Impress Your Dates & Mates: The US Shutdown

Capitol Building Randy McWilson

03/10/13, 0354am: Information might change from day to day, and we probably won't give you any more. But hey! At least you'll be current as of now.

Here's what you need to know:

  • The shutdown began on Tuesday the 1st of October. It's the first one in 17 years, since the two in 1995/1996 (when Clinton was in office), which covered a combined total of 28 days. Reagan and Carter both had six shutdowns during their administrations, varying in length from one day to two weeks.
  • 4.1 million people currently work for the US government, but right now, only 800K are furloughed (or staying home from work with no pay).
  • The shutdown means that those paid by "discretionary spending" are without pay. This is the part decided by Congress, which can't currently agree on a budget.
  • This includes, for example, employees of the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency. It is likely, however, that these employees will be paid as normal at the end of the shutdown. (This is what has happened in past shutdowns.)
  • The US Postal Service is an example of what isn't part of discretionary spending, and has approximately 500K employees still working without interruption of pay.
  • During a shutdown, mandatory spending, like Social Security disbursements, continues. However, in this case, these employees are paid by discretionary spending, so their paychecks will be held up until the shutdown ends.
  • Also still on the job are all "essential" roles, and this includes things like the Transportation Safety Association (TSA), Department of Homeland Security, and Secret Service. These folks, however, will also have to wait until the government reopens to get paid.
  • Active duty military will stay working and paid.
  • The shutdown will become an even bigger problem if it isn't resolved by the middle of this month. At that point, employees on a two-week pay cycle will miss a chunk of their paycheck, and at the end of the month, should the shutdown continue, will miss an entire check. The economic strain will be felt by D.C., where many of these employees live.

So, aside from those employees, what does this mean?

No one is tracking the flu.

No one is working at the FDA.

"...the 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients," according to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

The Smithsonian Institution museums are closed, as are 401 National Parks around the country. But after the above, really, who cares?