The US government shutdown finally ended last week after sixteen days of interparty squabbling. However, considering there is no debt ceiling in place, there is the potential for another shutdown come February of next year. Even so, what’s it all mean to the regular folk who punch the proverbial clock day in and day out? Probably not much.

Despite the pundits’ frets, this latest shutdown did not bring about the end of the world as we know it. In fact, this was not the country’s first shutdown. There have been twelve shutdowns in the US Government since 1981. Prior to that, they never happened in the nation’s history.

Incidentally, shutdowns have occurred only when the House of Representatives was from the opposite party of the President.

1981 – 1988: During Ronald Reagan’s (Republican) eight years in office, the House of Representatives was controlled by Democrats. There were eight shutdowns.

1989 – 1993: Throughout the four years of Republican President George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the Democrats controlled the House and there was one shutdown.

1993 – 2001: In Democrat President Bill Clinton’s eight years in office, there were two shutdowns. Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

2009 – 2017: Democrat Barrack Obama has been the US President since 2009. During his first four years in office, when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, there were no shutdowns. The Republicans again gained control of the House in 2012, and there has been one shutdown so far.

Note that only one of the last five  presidents, Republican President G.W. Bush (2001 – 2009), served without there being any shutdowns. That might be because Republicans were in charge of the House of Representatives for almost the entire time, until 2007.

To sum it up, for the past 33 years, there has been at least one government shutdown when the US President and the House of Representatives are from opposing parties. Why in 1981 this all began is unclear. What is clear is that these shutdowns have little bearing on the daily lives of American citizens. They’ve being going about their business regardless of what is happening on Capitol Hill. They’ll do the same in February, 2014 if there is a shutdown again.

By Dan Franch, October 2013.