Good Question: What Happens In A Government Shutdown?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The clock is ticking and congress has until Friday to pass a budget authorization bill, or the federal government will have to shut down. So, what happens if the government shuts down, and what’s the cost?

“I’m just having a hard time getting my arms around what it means to shut down,” said Marijo Goldstein, a Minneapolis woman with family members who will be furloughed if the government does shut down.

So, what stays open and what closes?

The Postal Service, the military, Congress, Veterans Administration hospitals, air traffic controllers and federal law enforcement agencies are among the things that will not be closed.

Social Security checks will still be mailed.

However, passports and visa applications won’t be processed, the National parks will close (including five in Minnesota) and the Internal Revenue Service will stop processing tax returns, which means refund checks will be delayed.

The Centers for Disease Control stops tracking the spread of diseases. Federal bankruptcy court essentially shuts down, but the federal criminal court remains open.

According to the White House, 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed, about 28 percent of the entire federal workforce.

“If the government does shut down, are we gonna save money or will it cost us more money in the long run?” asked Bill Schroers from Golden Valley.

During past government shutdowns, federal employees ultimately got paid for not working. In 1995, that back pay totaled $1 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Plus, there were millions in missed payments, admission fees and fines during the shutdown. For example, no one’s collecting money at those closed national parks. The Environmental Protection Agency had to cancel plant inspections, which cost millions of dollars.

Add up all the costs and some federal estimates put the cost of a shutdown at $100 million per day.

“That’s our hard tax money at work,” said Schroers.

This time around, there are differences. Today, the federal government uses huge numbers of contractors. They would likely have to furlough their employees.

Plus, no one knows if Congress would authorize back pay for all the furloughed employees.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Darren

    Wow, 1 billion dollars for 800,000 employees, thats some pretty good hourly pay. NO wonder why the government workers want to keep their jobs.

    • FEDprisonGUARD

      Hey Darrin lets do a little math here. $1 billion dollars for 800,000 employees works out to $1,250 per employee. And since the shutdown in 1995 lasted for 25 days, that works out to $50 per day. At 8 hours a day, that comes to a total of $6.25 per hour. Is that what you consider a “pretty good hourly pay”? Everyone is so quick to point the finger at government employees, when we are NOT the problem. The problem is coming from the congressmen and senators that will not cut funding on certain things because they promised them a certain amount of money. Not to mention the fact that these guys are clearing six figures a year on paper and god knows how much more in payments from lobbyists, bonuses, and other under the table kickbacks. So lay off the guys earning an honest living, working a blue collar job just like everyone else, earning average pay.

      • Taxpayer

        @ FEDprisionGUARD

        Your using fuzzy math…the total amount of work days for that particular period of time was 17 days…including Christmas and New Years holidays. That equates to $9+ per hour. In 1995 the minimum wage for non-skilled workers was $4.25. An average of 9$/ hour WAS pretty good pay for that time period.

        Just saying

        • Jill

          $9 an hour good pay? Try living off of that.

        • Mark

          Even at that, the average was $9 an hour. That doesn’t mean the average unskilled worked made $9/hr. It means the average gov employee made that much. The government doesn’t hire exclusively unskilled laborers. We all know discretionary spending is only 25% of the budget, you could cut the federal budget down to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Military and still be short on income by 15%. The military itself is around 40% of the budget, meaning if you said, no more military, you’d balance the budget. Not that I advocate it, but you have to cut military spending if you want to talk about balancing the budget. You also have to talk about much higher taxes for the wealthy.

        • Mae Johns

          It’s spelled “you’re”, not “your”. Try passing a Civil Service exam without knowing how to spell correctly.

          • Taxpayer

            @ Jill

            At that period in time I was liiving off of $5.85 per hour.

            @ Mae Johns
            Sorry, my apologies…

            You’re using fuzzy math…the total amount of work days for that particular period of time was 17 days…including Christmas and New Years holidays. That equates to $9+ per hour. In 1995 the minimum wage for non-skilled workers was $4.25. An average of 9$/ hour WAS pretty good pay for that time period.

    • AFGE member

      You are so off the mark Darren, yes we make a livable wage, especially working fed leo. However you have to look at the bigger picture, such as a few years when my friends in the private sector received 8-10% pay increases because the economy was booming and we “overpaid” government workers received a 2.3% increase. Add to the fact that our president and his hatred for the government worker has frozen our pay for 2 years, and possibly more. So that means with Obama care, higher gas prices, higher food prices and everything going up we have to do more with less. This is something that congress should learn.

      Here is how I break it down, when the economy is booming nobody wants a government job because they can do better in the private sector, but when it is the tank then everyone wants to work for Uncle Sam. Look at the big picture and you will see it is pretty much a wash.

      • Rich Federal Employee

        Agree. I have a masters degree and was hired as a GS-9 ($49k) a few years ago. I had been making $75k in the private sector before Bush effectively destroyed it.

  • Steve

    It seems like the Democrats are not getting the message to cut spending. They label the Tea Party as extremists. If there plan of cutting 2.5 cents out of every dollar spent is extreme I guess the label is correct. This is not the Congresses money to spend. It is our tax dollars. And if 28 percent of the federal work force is furloughed in the process so be it. This is about the percent that could probably be cut and not missed anyway. Nothing essential will be shutdown. The federal work force is over paid making more than those not on the payroll. Lets quit fooling ourselves. If we don’t cut spending this country will spiral downward to the point of no return.

    • Mike

      Steve-The Tea Party is dwindling in numbers and their ranks are filled with unrealistic right wing extremists who do not have a clue how to govern anywhere, but in the confines of a one party rule; dictatorship. The American pubic has seen your ideas and the simplistic approach to governing. You have no plans that deal with problems this country faces, only cutting government to the point of breaking and that is not going to happen. You have no facts, just overheated rhetoric to support the lunatic mobs that show up to rally’s financed by billionaires who benefit from every misguided proposal you expound.

      • Jason

        Dwindling no, working our jobs, providing for our families, and being a productive tax paying legal citizen ,yes. Lunatic mobs, are you serious? Like taking siege of a state capital, or you remember the RNC event in St. Paul, Just a couple to mention. We need to face the issue of illegal immigration, being taxed into oblivion, entillements, and too much gov. in our lives. Tea party is not the problem. Mike- you are the problem.

        • Mae Johns

          Wow, you really don’t know much about reality, do you? Being “taxed into oblivion”?? Taxes are at historic lows, and PRESIDENT Obama gave 95% of Americans a tax cut. Most corporations pay NO taxes, like G.E. That company made $14 BILLION last year and got huge government subsidies and paid 0 tax dollars. Illegal immigration is not the problem. It’s stupid people voting to make the rich richer. And too much government? Yeah, right. Teabaggers want to interfere in the most private parts of our lives, while letting businesses make unsafe products and pollute until there’s no more air to breathe. YOU are the problem, Jason. Grow up and get your mouth off FUX news.

          • Dan

            I have never been to a tea party rally but respect their passion. It’s hard to nail down a specific dogma of the tea party because it lacks a central power base. Which is probably what I like most. Most liberals call me a right wing nut job and most conservatives think I’m a liberal whacko. I find this funny as I consider myself close to what the founding fathers were- classic liberals (before the term was perverted in the early 1900’s). If the government shuts down many of the functions that the fed performs that there is no constitutional authority to be involved in will also shut down. That I cheer. I find it humorous that the dems will blame the gop for the shutdown for not passing a budget that should have been taken care of when the dems controlled both houses and the prez. Both parties are a complete joke. George Washington’s farewell speech rings as true today as in his day. Long live the republic and the constitution.

    • Amanda

      How about the member of the so call TEA PARTY cut their salary from a 6 figure to a 5 figure number…. that is also coming out of our tax money, they will be helping out!

  • Barbara Stapf

    This reocurring problem would never occur again if the ones responsible had to work for free until they had finished the budget.

    If they lost wages when they didn’t get their work done on time, the problem would go away.

    They need to be held accountable and it should cost them personally.

    • Boing

      Sure Barb, and would you like to be financially accountable for every mistake it cost your employer?
      It is very difficult to understand logic that has a self fulfilling prophesy to race us all down to a collective body of losers who have no benefits, no time off, work for minimum wage and now pay for company losses because the next person does!

      • Amanda

        Congressional members will be held accountable when they don’t get reelected and that’s fair. They are sent to Washington to do some mundane jobs like process applications; they’re running the country. If they fail, the country fails. It’s a big job with big consequences at stake.

      • Jason

        If you become more of a liabillity than your worth yes you would find yourself unemployed. I do not get paid unless I DO MY JOB. Very hard to comprehend I know, Should apply to everyone.

        • Mae Johns

          What a self-satisfied, smug, inbred comment. Good luck with “doing your job”, Jason. You can be fired because your boss doesn’t like the color of your shirt. And if you idiots keep voting for repukes, there won’t BE any more jobs. And if you have so much time to post on line, how exactly are you DOING YOUR JOB?

          • Dan

            Government doen’t create. It consumes. It relies on the “sanction of the victim” to collect taxes from those that “do” and gives it to those that “won’t”. All via the tax code- 70,000 pages of carrot and whip control of our everyday lives and decisions. Less government = more freedom, in both our private lives and in our private finances.

      • Shawn

        I am a Federal Police Officer and I am held accountable for my mistakes, if i wreck a patrol car it comes out of my pocket to fix, So yeah the elected officials should not receive pay in a gevernment shutdown!!!!

  • Fun Guy

    The IRS will process electronic tax returns. Park operations should be outsorced to private companies anyway.Bancruptcy courts shutting down will only push Donald Trump’s cases into next month.
    The good news is, all the lobbyists will have to stay home and come up with other scams that day.
    All in all, it’s a good thing for the government to shut down, we just need the shutdowns to be more frequent

    • Mae Johns

      Oh really? You don’t know much about the real world, do you? A government shut down will COST $100,000,000 a day. Because the employees WILL be paid eventually. Because government can’t collect fees and fines. And I’m sure you’ll be the first whiner when a government service YOU depend on gets delayed. What an incredibly stupid comment by an incredibly uninformed person.

  • DCH

    I’d like to see how quickly both sides would come to an agreement if the Congress was going to loose pay checks when the Government shuts down. But that’s not going to happen. Same for Health Care if they had to all go on the open market and get Health Care instead of the Government paying for them. And then when most everyday Americans no longer have pensions, Congress still has there’s. The Bankers get richer and Congress is nicely insulated from pay, health care, and pensions/retirement. Congress has more entitlements than you can imagine. I can’t believe the American people aren’t absolutely outraged!!!!! And to top it all off, the media stays silent.

  • ex-politician

    Let them go home. It doesn’t work anyway.
    Our government has become nothing more then a pool of people handing out favors to those who give them reelection funds while the rest of the people pay for it.
    I say send them home for a month. Then they might get there act together.
    There will be no benificial reform or changes brought on by this “crisis”, just more of the same.
    You want real changes, start over.

    • Mae Johns

      It’s spelled “their”, not “there”. And “beneficial”, not “benificial”. Do you write teabagger protest signs? You spell as well as those morons.I mean, if you can’t spell properly, why should anyone take anything you say seriously?

      • Dan

        You forgot to put a space between “…morons.I mean…”

    • Jason

      O.K. Ready when you are!

    • Citizen

      The government doesn’t “work anyway?” Ex-politician, where does that come from? Do you want your social security that you paid for? Does a friend or relative need Medicaid? How about that Republican mantra of “national security.” When the feds go home, who is watching the borders, the airports, the databases of terrorist watch lists.” Who is investigating federal crimes? Even more important, what does the rest of the world think about America when we condone these ridiculous political posturings? We are the leader of the free world, we should be acting like one!

      • Kameron

        @Citizen: Right On! You Made A Very Good Point.

  • KM

    The bottom line is we would not even be in this mess if a budget (required by law) had actually been passed by the Dems when they had control last October! Since they did not, do their job, the incoming congress men and women now need to do it and they are doing what the voters elected them to do!

    I am tired of hearing President Obama say that they have done their part, they have met the Republicans half way and Franken saying that it is about compromising. I did not elect my leaders to “meet them halfway” or to “compromise”, I sent them there to hold the line and to cut spending.

    Our country cannot continue to spend the way it has been or there will be nothing left to leave our children and grandchildren. If some services need to be shut down, then so be it, it is the Dems responsible for it.

    • CAROL

      The President would have balanced the budget is the Republicans would have worked with him. They were so busy blocking everything President Obama did, little was accomplished. If Bush hadn’t opened the vaults and let the money pour out, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Hold Bush accountable for his actions. How quickly we forget!!

  • Jshunter94

    Polititions cant comprimise because they all are puppets to the big money pushers that got them in office. I retired 20 years from the Army hold a goverment job now. Worked and payed dues since I left high school. It all comes down to three Types of people here in America.

    1. The first class is those that worked all most of there lives and now enjoying retirement and living out the rest of their days. Earned every cent they get.
    2. The second class is those people that get up every morning grab their lunch and go off to work. Employed year round, pay their taxes; receive a couple weeks paid vacation a year; pay into Social Security. They could be well off, making ends meet, disabled, and poor, out write now looking for a job and getting some assistance but not taking advantage of the system.
    3. The third class is those people that believe that because they live here in America they are entitled to things besides their constitutional rights. They think it’s all right to have children though they can’t afford the ones they have. They rely on tax payer dollars to put food on the table and they are fine with this. Then you have people in this class that believe its ok to use unemployment benefits as a second job. They work seasonal then file for unemployment year after year after year. I’m pretty sure that this was not created for this purpose. The same class that tries to soak every dollar they possibly can and living with commodities like cell phones and Cable TV. Irresponsible.
    America will not get any better until the American people are forced to learn the difference between earning something and what you are entitled to.
    Corporations that leave the United States and go to other countries to create jobs so they can pay less for labor and taxes are UN American. The politicians that can’t find a way to entice the corporations to stay are just as UN American.
    Allowing more people into the United States to live. Immigration is broke. We can’t afford the people that are here now why allowing more legal or illegal. It’s a no brainer.

    • Mae Johns

      What a stupid post. So, starving and homeless children are okay with you? People dying because they can’t afford medical care?

      Gee, did you learn that attitude in church?

      Here’s the no-brainer: We need to tax the people who can afford it. The RICH. And if you’re not rich, voting republican means you’re a sucker.

      • christine

        seriously? There is no brains in punishing the “rich” which really means “people who work for what they get.” Why should we, and I assume you work for a living (?) support people who have a lack of judgment in birth control and life choices so that they are homeless or giving birth to countless children? This support enables them to continue making poor choices. STOP the funding and they will eventually stop the stupidity–that’s a no-brainer. I can choose to be charitable through private donations to organizations but to force me to be allocating a portion of my paycheck each week to the liabilities of our society is unconstitutional and a slap in the face to all who work.

        • Dan

          Very true Christine. The government and the lazy depend on the “sanction of the victim” to abuse the real victim- those that produce despite the everyday theft of honest work. Speaking of which, I can’t wait to see Atlas Shrugged next week !

      • Taxpayer

        @ Mae Johns

        So, your concern for homeless children and the dying bothers you. Does it also bother you that your Democrat friends in Washington D.C. are currently holding up legislation to pass a budget bill in order for un-churched people, such as yourself, to continue to kill babies.

        Just curious

    • Jason

      Very well put. Thank you for your service.

      • Mae Johns

        I’d expect you to applaud that. Get back to “work”, Jason. You need to pay taxes so the rich can get richer. Sucker.

  • Christine

    notice how all the services being cut are those that help the working Americans and the services that will continue (SSI checks, criminal courts) are those that serve the liabilities on our society…what kind of backwards shut-down plan is this?

  • Lisa Lovett

    @ Christine..I’m a liability???? I make a WHOPPING $845.00 a month on SSI disability. This is supposed to cover EVERYTHING here in CA. Food, Utilities, housing, transportation, etc. I had no crystal ball to tell me that I would be divorced, unable to walk, and in constant pain after raising my children and most of the rest of the children in my neighborhood. If I hear the word “Entitlements” one more time I will scream. I was raised in an upper middle class family. Both of my parents owned small businesses. My Father was the one who told me a long time ago to not be ashamed if I was ever in this situation, because he and all of my family had paid more than their share and hadn’t taken any out They are/were Democrats. Most people like me find this humiliating. If there wasn’t SSI…I would be in a cardboard box because I don’t have anyone to take me in. You try living on $845.00 a month!

    • Dan

      So… how is that my fault OR responibility? You never consulted me on your choice of husband, retirement plan, rainy day fund in case of disabillity, number of children to parent, etc… Seems to me that your situation has more to do with your choices in life and you are the one responsible for your own welfare. Your disability is unfortunate however it’s still not my fault. If you find out that it was someone’s fault you should sue that person in civil court. I do not have to live on $845/mo because I work very hard for my income and I am damn proud of it. Though you are disabled you seem to be able to use a computer. Perhaps you should try to find work that you can do using a computer… as long as that didn’t effect your disability “income”.

    • I agree

      Lisa, just wanted to say I am so sorry about all you’ve been through. (I’m the person who asked a question below about EBT food support and MN Care which is sort of like Medicaid but a MN healthcare program for low income/poor individuals and families.) I come from a family of Democrats too. My parents are by no means rich, but they do okay. I always cringe too when I hear mean spirited people (usually Republicans) make nasty and cruel comments about people on any type of assistance such as disability, food support, healthcare support, etc. My parents said that often a lot of the same people who make such comments have been on some form of “welfare” in the past THEMSELVES. I guarantee you that pretty much ANY Republican who became disabled, laid off, or down on their luck would seek the SAME exact type of assistance.

