Seven Things Americans Will Lose if the Government Shuts Down

The threat of a government shutdown still looms. The House and Senate are unable to agree on a federal budget for this fiscal year, and if the two sides cannot come to terms by midnight, we will face a shutdown on a scale not seen since Republicans last forced one in 1995 and 1996.

A government shutdown would be disastrous. It would disrupt the lives of millions of Americans while slamming the brakes on our recovery from the recession. Here are seven ways a government shutdown will hurt the American people, based on the consequences of the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns:

1. Social Security: Because Social Security checks are deemed essential, they should continue to be mailed in the event of a shutdown. New Social Security applications will likely go unprocessed, however, as was the case in the previous shutdown. Depending on the length of the shutdown, this could be seriously problematic for our nation’s seniors.

2. Veteran’s services: Republicans claim to support our troops, but forcing a government shutdown would be bad news for nation’s veterans, many of whom may lose access to vital veteran’s services. Health, welfare, finance, and travel services were all curtailed in 1996.

3. Health services: Forcing a government shutdown would put a pause on a number of important health services. In 1996, the National Institute of Health stopped taking new patients for clinical trials, the Center for Disease Control stopped disease surveillance, disease hotlines weren’t answered, and cleanup work stopped at 609 toxic waste sites.

4. Taxpayer dollars: Shutdowns are a huge waste of taxpayer money: Estimates put the minimum loss in 1996 at somewhere between $700 million and $800 million dollars in backed salaries paid to furloughed employees. Given that the economy was much more robust in 1996 than it is now, it is likely that a shutdown in 2011 would have an even worse economic impact—not something we need in the recovery phase of a recession.

5. National parks: National parks would be among the first places to close if the government shuts down. Three hundred and sixty-eight national parks closed in the 1995 and 1996 shutdown. They lost 7 million visitors and $14.2 million per day in tourist revenues.

6. Museums: National museums would likewise be closed in the event of a government shutdown. They were closed in the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns and lost an estimated 2 million visitors.

7. Passports: Over 200,000 passport applications went unprocessed during the fiscal year 1996 shutdown. The same applies for foreigners wishing to travel to the United States: An additional 20,000 to 30,000 daily visa applications also went unprocessed.

In short, the shutdowns forced in 1995 and 1996 were costly, wasteful and harmful to the American people. But it’s likely that the consequences will be far worse if a shutdown occurs in 2011. The economy was comparatively stronger in the mid ’90s and therefore more resilient against the effects of a government shutdown. Today, as a consequence of the Great Recession, more Americans are unemployed, below the poverty line and reliant on government assistance to make ends meet. With that in mind, forcing the closure of many government programs and agencies would be a reckless display of political bravado.

We need a responsible budget that balances fiscal discipline with the need to invest in America’s human and physical capital. President Barack Obama’s budget works toward that end. We hope that Republicans and Democrats are able to find common ground around a budget that intelligently and efficiently allocates government money in a manner most conducive to economic recovery.

This post originally appeared on American Progress.
To learn more about the upcoming potential government shutdown, click here.

Photo credit: Dave Newman via flickr
Written by bloggers for American Progress


Duncan O'neil
Duncan O'neil5 years ago

"Tea baggers are the cancer on this country's a-hole. From the looks of it, some excision is in order."

So you oppose fiscal responsibility & balanced budgets in DC?

Duncan O'neil
Duncan O'neil5 years ago

But then that means you can not write to yourself nor most of the people on this site!

Original Message:

Hope left a comment

Seven Things Americans Will Lose if the Government Shuts Down

Duncan O. In response to your, "Robber Barons were two centuries back! Don't believe the wealth numbers you cite." I do not argue wih people who have closed minds and do not read anything they don't agree with. Stop writing to me personally.

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B.5 years ago

Tea baggers are the cancer on this country's a-hole. From the looks of it, some excision is in order.

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams5 years ago

thanks for sharing!

Jimmy Spyder
Jimmy Spyder5 years ago

To our US government... A big F-U!... from your employes!

Shirley M.
Shirley Marsh5 years ago

I guess we will just have to agree to differ Duncan. Your somewhat flippant response to some of the issues make me think you are not interested in checking things out to see if we can improve the way in which the world works; you appear to think we're doing a pretty good job of it already. The fact that the 'greed is good' philosophy very nearly brought the world to its knees recently is not a lesson waiting to be learnt, apparently. I sincerely hope that there are more people who 'think outside the box' in this world than those who are happy to opt for the status quo. The future of humanity depends on it.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers5 years ago

Duncan O. In response to your, "Robber Barons were two centuries back! Don't believe the wealth numbers you cite."

I do not argue wih people who have closed minds and do not read anything they don't agree with. Stop writing to me personally.

Jose Gaspar
Jose Gaspar5 years ago

All republicans are a threat to America...

Shirley M.
Shirley Marsh5 years ago

Duncan, I guess it all depends on what you mean by liberty - the liberty the right is 'fighting' for. Like forcing their religious views on everybody else; the absolute antithesis of Christian teaching - that God gave us free will. What liberty is there is denying the poor and disadvantaged access to health care because 'we might have to pay more in taxes' ? What liberty is there in denying the less fortunate the safety net of basic social security. We are all born with equal rights; we are not all born with equal abilities. Isn't it incumbent upon the more fortunate among us to take care of those who cannot make it by themselves? Any society is only as strong as its weakest link; something that is certainly becoming very apparent in the US right now. I don't subscribe to the far left, or the far right. I'm a true Liberal. I believe in the free market that operates with fiscal responsibility. I believe competition is a good thing, as long as the government takes up the slack where profiteers will not venture. Like infrastructure being provided to remote areas which are unprofitable for private enterprise. We all pay our taxes; we are all entitled to modern amenities. I cannot believe anybody would vote against a health system that includes all, or a social welfare system that cuts out after six months and forces young mothers and their babies onto the streets. It doesn't have to be 'either/or'; we can have freedom born of compassion!

Hope S.
Hope Sellers5 years ago

Interesting comment by Donal Trump in 1999:

In 1999, Donald Trump proposed a once off 14.25% wealth tax on the net worth of individuals and trusts worth $10 million or more. Trump claimed that this would generate $5.7 trillion in new taxes, which could be used to eliminate the national debt. From:

I don't think he would stand by that statement today nor any of the superwealthy.

The whole tax code needs to be rewritten and simplified. The greed of the top 15% of wealth holders of 85% of our wealth must be reined in; and a fair playing field for our citizen workers
restored. The current crop of robber barons make
the ones in the 30's look like pikers.