Thursday, April 07, 2011

three important differences between a government shutdown this year and the government shutdowns of 1995-96

(a) the government is more online, which raises a lot of new questions about which online resources are critical (and thus would not be shut down) and also makes the shutdown itself more expensive.

(b) the economy is still recovering from the great recession. a shutdown will definitely hurt the economy, though no one is sure by how much. that's quite different from the last shutdown, which came during the high-growth mid-90s.

(c) the u.s. is involved in 2-3 wars. in the last shutdown the u.s. had military commitments abroad, most notably in the balkans. but its current military commitments in iraq and afghanistan are much more substantial. which means that soldiers not getting paid is going to be a bigger deal this time.

although i basically think that a shutdown would ultimately benefit the democrats this time like it did last time, it's no sure thing that a shutdown this year will play out politically the same way the last one did in 1996.

ADDING: there are also a bunch of other less important but still might be significant differences between a 2011 shutdowns and the 1995-96 shutdowns related to the fact that the two shutdowns in the 1990s took place between november and january whereas the current shutdown, if it happens, will start in early-to-mid-april. that means that people applying for passports for summer vacations are going to be worried about getting their passports issued before their departure dates, people expecting tax refunds will worry about waiting longer to get their money and people planning trips to national parks will have to suspend their plans until this gets worked out.