Skip to main content

U.S. shutdown: How the world reacted

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Tue October 1, 2013
  • U.S. government shuts down for first time in 17 years
  • Shutdown leaves U.S. government open for international satire
  • Blame game persists on social media

(CNN) -- For the reigning super power and the largest economy in the world, it's an egg-on-your-face moment.

For the first time in 17 years, the U.S. government shut down as its democratically-elected politicians could not come to an agreement over a spending bill. This stalemate closed non-essential services, sending 800,000 federal workers home without pay as lawmakers bickered about who was to blame. The shutdown could cost the economy about $1 billion a week.

The clash between Republicans and Democrats rages over the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the signature health care law of U.S. President Barack Obama.

What happened

At 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, without an agreement in sight between the two parties, the U.S. government shut down.

Obama's administration slammed the shutdown, castigating Republicans.

Foreign media found the situation "bizarre."

Across the Atlantic, France's Le Monde daily reports that the U.S. shutdown means almost a million government employees will be -- temporarily -- laid off. The paper says that the drastic measure came after days of "parliamentary ping-pong" between the Senate, with its Democrat majority, and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Le Monde's Alain Faujas notes that the last government shutdown, in 1995-1996, cost $1.4 billion ($2 billion by today's standards), and saw the tide of public opinion turn against the Republicans, who voters blamed for the chaos. Months later -- thanks largely to the Republicans' blunder, Bill Clinton was comfortably re-elected. Faujas questions whether history could repeat itself, but observes that in 2011 when a shutdown was threatened a Washington Post survey found that voters blamed the president and the Republicans equally.

How will U.S. shutdown impact Asia?
Former OMB director: Sky is not falling
Amanpour explains: Government Shutdown
President's message to U.S. troops

For the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, Dan Roberts describes the hours before the shutdown as being "as bizarre as they are unpredictable." He says the final nine hours "could well have been scripted by Hollywood."

"Amid stacks of pizza boxes and rumours of heavy drinking, both chambers settled in for a night of votes that were no longer designed to avert a shutdown, but to decide which side would get the blame for causing it," he suggests.

The Times newspaper refers to "an extraordinary day of political theatrics and high emotions."

World 'scratching its head'

Germany's Der Spiegel weekly reports that the world's most powerful government has ground to a halt -- in theory, at least, since although the deadline has passed, senators and congressmen are still meeting, still hoping for a deal, an agreement in "injury time," meaning that the shutdown would last only hours, rather than days or weeks, as was the case last time.

The magazine points out a three to four-week shutdown could cost as much as $55 billion, that's on a par with the economic impact of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

Perhaps surprisingly, Der Spiegel says, the world's markets have not reacted with panic. Thus far global finance markets have shown little impact: In Japan, the Nikkei closed higher, and as trading opened in Europe the Dax and EuroStoxx indexes were only slightly down.

The magazine's Carsten Volkery puts this down to the fact that the government shutdown came as no surprise, and had been priced in to the markets for weeks. In any case, Volkery says, most observers are expecting a speedy resolution to the crisis.

In Malaysia, the Awani website carries the headline "U.S. shutdown leaves the world scratching its head." Kevin Sullivan writes that the world watched the looming showdown "with a little anxiety and a lot of dismay, and some people had trouble suppressing smirks."

Ahead of the shutdown, The Australian wrote that "misplaced fiscal brinkmanship" in Washington doesn't "say much for the budgetary processes in the world's largest economy."

"The irresponsible way in which Congress, particularly Republicans, have played the politics of partisan petulance and obstruction in their determination to defund or at least delay President Barack Obama's healthcare law, known as Obamacare, does them little credit," its editorial continues.

Russia Today's website speculates that the shutdown may force President Obama to postpone a planned trip to Balu to sign an important trans-Pacific trade deal. "While he could still go if no deal is done by then, it could be a gift for his Republican opponents if Obama was seen to be jetting off to a tropical paradise at a time when federal employees were sent home without pay."

Idiots #shutdown

The U.S. shutdown left it ripe for satire.

A Canadian entertainer living in China, known as Dashan, asked:

A writer in London posed the age-old question:

A journalist for the Financial Times wondered:

Italy is also plunging into a political crisis as former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of a coalition, leaving Italy vulnerable to a financial backlash and possibly another election.

In Japan, there was a different type of governance at work.

The U.S. shutdown started on the same day Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe announced he would press ahead with a planned tax hike to get a handle on its government debt. The unpopular tax is actually the policy of Abe's political predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda whom Abe's party defeated in 2012 elections.

Also, there's this:

Finding humor

When all reasoning and logic fails, you could always find comfort in humor.

Sometimes, there isn't much to say.

CNN's Jethro Mullen and staff contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:48 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The government is open. The debt limit is lifted. The fight is over.
updated 12:51 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Weeks of bitter political fighting gave way to a frenzied night as Congress passed the bill that would prevent the country from crashing into the debt ceiling.
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The U.S. government looked perilously close to hitting its debt ceiling. Here are the stories you missed during the shutdown.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Even before President Barack Obama signed the deal into law, Yosemite National Park fired off a statement: We're open for business, right now.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It took more than two weeks, but Congress finally reached a shutdown-ending, debt ceiling-raising deal that satisfies both sides of the aisle.
updated 7:14 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
So much for a "clean" bill. The measure passed by Congress to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling also contains some goodies and gifts tucked into the 35-page bill.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
OK, so Congress passed a bill, the President signed it into law and the government's finally back in business.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It began with high hopes and lofty rhetoric, as a newly reelected President Barack Obama ended his State of the Union wish list with a call to action.
updated 11:26 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
The shutdown is over after 16 days, but the things we missed while the government was closed are still fresh in our minds. Here are nine things we're thrilled to have back.
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Long before the ink had dried on the Senate deal, the writing was already on the wall for the Republican Party: The last three weeks have hurt them.
updated 11:21 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Only 61 people in the history of the United States have held the position. It's the second most powerful in the country and second in line to the presidency.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Congressional approval ratings hovered at historic lows. Republican and Democrats hurled insults at each other and among themselves. The political circus in Washington even made its way to "Saturday Night Live: -- in a sketch featuring Miley Cyrus, at that.
updated 5:02 PM EDT, Mon September 23, 2013
Many government services and agencies were closed at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 as President Bill Clinton battled a GOP-led Congress over spending levels.