The federal government, which also is the largest employer in the US, has been (partially) shut down at 0:001am on October 1st. Every year at that time an annual budget must be passed by the legislature. Passing a budget means setting money aside for things. If that is not done, things (or services) cannot be bought. That also means that federal employees cannot get paid because their work is nothing more than “service”. Since they cannot get paid, they can legally not go to work. So they are furloughed, which is an unpaid, force vacation…
If there are no employees at work, the place of work gets shut down. So the government is shut down. Alternatively to the budget, lawmakers (congress) can pass a CR (continuing resolution), which is a temporary agreement to fund the government. It usually is for several weeks to several months. The parties agree that they will get back together and negotiate a budget later but for now keep the government open. A CR is nothing more than kicking the can down the road.
Yan , H. (2013, 10 01). Government shutdown: Get up to speed in 20 questions. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/government-shutdown-up-to-speed/index.html
Plumer, B. (2013, 09 30). Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/30/absolutely-everything-you-need-to-know-about-how-the-government-shutdown-will-work/?tid=pm_pop
Stewart, J. (Performer) (2013). Jon Stewart on government shutdown 2013: [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjZJkgXTIRU