Six things you may not know about the U.S. government shutdown

Six things you may not know about the U.S. government shutdown

Summary: Civil servant? On a work visa? Living in the U.S., or even in the International Space Station? The federal government shutdown is affecting millions of people... even pandas.

TOPICS: Smartphones
(Image: CNET)

Parks are closed. Vacations have been ruined. And Wall Street, on the third day of the shutdown, is starting to get a little skittish.

For goodness sakes — even the National Zoo's "panda cams" are offline. And yet Congresspeople are still getting paid despite the fact tens of thousands of federal employees have been furloughed. Is there no end to this budget insanity?

Apparently not. Because the U.S. government shut down — effectively meaning all non-critical and essential services are closed or shuttered until a time when government funding can be secured — many services are unavailable to the wider public and federal employees alike. 

And that's on those pesky kids in Washington, who are too busy playing politics to remember that they first and foremost represent the people who elected them, who are also the same people suffering as a result of their actions.

Because this affects pretty much everyone in the U.S. — as well as many others far, far beyond the border — here are six things you may not know about the shutdown. 

Working from home? Checking your government email is illegal

Federal employees are not allowed to check their work email — seriously — and doing so could land the public servant a hefty fine, or even jail time. That means no peeking at your inbox, and no marking everything as read (because we all do it). Just switch off your work phone and leave it on the counter, as this would be in breach of an antiquated law known as the Antideficiency Act — passed more than 140 years ago, according to The Washington Post.

Once a furlough begins, "agencies can also consider using (1-)800 numbers and emails to home email accounts," according to a U.S. Office of Personal Management document.

All those government lawsuits? Yep, not during a shutdown

The U.S. Justice Department is also hit by the government shutdown. Not all litigation will stop immediately, however. According to Reuters, fewer than 18,000 of the 114,500 employees at the Justice Dept. will be furloughed. That's approximately 15 percent of the entire department.

As a result, criminal litigation against individual and companies will continue. But, civil litigation will be put on the most part on the backburner in order to save money — so long as it doesn't compromise the safety of human life or the protection of property.

U.S. shutdown affects not just America, but also outer space

"Ground control to Major Tom... hello? Is anyone there?" With close to 18,000 employees working at the NASA, just 3 percent will remain at the space agency to support critical missions that are literally out of this world. That's a total of 600 people to keep the entire space program in check — including keeping an eye on the astronauts currently floating 230 miles above the Earth's surface in the International Space Station.

Concerned about the Mars Curiosity Rover? According to one report, the rover is now in a "protective mode" and as a result will not gather any new data until the budget is rubber-stamped back on Earth. 

Welcome to No new information for you

Social media accounts of federal departments have also been curtailed as a result of the government shutdown. This includes websites and other web-based services attached to various furloughed agencies.

If you check any major website — including that of the White House, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Justice Department — you will be presented with a 'splash' screen explaining their current status. Even First Lady Michelle Obama isn't allowed to tweet, according to her last message published on October 1.

Need a visa to visit the U.S.? Nope, not during a shutdown

Heading to the U.S. for a business trip, or need to remain in the U.S. with soon-to-be-lapse in visa paperwork? The Washington Post notes that while the U.S. State Department will continue issuing passports and visas during the shutdown, some passport offices are located in government offices shuttered by the federal funding lapse.

The U.S. State Department says on its website: "Consular operations domestically and overseas will remain 100 percent operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations." But it also noted: "If a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, the facility may become unsupported." 

Unfortunately, NSA surveillance operations are still considered critical

In spite of the public outrage at the mass surveillance operations by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), these wiretapping and communication snooping programs will continue. These operations are considered, at least to the federal government, critical to national security and will continue to tick over, reports The Hill.

According to leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the U.S. government hands the spy agency $10.8 billion each year out of the wider $52.6 billion "black budget." 

Correction at 4 p.m. ET: corrected visa entry based on incorrect original source.

