KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — People actually were kicked out of public restrooms the last time the federal government closed operations due to a budget impasse, a University of Tennessee political-economist recalled Friday.
“We were in the Smoky Mountains, and the rangers actually came through and kicked people out — closed down the park,” said Dr. Paul Davidson of UT-Knoxville.
“I couldn’t believe it. We were having a picnic lunch at the Chimneys, and the ranger came by and kicked people out of the men’s and ladies’ restrooms. Locked it up,” he said.
“It was a great boon for Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. But Oct. 1, 1990, was a Saturday as I recall, so the shutdown didn’t last very long.”
The White House said Thursday “there are no chances” of reaching an agreement with Congress on a temporary spending bill and averting a government shutdown.
The government’s fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and it has been operating on stop-gap authorization since then. That authorization expires next week.
Davidson said the 1990 shutdown lasted only through the weekend.
“By Monday, as I recall, they had reached agreement, so really the shutdown didn’t affect very much. It’s a ‘who’s-gonna-blink-first’ type of thing. They could shut down the government for a day or two, but not much longer than that,” Davidson said.
The same thing happened two weeks ago when the National Park Service, anticipating a reduction in next year’s budget, closed the Elkmont, Smokemont and Cades Cove campgrounds — all normally kept open most of the winter — in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said Clinton met with cabinet members Thursday to discuss how to shut down the government Tuesday.
UT economist Matt Murray and political scientist Bill Lyons agreed that a long shutdown would impose a hardship on some Social Security recipients and government contractors, but they said a lengthy shutdown is unlikely.
“They (the government) don’t shut down everything,” Davidson said. “They shut down the non-essential services. They keep the military going. They won’t kick congressmen out of their offices. They shut down the National Park Service. I suspect the weather bureau will continue to operate and the air traffic controllers. Think what would happen if they shut down the air traffic controllers.”
Contact: Dr. Paul Davidson (423-974-4221)