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The Real Impact of a Government Shutdown


The possibility of a government shutdown is looming, and it’s capturing the attention of many Americans. Google search trends reveal that people are concerned about how a shutdown would affect their everyday lives.

Rising Interest in Government Shutdowns

On Monday morning, “government shutdowns in the U.S.” emerged as one of the most popular Google search trends. The real-time Google Trends page showcased an increasing number of queries related to this topic.

Key Concerns: Social Security, Veterans’ Benefits, and the U.S. Dollar

In the hours leading up to 9 a.m. Eastern time, interest surged in understanding the impact of a shutdown on Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and the U.S. dollar. These inquiries were flagged as “breakout” queries, indicating that search interest for them had skyrocketed by over 5,000% compared to the previous search period. Many of these specific queries were practically nonexistent just one week ago.

The Impending Shutdown

The pending shutdown hinges on a disagreement in Washington between House conservatives and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Although McCarthy secured a spending deal with President Joe Biden earlier in the year, conservatives are pushing for lower spending levels. If no agreement is reached on either a long-term or short-term budget by midnight on Saturday, the government will partially shut down come Sunday morning—September 30.

Curiosity Peaks: Breakout Google Searches

Here are some of the breakout queries related to “government shutdowns in the U.S.” that gained traction on Monday morning:

  • How does a government shutdown affect me? (This query has been increasingly popular over the past week.)
  • Will a government shutdown affect Social Security?
  • Is the VA (Veterans Affairs) affected by a government shutdown?
  • Does a government shutdown affect USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services)?
  • What will a government shutdown affect?

As Americans brace for the uncertainty of a potential government shutdown, these questions reflect their growing concerns about the tangible consequences they may face.

Real-Time Google Search Trends

Concerns of the White House

The White House has been calling out these concerns as it presses congressional Republicans to reach a spending agreement. President Biden, blaming the stalemate on a “small group of extreme Republicans” during a dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation over the weekend, noted that a shutdown could affect everything from food safety to cancer research to Head Start programs for children, as reported by the New York Times. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has also warned that a shutdown would worsen the shortage of air-traffic controllers by interrupting their training, while working controllers would not get paid.

Impact on Social Security

The good news is, as columnist Mark Hulbert assures us, that monthly Social Security checks will not be affected if the government shuts down. He’s written about what a shutdown could mean for Social Security here.

Federal Mortgages in Limbo

However, real-estate writer Aarthi Swaminathan warns that a government shutdown could leave thousands of federally backed mortgages in limbo.

Effects on Various Areas

  • Washington, D.C., bureau chief Robert Schroeder has looked at other areas that could be affected by a partial shutdown, including mail service, federal-worker furloughs, and national parks.
  • Washington correspondent Victor Reklaitis writes about what a shutdown could mean for the stock market.

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