  • don't want to die

    I am curious if anyone on EBT food support or MN Care will lose food support and healthcare? I am struggling and have some serious health conditions like asthma. I will die if I am cut off from being able to eat food or have medicine. And yes, I do work and am trying to find work (before any mean spirited GOP person makes a predictable nasty comment about the poor).

    • MNSTIX

      I agree I am looking for jobs daily places like factories, mcdonalds, even temp agencies and am having no luck at all. If I loose my health care I am going to end up in the hospital and that costs over 100,000 for a stay there for one person, times that by just ten people and were one million dollars in debt. It is very important that we have health care. technically it is illegal not to have it so by shutting down the health care the state of Minnesota is forcing us to break the law.

      • Lydia

        SOAS007 on April 14, 2011 @00nerd4 I have never heard Polish pploee called polarks’ ( original recording)before, or heard jokes against them. We have loads live in the UK, I heard a satirist say something like , how dare they come here , do the jobs we are too lazy to do , and pay our taxes, but thats not racist.

  • Smh @ignorantamericans

    DAN You sir are a real IDIOT! You honestly think that $845/mo can be considered income???? I’m sure she would love to work instead of barely managing with that “income”, BUT SHES DISABLED. Perhaps you should pull the golden spoon out of your ass and understand that sometimes people need help, and the government programs are here for just that. If you cant understand that then move to another country because all you are doing is ruining the US. You deserve every bad thing that happens to you and everyone you love. One day if it has not already happened you will need some help. And I hope you do not get it.

    • Dan

      I do consider $845/mo income if it’s worked for. I do not consider disability as income. I consider it charity forced at the point of a gun. I couldn’t live on $845/mo which is why I have taken steps in my life to prepare for any misfortune that might come my way by purchasing private insurance. I have many friends and family that I feel would help me out in a jam and I feel blessed to have those people in my life. However it wouldn’t be their responsibility to do so. It would be their choice. I merely pointed out that it’s not my responsibility to help her out without my consent. If you believe federal programs to help people in a tough spot are a good thing then you should lobby for a constitutional amendment. There is NOTHING in the constitution that makes it legal unless you count the twisting of words by lawyers & judges. I do understand that people need help sometimes. It’s called charity. Perhaps you would be willing to let this lady come live with you?

      For the rest of your comment that is a personal attack I will dignify that with a response (against my better judgement). Just so that I understand you correctly. I have a different opinion than you and believe that I have no financial responsibility to someone halfway across the country that I’ve never met. I believe she nor anyone else has a right to the money I work very hard for. Because of these beliefs you think I am ruining the US and should move to another country. You also think I deserve for bad things to happen to me and everyone that I’m close to. If I find myself in a bad situation you hope that I don’t get help of any kind. I applaud your logic, your caring soul and your open mind. Do you see how I’ve expressed myself without calling names or hoping for the sky to fall on your head? I did mix in a little sarcasm for comedic purposes but I think that was in good taste. I hope you realize one day that it is I that holds the moral highground in this discussion. That will be your first step in helping to make this country what it was founded to be. A place where one can succeed or fail on his own merit. A place where the product of one’s labor is not earmarked for those that can’t or won’t produce. A place where success is rewarded and failure is punished.


    I am looking for jobs daily places like factories, mcdonalds, even temp agencies and am having no luck at all. If I loose my health care I am going to end up in the hospital and that costs over 100,000 for a stay there for one person, times that by just ten people and were one million dollars in debt. It is very important that we have health care. technically it is illegal not to have it so by shutting down the health care the state of Minnesota is forcing us to break the law.

  • NoSenseInLies

    Look at all of you people fighting eachother over this. This is sick. I am only 17 years old and I know what we could possibly go into is wrong. We have a possible crisis on our hands and so far most of you are concerned about how someone SPELLED something. Let alone trying to get others to be on your side. We should be trying to help one another out, not be on this chat thing all damn day. Work on your families or loved ones. We all are in this together so lets start acting like it. Dont sit int the past of what went wrong in government, because obv. its not going to help whats going on now. Sure, state your opinions but remember either way its not up to us, its up to the government, so we might as well work together on this.

  • truthseeker

    you all talk about this like it is a problem. here is your fix (have congress recognize the truth that there is no law that makes you pay tax on wages and labor). Income tax is just interest we pay to the federal reserve(private bank not gov). this well free up money to spend in the economy jump starting everything. legalize state controlled gambling(major revenue) legalize marijuana(major revenue). our system is designed from the local gov up. this means power at your town hall is more power than state and federal. if you want change you have to start at your town hall and fight there. good luck may god save our country. Ron Paul for president

  • redonthehd

    labor pain management…

    below are valuable links that I have collected…

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live