U.S. doesn’t learn from long history of threatened and real shutdowns

The U.S. has a long history of government shutdowns—both threatened and quantified. Generally, the country has learned very little from the backlash or limited successes achieved by these shutdowns.


The most recent example of a government shutdown was in 2013, when the government shut down in an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. This shutdown lasted 16 days, during which many government services and programs were halted. It resulted in severe financial repercussions, with a cumulative $24 billion in losses of economic output. Despite this, Congress did not learn from the experience and continues to threaten government shutdowns for the sake of acrimonious warfare.

Another example is the 1995-1996 federal government shutdown. It resulted in 800,000 government workers being sent home during the Christmas season and a further million other federal employees facing reduced hours or pay. The main outcome from this shutdown was a compromise between President Bill Clinton and the then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Despite this compromise, both sides eventually vowed to never shut the government down again, though threats still persist decades later.

The lesson to learn from the past two decades of government shuttering is that it rarely has any real tangible benefit, instead only resulting in inconveniencing and harming American citizens. What is needed is for Congress to learn to work together and avoid such shuttering all together.

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