Remember when you were a kid fighting with your siblings at the dinner table and your mom warned that if you couldn’t get along then no one got dessert?

That, in a nutshell, is essentially what’s going on with the federal government shutdown — the first in 17 years — that began October 1. Only instead of a bunch of whiny little kids kicking each other under the table, insert a gaggle of squabbling elected officials arguing about Obamacare, and replace chocolate cake with — oh I don’t know — little treats like national parks and NASA, and you’ve pretty much nailed down the current meltdown in Washington.

Before the end of each fiscal year (September 30), Congress is tasked with passing a set of appropriations bills that allot funds to a large swath of federal agencies. No funds mean no business: all those agencies have to literally turn the lights off (and yes, that includes the panda cam at the National Zoo). Meanwhile, much of the federal workforce — about 800,000 employess — are being furloughed (no pay) until Congress reaches an agreement. (It deserves mentioning, though, that all current members of Congress, as well as the president, will continue to receive paychecks during this period — you know, in case that was of concern to you.)

The following media resources explain the situation in detail, including how we got here, where things might go and how it could affect you.

AP_interactive1. Multimedia overview of the meltdown

Produced by the Associated Press, this interactive tool functionally explains the current state of dysfunction


WaPo_q&a2. An extensive Q & A shutdown guide

USA Today put together this exhaustive, clearly written list of explanations about the mess we find ourselves in.


WAPO interactive agencies3. Which parts of the government are closed?

Again from the Washington Post, this interactive shows the federal agencies hit by the shutdown, and the number of furloughed employees in each.


Times_whodunnit4. How it went down

This New York Times graphic traces the back and forth in the halls of Congress that led to the shutdown.


MOJO_ways it'll affect you5. Who’s going to be hit hardest?

Mother Jones put together this extensive list of the people who stand to be impacted the most by the shutdown.


gingrich6. A history of government shutdowns

The Washington Post (once again), does a good job charting and explaining the causes of every government shutdown that’s happened since 1976. The Associated Press also published this interesting piece on the government shutdown’s constitutional roots.

And finally …

OK, so not exactly an exemplar of objective journalism, but too hilarious to leave out: Jon Stewart waxes poetic on the shutdown.

Closed for Business: 7 Great Resources Explaining the Government Shutdown 22 October,2013Matthew Green

  • Virginia Dixon

    It does not appear that any of the listed informational segments on the Shutdown make mention of the Koch Brothers’ first-hand involvement as financial and political instigators and planners of this “Shutdown” attempt. Unfortunately, this is not surprising given the Kochs’ extensive patronage of PBS. I’ve already notified PBS, and sadly, next I’ll be following up with KQED to inform you that I plan to deactivate my “sustaining” contributor status with the station. I’ve been a regular, on-going contributor for many years, and love KQED. However, I am SO upset about the taking-hostage environment in Washington, and the overwhelming influence of money and corporate power that’s taking over this country. What is happening to public networks – and every type of media – is the rapidly-growing toxic destruction of journalistic freedom in this country. If the withdrawal of my $120 annual contribution to KQED can make even the slightest dent in reversing this dangerous trend, I’ll feel like I did my civic duty.



Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email:; Twitter: @KQEDlowdown

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