The possibility of a government shutdown is becoming more real for many Americans this week, and Google queries about what it would mean for people in their everyday lives were spiking on Monday morning.
The topic “government shutdowns in the U.S.” was among the most popular Google search trends on Monday morning, as seen on the real-time Google Trends page.
And in the four hours before the workday kicked off at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, search interest in how a shutdown would affect Social Security, veterans’ benefits and the U.S. dollar began to spike. Many of these queries were marked as “breakout” queries, meaning that search interest in them was more than 5,000% higher than in the previous search period — in this case, 5,000% higher than four hours earlier. As Google explains, this means they “had a tremendous increase, probably because these queries are new and had few (if any) prior searches.” For example, many of these queries were not nearly as popular even one week ago.
But now the shutdown is nigh. At issue in Washington is a disagreement between House conservatives and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who reached a spending deal with President Joe Biden earlier this year. Conservatives want lower spending levels, and if there’s no agreement on either a longer-term or short-term budget by midnight Saturday, Sept. 30, the government will partially shut down Sunday, Oct. 1.
Government shutdown: Analysts warn of ‘perhaps a long one lasting into the winter’
Some breakout Google searches related to “government shutdowns in the U.S.” on Monday morning included:
- How does a government shutdown affect me? (This has been a breakout query 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?
It should be noted that real-time Google search trends are dynamic and change throughout the day. So these searches may have risen or fallen since the publication of this article, and new ones may have taken their place — such as searches for whether members of Congress still get paid during a shutdown. (They do.)
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, the New York Times reported. 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.
What else do you need to know?
The good news is, as MarketWatch 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.
But real-estate writer Aarthi Swaminathan warns that a government shutdown could leave thousands of federally backed mortgages in limbo.
And 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. And Washington correspondent Victor Reklaitis writes about what a shutdown could mean for the stock market.