Government Shutdown, World To End…or not

Some (maybe most) of the best history books were written by people who weren’t alive when the events they describe with great clarity and in vivid detail took place. Or not.

And to sell a new book about a well known subject, the publishers need a new angle and some bombshell new information: Like that Generals Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant were really women. Talk about a government cover up! Or that Rome fell to the barbarians because the Senate and the Emperor couldn’t agree on a Continuing Resolution. As a result, the government shutdown and the two guys who were supposed to lock the main back gates just before dark were sent home early…

And so it is with the coming crisis in Washington: The very real possibility of a government shutdown the first week in March.

The last serious government shutdown was Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996. That’s 15 years ago. The average government worker has been a fed for 17 years. So while there are many current feds who went though it, it also means that lots of people working in government today were either very new to the job, or were not on the job – maybe not out of junior high school – when it happened.


For many people, whether they were working for Uncle Sam or doing school homework, what happened is pretty much hearsay. Arguably the best official report on the shutdown was written well after the event, in 2010, by the Congressional Research Service.

CRS’s after-action report outlines many of the effects of the shutdown from problems getting passports and visas to hiring delays in key federal jobs. While no federal worker lost pay, many contractor employees did not get paid during the shutdown. National Parks were closed to visitors. Lots of people were frustrated and confused. Others rode it out and enjoyed an early winter paid vacation.

Nonessential employees were told to stay home. Career civil servants who are routinely detailed to the White House and the Executive Office of the President were sent home. Jobs they were doing were turned over to interns.

So what about this time around? What’s at stake and what could happen? Today at 10 a.m., on our Your Turn with Mike Causey show we’ll be talking with Federal Times editor Steve Watkins and senior writer Steve Losey about what’s in the Continuing Resolution for feds. Will the pay freeze be extended another three years? Have promotions and within-grade raises been protected? What about federal civil service and social security payments? Are federal retirement rules going to change? Check it out: 10 a.m. on your computer ( or in the DC area, on radio at 1500 AM. If you have questions or comments e-mail them to me: or, better yet, call in at 202.465.3080.

Also on the show, Jessica Klement of the Federal Managers Association will talk about combating the anti-fed movement in Congress, and FMA’s upcoming national convention and management training seminar on March 15.

You and the Shutdown

So where were you during the last shutdown? Was it a distant event or were you smack in the middle? We’d love to hear your first-hand accounts of the way it really was. Send ’em to me at:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

One in four of all [British] potatoes are made into fries.


White House has shutdown contingency plan
The White House press secretary said Tuesday the administration is confident that a shutdown can be avoided, but the government has a plan if a shutdown does happen.

Federal furlough FAQ
The threat of a shutdown looms. Here’s what you need to know about a federal furlough.

Analysis: Federal workforce size doesn’t matter
House Speaker John Boehner has raised eyebrows by saying the administration has added 200,000 federal jobs. Partnership for Public Service’s John Palguta said it’s not the size that matters. It’s what you do with it.

What you need to know about financial planning
Financial planner Karen Schaeffer shares some tips on financial planning and why you some do it.