News & Politics

Reminder: Shutdowns Aren’t Just Bad for DC

Sticking it to "Washington" might play well in some places, but it turns out the federal government is actually kind of important to the economy.

Photograph via iStock.

Good gravy, another possible government shutdown looms! These now-semi-regular occurrences are especially bad for the Washington, DC, region. The last one, a partial shutdown that lasted from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, caused José Andrés to set up an emergency kitchen downtown, caused a spike in people applying for unemployment benefits and hammered the local economy.

Far-right members of Congress are driving Congress toward a shutdown. If you ask them about how bad a shutdown may be for DC, the answer is likely to be something along the lines of: So what? After all, while the nation’s capital has been a punching bag for centuries, now the antipathy is more pronounced. Forget Donald Trump’s lies about his trip through town on the way to one of his indictments last month: Many members of Congress are more than happy to visit indignities on the District that they’d never put up with at home, like the recent bill to revoke Home Rule that’s one sentence long or a proposal that would repeal the 23rd Amendment, which extends the right to vote for President to DC residents.

But shutdowns have consistently turned out to be exploding cigars for the people who light them. Shutdowns are broadly and consistently unpopular with voters. The most recent one took an $8 billion chunk out of the US’s gross domestic product. And while it’s fun to hate on Washington as the seat of government, it only accounts for about 15 percent of government employees. It doesn’t take long for economic pain in Washington to ripple outward.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.