04/08/2011 03:17 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2011

This Week's HuffPost Family Dinner Download: How & Why Does The Government Shut Down?

In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie to launch a new feature we're calling HuffPost Family Dinner Downloads. Every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

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In a battle over the federal budget between congressional Republicans (who hold the majority), vs. the Democratic minority and the president, the federal government itself may be headed toward a shutdown, not seen since a similar battle in the mid-nineties. Unless everyone can come to an agreement by Friday at midnight on a controversial Republican budget proposal, the government will run out of budgeted money and all "non-essential" government services will grind to a halt.

Right now, federal agencies are drafting contingency plans for how to proceed in the event of a shutdown. The military and other essential operations like air traffic controllers would be unaffected, but many other government functions that we encounter everyday would come to a stop. National parks and museums would be shut down, passport and visa processing would cease, mine safety inspections would stop, financial oversight would be put on hold, border patrol and law enforcement would be curtailed and in total nearly one million federal workers would be temporarily out of a job.

How many responsibilities and jobs of the government can you think of? Who else works for the federal government? Is the government like a really big company because of how many people it employs? Do you think it's okay for the government to shut down? What advice would you give the lawmakers -- how can they compromise when they so strongly disagree? Do you think the shutdown will end up actually costing money?

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To see last week's Family Dinner Download, click here.

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For more tips and recipes, check out The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt (