Here’s yet another in my series of quick reminders. Prior to 1980, everything kept on running pretty normally during budget impasses. True shutdowns didn’t happen until after a series of Justice Department rulings at the tail end of the Carter administration. Since then, there have been a handful of shutdowns prompted by garden variety disagreements over funding levels for defense and domestic programs, but they’ve been so brief as to be barely noticeable. The only exception was the long shutdown of 1995, prompted by Newt Gingrich’s demands.
So when you hear someone saying that there have been loads of government shutdowns in the past and this one is really nothing new, it just isn’t true. In practice, there’s only been one serious shutdown in recent history, and like this one, it was the product of Republican ultimatums.