Topic: Smartphones

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  • adage "The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens"

    Wow it is good to know that the adage "The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens" is still true.

    We can now feel safe from judge Alito, whom as per Russ Tice (NSA whittleblower) was being spied upon by the NSA.
    • Our Government

      Do these politicians really know what they are doing? Personally, all politicans should give up their paycheck for at least 1 year including our president!! We can't even go to our parks!! These folks in Washington need to quit thinking of themselves and start thinking about the people of the United States of America! Rich get richer poor get poorer and the middle class gets dumped on... God Bless America!
      • Just the same

        Mickey1954, its exactly the same over here in the UK, the fat cat bureaucrats are only in it for themselves and any individual or corporate body who can grease their palms. What amazes me with the situation in your country is that government departments are being shut down and the employees not receiving any pay, yet you have the people who are supposedly running the country and looking after the finances, which allowed this to happen, still drawing their big fat pay checks
  • Keep it going

    I think the american people need to see exactly what we have in Congress and the white house and then let's replace all those pieces that refuse to compromise.

    I'm of the opinion that spending without accountability is a bad thing and half of congress refused to submit a budget for years! However, the same people in that half were there when this healthcare law was voted in.

    That's another thing, if they thought the American people wanted this law so badly, then why did they have to ram it down our throats in a lame duck session?

    Seriously, why not just let the newly elected officials vote on the bill? Because, they knew we elected them to stop this bill and holding to it will see the thing repealed when a majority opposing the president controls both the house and the senate next year.
    • well

      good luck with that.
    • What is it with Americans?

      Why can't you care about your fellow man? Your healthcare is a joke! Of the worst sort.. people die because they can't afford the silly money you have to pay in the US to get healthcare.. The Bill is a watered down attempt to introduce a social conscious to a country without one.. at least your president has a social conscious.. it's just a shame no one else seems to.. Oh that's right, it's a dog eat dog world.. well, it is according to the average yank..
      • Simple

        In America we have something called self respect. Instead of standing in line for a handout (payed for by the people who work), we work and pay our own way. At least that's the way it used to be, before the socialists and illegal immigrants took over.

        Socialism is working so well after all in your country!

        I have to pay almost $4/gal for regular gas. Imagine this...almost 24% is tax! In a nice socialist country, they pay over $12/gal...but it's OK. That huge tax pays for everyone's healthcare....even the illegals who don't pay taxes...even the ones at the pump. After all, they are also being sub'd by YOUR taxes.

        You have fun with that. The only people who want this crap, are the ones with their hands out.
        • Congressional Terrorists

          The only ones who want this situation are the billionaires as this further demonstrates their hold on this country to their minions.

          Soon the United States will be a micro-minority of have-every-things and a super-majority of have-nothings. Don't hold your breath on being in the former.
          • Respectfully, I disagree in a way, I think we all should 'want'

            The Congress hasn't worked well for a long long time. The founders of this fine country tried to separate the power into 3 branches of government. This was in the hopes that one branch would not be able to harm the people. Well, political parties poisoned the safeguards. We have far too many rank and file politicians and that needs to stop. Like it or not some politicians are party first, country second. My opinion is that we need more independents, OR more political parties.
            I disagree with you, because our citizens need the wake up call in order to to take action. I would love to see the people together to fire them..ALL. Following that we need people to be elected that will make term limits happen, get campaign finance reform across the finish line, and restore a dignity to our political system.
        • Bullshit

          That price for gas has nothing to do with socialism.. The rich bastards that control this country wanted more gold plating on the Mercedes, and made up excuses to raise prices to get it. The workers don't get pay raises anymore, but CEO pay goes up 1000% over a ten year period..
          Americans don't have pride.. well, maybe false pride. Proud of screwing everyone over anyway. Why not help others? Just because they aren't as smart or socially acceptable, in your opinion, doesn't make them less human. Too bad they don't control the rich bastards that run the medical industry. Go to another country, even a modernized one like Germany. The prices for medical care are 1/10th of ours. Their taxes are higher, everyone gets medical care.. AND... THE BIG AND...They have a better standard of living than most Americans... How is that? Cause they can still unionize and keep the corporations and bosses under control. Even Wal-Mart workers in Europe are union. It's not allowed in this country though. You will be fired for even trying. So who has the most freedom? Americans are a bunch of pussies that won't stand up for other Americans, even in their own country. It's I got mine, so screw everyone else. I should know, since I am American... and sometimes very ashamed of it. You get the government you deserve.. If this crap happened in France, there would be riots until it stopped... Americans are too chicken-shit to stand up and fight for what's right.
          • BTW

            Not only am I an American, I am a disabled veteran that served for 5 years. I was assigned to a department that was controlled by the NSA, and reported directly to the joint chiefs. So don't try to say I am anti-American or unpatriotic, or unless you worked under NSA control, that I don't know what I'm talking about. It just saddens me that the once great USA, has fallen under the control of money grubbing bastards, and "We The People" is no more. The country is being separated with this political reality show, to keep everyone infighting so that no one see's the scrawny, evil "wizard" hiding behind the curtain. Why do you think they allowed a black president to get into office? To separate the people. Regardless of how competent he may or may not be, a lot of people are racists and will swap sides just because he is not white. Divide and conquer. They keep everyone's attention on this silly bullshit while the puppet masters decide EVERYTHING that happens in this country. You believe your votes really count? Dream on. If the "rich boy's club" doesn't approve who gets voted in, the votes will suddenly and miraculously change in that voting box. Obama was put into office as a servant to the rich... They just have the rich guys argue about everything he does to pretend he isn't their pawn.
          • BTW

            eletricmark. You are so right in what you say, but unfortunately this is not just an American problem. With modern technology and communications, the rich of this world can run their businesses from anywhere on the planet and avoid paying taxes that are due to the countries that they are operating from. They also move their operations to countries that offer the cheapest labour rates and usually these workers have to produce their products under appalling conditions. As they say they have got the average guy by the short and curlies, if you know what i mean!
          • The things that have ruined our once great country, are not the

            rich "bastards"; they are, in fact, the biggest reasons that America was for a while, a great country.

            What has ruined America is the creeping socialism which isn't creeping anymore, since it has taken hold of the country and is destroying it. You might be a veteran, and you might be a patriot, but you are very ill-informed about what has been ailing and destroying the country.

            Does anybody have a right to break into my house and force me to give him or her any money to eat or drink or to get a pair of shoes or to purchase an iPhone? If not, then why does the government do it for him or her? The government doesn't come into my home with guns pointed at my head, but they might as well be, since if I don't pay up with taxes "TAKEN" from my paycheck to support other people, I could end up in prison or paying a very hefty fine plus the taxes that I "owed". Government in the U.S. wasn't set up by our founding fathers to take care of people with my money and that of others who do work.

            The countries you point to in Europe are very sick, economically, and that's as a result of the stupid socialist policies which came back to bite them hard, and there is no way to recover from that.

            Asides from that, many, or all, of those countries, are getting "subsidized" by the American people, via our medical research and our development of equipment and medicines, which those countries didn't have to spend their own money on R&D. When a country doesn't have to spend money on something and they benefit from the work of other countries, then that is a form of subsidizing.

            Not only that, but, those EU countries are also being heavily subsidized via the military umbrella which the U.S. provides, which means that those countries have been using the "savings" for spending on their socialism. But, since those countries spend too much on their social programs, even the "subsidizing" from the U.S. wasn't going to save them. Heck, even the biggest economy in Europe, that being Germany, is slowly going the way of the others, and in due time, all of them will be in the same sinking boat, and socialized medicine will have been one of the bullets which went towards the destruction of the EU economies.

            It's okay to wish for a socially caring society, but that comes with a very heavy price, and the price is the eventual destruction of that which you might have seen as a great society.

