According to a recent report prepared by the Congressional Research Service, the results won't be quite what the teabaggers are hoping for.
1. Nonessential personnel (like clerks at the Social Security administration) get furloughed. So if you think a disability claim takes forever to be processed now, things could be about to get a whole lot worse. Then, when/if the furlough ends, those nonessential personnel may or may not get retroactive pay -- in other words, it's possible we'll be locked out of our jobs but will still get paid later for the time we spend sitting at home, meaning a recalcitrant irrational Congress will have inconvenienced the public without saving anyone a dime.
There was some speculation at our staff meeting today about quietly working remotely so we don't fall too far behind on getting the journal out, but apparently if a shutdown occurs, it will be a true shutdown: LNA's intranet will go down, at least in terms of remote access. Which is actually fine with me -- I like my job, but I'm not too keen on doing it for free.
It's possible all the public .gov websites will vanish, too, for the interim. I find myself thinking it's a shame the Global Positioning satellite system is considered essential by the military, because it would be a real nice wake-up call to everyone if they got up on March 5 and discovered their cars could no longer tell them how to find Starbucks. (And now I'm wondering just how many people even realize the GPS system is a U.S. government system? Probably about 1 out of a 1000, if that.)
2. Personnel involved in military, law enforcement, or direct provision of health care activities (current inpatient and emergencies) keep right on working. The good news: the nursing assistants at the VA hospitals will continue emptying bedpans. The bad news: TSA won't miss a beat in indulging in anal probes at the airport. Agencies are also allowed to keep sufficient numbers of personnel working to protect life and property (e.g., the Forest Service will send timber markers home, but can keep firefighters on standby).
During the last government shutdown, back in the 1990s, some of the stuff that happened included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopping disease surveillance, the National Institutes of Health stopped accepting new patients into clinical research, 368 units of the National Park Service closed to the public as did national museums like the Smithsonian, passport and visa applications stopped being processed, and various nonemergency services to veterans ceased.
Whether or not the shutdown will actually happen is still debatable, of course, but given the current atmosphere in DC, I'm happy I have hobbies to keep me busy if I get an unexpected unpaid vacation.