I don’t need to file my taxes?

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you still need to, by April 15.  However, even though the IRS will still be processing tax returns, its taxpayer hotline will go unanswered.  If you owe money to the government, the IRS will gratefully accept it during the government shutdown, but if you are entitled to a refund, you’re going to have to wait.

Congress/Capitol Hill Staffers

Congress will still be working, right?  After all, the government shut down because of them.

Despite poll ratings and upset constituencies, Congress will continue to meet in Washington, D.C.  Hopefully a government shutdown will make people frustrated enough at their elected politicians that cutting the budget and digging America out of debt becomes the No. 1 priority.

As far as Congressional staffers are concerned, a House memo obtained by Fox News states, “[E]ach House employing authority shall designate as essential personnel only those employees whose primary job responsibilities are directly related to constitutional responsibilities, related to the protection of human life, or related to the protection of property.  All other House personnel shall be placed in a furlough status by the appropriate employing authority until appropriations are made available.”


Will parks and museums like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., be open?

Government-operated parks and museums will close once the government shuts down. This means that most of the tourist attractions operated by the parks department in D.C. will be closed and parks like Yellowstone National Park would also be closed. However, operations such as protecting the Constitution and Declaration of Independence will continue as usual at the National Archives—but the archives will be closed to the public. Politicians love to use park and museum closures to curry favor with the public to re-open the government as quickly as possible.

Perhaps Congress could take a lesson from Ron Swanson, the Parks Department Director in NBC’s Parks and Recreation and “privatize” the parks

Government Websites

Will government websites continue to be updated?

This will most likely not happen. Since most folks that update government websites aren’t deemed “essential” government personnel, the updaters of websites will be relaxing comfortably at home. The absence of government webmasters shouldn’t be noticed—especially at where the website has long been considered “suspect” due to its “dubious” data.


Will I still be able to listen to my government-funded local radio station or watch Sesame Street reruns on TV?

Whether National Public Radio (NPR) or Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations stay functional during the shutdown is not known at this time.  However, if they do manage to function for a time without federal government funding, then maybe it’s time to cut their taxpayer-funded purse strings.  If they aren’t able to broadcast during the shutdown due to lack of funding and the America people survive without them, well then, maybe it’s time to cut their taxpayer-funded purse strings once and for all.

Obama 2012

Will the Obama 2012 re-elect campaign continue to operate?

Since Obama’s re-elect campaign is not part of the federal government, or government at all, it will be unhindered by the “shutdown.” In fact, a “shutdown” will give Obama time to both play golf and hit the campaign trail.  He will have all the time in the world to attend fundraisers and rallies in his honor.

Adam Bitely is the Editor-in-Chief of Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  You can follow them on Twitter at @AdamBitely and @RebekahRast.

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