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22 35 days and counting into the longest U.S. government shutdown ever finally is over

Come in we are open signUPDATE, 9:05 p.m. Central Time, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019: Donald J. Trump has signed into a law a short-term funding bill that should get paychecks flowing again for the around 800,000 federal workers — including the 14,000 or so Internal Revenue Service employees who called in sick during the tax agency's partial closure — who were affected by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.


Twenty-two Thirty-five days and counting (updated Jan. 25, 2019). We now are in the midst of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.

National park properties, such as the National Mall west of the U.S. Capitol, are among the federal operations and services that shut their doors when funding runs out.. (Photo by Emw via Wikimedia)

On Friday, Jan. 11, hundreds of thousands of federal workers across the country got their first paychecks of 2019. They all received the same amount: $0.00.

In addition to not getting paid, which poses the obvious problems for federal workers, many will face costs they'll never recoup even after a deal is struck and they return to work and get back pay.

They've lost money to late fees and overdraft charges. Where a service is cut off, say electricity for nonpayment of the bill, they could lose their original deposits and incur reconnection fees to get the service(s) restored.

U.S. economy closure costs: Uncle Sam also is running up a tab during the closure. It actually costs more to close the federal (or any) government than it does to keep it open.

There's obviously the money that unpaid federal staff called in to work and their furloughed colleagues are not spending. In much of Washington, D.C., stretches of retail shops are almost empty since the few workers are not spending the money they don't have.

Outside the national capital, federal offices often are the largest employers, especially in more rural areas. Again, the loss of those employees' patronage is hurting local mom and pop shops.

Then there are the contractors who are not getting paid because their jobs are on hold. And they, unlike official federal employees, won't get back the money they've missed.

This economic impact has been going on 22 days, which earns this week's By the Numbers dishonor, and the expense of a less than fully-functioning federal government escalates every day that it continues.

How much longer will the costs keep accumulating? Donald Trump says he's fine with letting this go on for months (or even years) if he doesn't get the money he wants for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

An interesting/distressing financial note: one global financial services firm says estimates that if the government remains closed for another two weeks, the total cost to the U.S. economy will exceed the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded (this time) for his campaign-promised physical wall.

Comparing closures: Political pundit predictions of how long this closure would last or when it will end have one thing in common. They have all been wrong. So instead of looking into a murky future, I'm turning to the past,

This is the 20th and longest ever period that Uncle Sam has closed at least some of doors since Congress introduced the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act in 1976. That measure established the federal budget process we now use.

The table below provides a look at how the previous and this currently running shutdowns have lasted/will last.

Day/Date Government
Shutdown Began
Days* Government Was Closed Day/Date Government
Shutdown Ended
1976 Thursday, 9/30/76 10 Monday, 10/11/76
1977 Friday, 9/30/76 12 Thursday, 10/13/77
1977 Monday, 10/31/77 8  Wednesday, 11/9/77
1977 Wednesday, 11/30/77 8 Friday, 12/9/77
1978 Saturday, 9/30/78 17 Wednesday, 10/18/78
1979 Sunday, 9/30/79 11 Friday, 10/12/79
1981 Friday, 11/20/81  Monday, 11/23/81 
1982 Thursday, 9/30/82 Saturday, 10/2/82
1982 Friday, 12/17/82 Tuesday, 12/21/82
1983 Thursday, 11/10/83 Monday, 11/14/83
1984 Sunday, 9/30/84  Wednesday, 10/3/84
1984 Wednesday, 10/3/84 Friday, 10/5/84
1986 Thursday, 10/16/86 Saturday, 10/18/86
1987 Friday, 12/18/87 Sunday, 12/20/87
1990 Friday, 10/5/90 Tuesday, 10/9/90 
1995 Monday, 11/13/95 Sunday, 11/19/95 
1995-1996 Friday, 12/15/95 21  Saturday, 1/6/96
2013 Tuesday, 10/1/13 16 Thursday, 10/17/13 
2018 Saturday, 1/20/18 3 Tuesday, 1/23/18 
2018 Friday, 2/9/18 1 Friday, 2/9/18
2018-2019 Saturday, 12/22/18 35** Friday, 1/25/19
*Partial closure days rounded up to next full day count.
**Days the government is closed will be updated, well, daily until the impasse ends. Updated 1/25/19; see note at top of post.

2018, the year of closures: Since this latest shutdown started just before Christmas last year, it is the third of 2018. And since it's run into the New Year, it's the first shutdown of 2019.

The three government closures in 2018 are the most since 1977, which also saw politicians shut down some or all government operations for some period of time.

Last year also was the first time the federal government closed three times when one party (at that time, Republicans) controlled the House, Senate and White House. This first shutdown of 2019 is more typical, with divided leadership in at least one Congressional chamber (Democrats took House control on Jan. 3).

In the first two 2018 federal government closures, their brevity was the best-case scenario for affected Americans, both the working without pay employees, furloughed staff and those of us who depend on them doing their jobs. In most cases, we didn't notice the loss of some services.

That's about to change as we head into uncharted shutdown territory.

Things will get worse for us taxpayers and federal workers if this closure drags out like some of the previous government shutdowns.

Data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), compiled before this latest federal closure, show that six shutdowns in the past four decades lasted more than 10 days. That includes the 16-day shutdown in 2013, ushered in by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz reading Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham,"

Here's hoping that as more of us, not just directly affected federal workers, begin to feel the adverse impact of lost government services, good faith negotiations will resume when Congress returns to Capitol Hill next week. I know I am not alone in being ready to put a finite number on and end to this latest federal shutdown.

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