Ring Ring, US Government? It’s shutdown.

Ring Ring, US Government? It’s shutdown.

 

Original image: https://images.rapgenius.com/fa02f76daef9fe1bd39a850d69fab806.700x700x1.jpg

(edited by Julia)

 

Unfortunately, no, this is not lyrics to a Skepta remix (cheesy, eh?). You may have seen or heard about the US ‘government shutdown’ and have wondered how a government can be put on pause. Even if you have no interest in politics and would rather pretend it doesn’t exist, it’s hard to escape the ongoing political confusion both at home in the United Kingdom and abroad in the United States.

The purpose of this article is to provide information to help understand why the US government is partially ‘shutdown’ and how this political gridlock affects government workers.

In the United States, the Legislative branch, most often referred to as Congress, is tasked with creating laws as well as approving the Federal Budget; the United States’ year-long plan for spending money. Congress is a bicameral legislature, meaning it is made up of two Chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both the House and the Senate must agree upon the same federal budget for it to be successfully passed and implemented. 

Because the US government is predominantly a two-party system of Democrats and Republicans, it is often difficult for these opposing sides to agree on much. Members of the House and the Senate can sometimes find it extraordinarily difficult to agree upon the original budget presented by the President. If an amended budget faces rejection, or VETO, from the President, there is a great possibility of government shutdown.

This is exactly what has happened.

On December 22, 2018 the US government began the longest government shutdown in United States’ history.You are probably wondering ‘Which aspect of the Budget is so controversial that the government has been shutdown for this long?”. Surprisingly, there is a simple answer: the president’s proposed US-Mexico border wall.

President Trump’s original Budget for the 2019 fiscal year allocated $5.7 billion in federal funds for erecting a wall along the Mexican border of the United States. The intention of the wall is to combat “illegal immigration” of people from several Latin American countries including Guatemala, Venezuela, and El Salvador (failing nation-states typified by extreme threats of violence and lack of economic opportunity) through Mexico to the United States. So far, President Trump’s request for the federal funds to construct the wall have proved unsuccessful; the Democratic House approved an amended budget which excluded the funding of the wall, but the Republic Senate would not pass this same amended budget. President Trump has shown deep commitment to the construction of a wall and has threatened to use his VETO power to deny any formally passed budget which excludes funding for the US-Mexico border wall.

On the Democrat side, The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority leader, Chuck Schumer, refuse to budge, stating unequivocally building a wall on the southern border is a morally reprehensible act.

And so, with this great impasse, we had 35 days of this infamous government shutdown.

Wherever one may fall on the political spectrum, we can all agree that this government shutdown has had a devastating effect on individuals and their families. 9 of 15 federal departments and 800,000 federal employees have been affected by the shutdown. Of these federal employees, some have been deemed ‘essential’ personnel and are forced to continue working without pay, while other employees have been deemed as ‘non-essential’ personnel and can neither work nor receive pay. Imagine having a job but being uncertain of when you will be paid next. This is the reality of a government shutdown; utter uncertainty.

IMAGE: https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/jRZjsjRjCuGbdb7nruoXMAsUXFc=/0x0:1200x994/1720x0/filters:focal(0x0:1200x994):format(webp):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13693197/SHUTDOWN_BY_THE_NUMBERS_V2.jpg Javier Zarracina/Vox

Federal Departments including the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and Agriculture are three of the nine departments affected by the shutdown.

It has been said that 35,000 FBI employees have gone unpaid throughout the shutdown. In support of their colleagues, other employees have put together collections of non-perishable goods and made it available to those in their offices who are struggling to support themselves and their families. Many of those who have gone unpaid have resorted to finding ‘second’ jobs, but these outside jobs must be approved by the FBI itself.

Some FBI operations have been put on pause due to the lack of resources, while other operations continue to head in this direction as the shutdown continues and the available funds are lessening.

The US Coast Guard is categorized under the Department of Homeland Security. All workers deemed ‘essential’ have continued their duties without receiving a paycheck for weeks. This is the first time in history that members of the Armed Forces have gone unpaid during a government shutdown.

Not only have individuals and their families been affected by the shutdown, but the physical lands of the US have been affected as well.

National parks fall within the Department of Agriculture. Many park employees have been deemed as ‘non-essential’; therefore, parks have been severely understaffed. The severity of this understaffing has resulted in vandalism of one national park in particular: Joshua Tree National Park in California. Un-welcomed visitors set up illegal campsites throughout the park and even cut down the park’s famous and beautiful Joshua trees.

Politics is never easy; perhaps it cannot be. Great questions of our time should be debated, but at what point should one side let go of what they desire, or both sides find a compromise, for the sake of the people affected? That is a difficult question which surely must be running through the minds of those with the power to end this infamous shutdown. This is a time of uncertainty for all Americans: federal employees and non-federal employees; Democrats and Republicans. If President Trump continues to demand funding for the US-Mexico border wall, and Congress continues to deny his request, the US federal government will continue to stand still, with more and more devastating impact on federal employees with each passing day.

 

Links I used:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/budget-fy2019.pdf

https://www.vox.com/2019/1/16/18182348/why-is-the-government-shut-down-questions-answered

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/17/politics/fbi-shutdown-food-bank/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3JXhqJ9RLah6xRVcTpEdmVw3OcrxDw6Wxd6hOAnC1HGcYa3ZY9wwdBNys

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/19/politics/government-shutdown-qa/index.html?utm_medium=social&utm_term=link&utm_content=2019-01-20T00%3A00%3A50&utm_source=fbCNN

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/11/us/california-joshua-trees-cut-down-during-shutdown-trnd/index.html