Government Funding Lapses: A Recurrent Issue


In the past four decades, government funding lapses have occurred more frequently than presidential elections in the United States. The impending possibility of yet another funding lapse looms before us, unless Congress takes immediate action to fund the government by October 1.

A Historical Perspective

Since 1980, there have been a total of 15 shutdowns with varying degrees of severity. During these shutdowns, it was deemed impossible for federal agencies to continue their operations due to the lack of funding.

Duration and Impact

While most shutdowns since the 1980s have been relatively short, lasting only a few days, there are a few exceptions that have significantly impacted the nation. Notably, the shutdown that occurred in 1996 lasted for 21 days. Another notable occurrence was the 16-day shutdown in 2013. However, it is the shutdown that took place in 2019 which holds the record for being the longest in history.

The Longest Shutdown: 34 or 35 Days?

The historic shutdown in 2019 commenced on December 21, 2018, at 12:01 a.m. It finally came to an end on January 25, 2019, when former President Donald Trump signed a deal late on Friday to reopen the government. However, there remains some discrepancy regarding the exact duration of this prolonged shutdown, with sources indicating either 34 or 35 days.

The Measure of Time

According to the Office of the House Historian, the duration of shutdowns is counted in full days. As a result, despite the fact that the government remained shut down for a significant portion of Friday, January 25, it is not considered a complete day in terms of official records maintained by the House.

In conclusion, government funding lapses have posed recurring challenges over the past 40 years, with a notable impact on the operation of federal agencies. While most shutdowns have been relatively brief, there have been a few instances of much longer and more disruptive shutdowns. The resolution of these funding impasses remains crucial for the smooth functioning of the United States government.

The Impact of a Long Government Shutdown

Plenty of news outlets have already reported the current government shutdown, which has now reached a record-breaking 35 days. The debate over whether it is 34 or 35 days may seem insignificant, but the length of a shutdown does have a significant impact.

This impact is felt not just by federal employees, who either face furloughs or delayed paychecks, but also by the overall economy. According to the economics research team at Goldman Sachs, for each week the government remains shut down, there is a 0.2 percentage point loss from quarterly GDP growth.

Goldman Sachs predicts that there is a 90% probability of a government shutdown occurring, and they estimate it will last two to three weeks. Furthermore, they also raise the possibility of multiple shutdowns happening.

The reason for this pessimistic outlook is that the two political parties are currently far apart on spending proposals. Even if an agreement to reopen the government is reached after the expected shutdown, it is likely to expire before the end of the year, putting the possibility of another funding lapse at risk.

To put things into perspective, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the previous shutdown from 2018 to 2019 cost the economy a staggering $11 billion.

Although it is difficult to predict the precise outcome of this current situation, it is evident that a prolonged government shutdown has far-reaching consequences.

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