Over the past four decades, the United States has experienced more government funding lapses than presidential elections. Unaddressed, the country may face yet another shutdown if Congress fails to secure funding before October 1.
Since 1980, there have been a total of 15 shutdowns with varying degrees of impact. Most of these shutdowns have fortunately lasted only a few days, with an average duration of approximately one week. However, three notable exceptions significantly extend this average: the 21-day shutdown concluded in 1996, the 16-day shutdown in 2013, and the month-long shutdown that reached its conclusion in 2019.
The most recent shutdown holds the unfortunate record for the longest in the nation's history. It commenced on December 21, 2018, at 12:01 a.m. and eventually ended on January 25, 2019. Late that Friday, former President Donald Trump signed a deal to reopen the government. The duration of this particular shutdown remains a point of contention—some sources consider it to be 34 days while others argue for 35 days.
According to the Office of the House Historian, the shutdown spanned 34 days. This office adopts a methodology that counts shutdown lengths in complete days. Therefore, even though the government remained closed for a significant portion of Friday, January 25, it does not register as a full day within the official records of the House.
The Impact of a Government Shutdown
Plenty of news outlets have reported on the ongoing government shutdown, which has now become the longest in history, lasting either 34 or 35 days. While the exact number doesn't significantly affect the situation, the length of a shutdown does matter. A longer shutdown will have a more substantial impact, both on federal employees and the economy as a whole.
Federal employees are facing the possibility of being furloughed or having their pay delayed. This not only puts pressure on their personal finances but also has a ripple effect on the economy. According to Goldman Sachs' economics research team, for each week the government remains shut down, there is a 0.2 percentage point decrease in quarterly GDP growth.
Goldman Sachs predicts that there is a 90% chance of a government shutdown happening and anticipates it lasting two to three weeks. They also acknowledge the potential for multiple shutdowns in the future due to the significant differences in spending proposals between the two parties.
It is crucial to note that any agreement reached to reopen the government after a potential shutdown is likely to expire before the end of the year, thus risking another funding lapse, as stated by the Goldman Sachs researchers.
To put this into perspective, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the previous government shutdown, which occurred between 2018 and 2019, cost the economy a staggering $11 billion.
As we navigate through this uncertain period, it is evident that the impact of a government shutdown is far-reaching and affects both individuals and the overall economy. We can only hope for a swift resolution that avoids such detrimental consequences.