            BTW, I too am a veteran, but I don't look at the overall good of the country as being determined by just being a "giving" society. Society can't just continue giving, while continuously just growing into a society which can't be self-sustaining with so many costly programs. When government gets so big that it hurts the growth of the economy, and actually contracts that economy, then it is unsustainable government. It would be nice to just give everybody what they need, but that's not feasible.

            I'm not rich, and heck, I'm just lower-middle-class, but, I refuse to play the class card, since, like it or not, the rich and the well-off, along with the corporate world, are what created the greatest economy ever, and without a great economy, there is no great country. The working class is the part that makes an economy hum, but without the investment class and the entrepreneurs and the ambitious and resourceful, the working class wouldn't even have the jobs.

            All things need to be put and looked at with proper perspective, and the middle class and the rich are all necessary in order for the country to function. A country with class envy and where that class envy is acted upon, ends up in misery, as witnessed in Cuba and Venezuela and so many other countries around the world, and yes, even including the EU countries which are now feeling the results of the many bad decisions of the past, especially the direction towards socialism which they thought would create a better society.
          • That is just one steaming pile of stupidity

            none none
          • that was for adornoe

            stupid non-union forum software
            none none
          • Yeah,

            If it were union forum software, we wouldn't be able to comment at all except in union-acceptable language. There would be no dissent, there would be only agreeing with the union bosses (unless you wanted to be visited in the dead of night by union brothers carrying baseball bats - seen it happen).

            Wait, what am I talking about? If it truly were union forum software, the entire site would be down!
          • none none: non-union forum software??? You must be the nuttiest

            person on the planet, and the stupidest to boot.

            Union developed software would never get to market, and if it did, it would be full of holes, or bugs, intentionally placed there to insure that the job is never finished and a way to guarantee permanent work for those union bosses and the lemming workers.

            Union work has a way of bloating the prices of anything, as can be witnessed by the high prices of the auto industry which brought down the whole industry just a few years ago.

            No one can by that stupid, but, I'll make an exception for you, and I'll consider you to be not just stupid, but a complete moron.
          • none none: No!!!, the steaming pile of stupidity and crap,

            is all inside your skull.

            There isn't anything at all in my post that you could actually disprove by any means. You don't like hearing the truth, because, it hurts your simple mind which is full of that socialist mush.

            Grow a brain, and then come back to comment with some substance, as long as that substance is not the brown kind that inhabits your head.
          • Middle class?

            There is almost nothing left of middle class. UNION< UNION< UNION... at the time that the US became a world power was a time of unions. Unions built the middle class. Unions didn't break American economy. The big bosses that make ten times more than their foreign counterparts did it.. And don't give me "cost of living" as an excuse.. It costs a lot more to live in Europe than in the US. Even more in Japan. How can Toyota still compete when Detroit fell apart. And don't forget Europeans get 6 weeks vacation a year, and paid maternity leave for a year, PLUS a maid to help the new mom OR dad with housework. Unsure how this works in Japan, but know for a fact that most Europeans have many more work benefits than we do. In France, the elderly even get a state funded vacation annually. It's called social responsibility. Nobody is breaking in to steal from you.. If ya wanna catch someone stealing from you, just go to your local congresspersons office.. They are the ones taking vacations with your tax dollars, and screwing up the country as a thank you. They get all the loopholes to keep from paying the taxes they should have to pay also. Remember Warren Buffett (at least I think it was him.) was disgusted that he was paying a lower percentage of tax than his maid did?
          • Umm,

            "Unions didn't break American economy. The big bosses that make ten times more than their foreign counterparts did it.. And don't give me "cost of living" as an excuse.. It costs a lot more to live in Europe than in the US. "

            The big bosses of the unions? Yeah. When unions first came about, they were necessary. Now they are simply driving the costs of goods and services too high. And gee, I wonder why it costs a lot more to live in Europe.... couldn't be because of the unions there, could it? Well, the unions and VAT (a misnomer if there ever was one).