Some benefits, like unemployment insurance and veterans' benefits, could be delayed or reduced. National parks, museums and many passport offices would shut down; the Small Business Administration and FHA would stop guaranteeing new loan applications; farm subsidy checks stop flowing and IRS tax processing would slow down, among other headaches.
If you're applying for a mortgage and the bank wants to verify your tax return, you may be out of luck. Social Security checks would go out, but recent retirees would have to wait to sign up. Though U.S. military troops would continue serving, some might have to wait to get paid.
And the Commerce and Labor departments would be shut down, which would delay their data releases, creating a hardship for economists and investors.
Some of the more than 2.2 million government workers would be exempt from furlough, including those who provide essential services.
NSA agents would keep snooping on phone calls, TSA screeners would keep examining luggage and air traffic controllers would show up for work, along with food safety inspectors, border patrol officers and federal prison guards, most FBI agents, doctors and nurses at the VA and other federal hospitals, and any federal emergency and disaster relief workers.
The U.S. Postal Service, which is funded separately, would continue to deliver the mail. And Federal Reserve officials would continue to go to work, because they draw paychecks from funds generated by interest on the central bank's assets.