Politics Defined: What is a Government Shutdown?

While the Christmas season is one that is characterized by giving to the less fortunate, it seems that our President is humbugging it up this December. Following the coverage of Trump's interesting conversation with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, there has been a lot of conversation over the "Trump shutdown", as Pelosi put it. But what does a shutdown really mean? 

Why does a government shutdown happen?

In layman's terms, a government shutdown happens because of a failure, either by Congress or the President, to fund federal agencies. The reasons for that failure can be basically anything. Usually, it occurs because of a disagreement between the two on another piece of legislation. In this case, it is a decision that President Trump is taking full responsibility for.

Why is the President threatening a government shutdown? 

The President is currently trying to live up to his huuuge campaign promise, aka The Wall. The project is not looking cheap, though, and it seems that members of Congress are not entirely thrilled by the idea of spending the projected $70 billion that it would take to build and maintain such a structure. As a result of this disagreement, Trump is using a shutdown as leverage to get his funding. Unfortunately, a government shutdown actually has some very serious consequences.

What happens during a government shutdown?

The last government shutdown happened under the Obama administration in 2013, and it pretty negatively affected the country. According to Politifact, that shutdown soared far past Trump's initial budget request for his border wall. It doesn't just have a negative impact on the national debt, either. Shutdowns personally affect government workers and people living in poverty. 

According to Vox, this shutdown could possibly result in nutrition programs for underprivileged families running out within a matter of months. Recipients of Food Stamps and children who get free lunch are direct victims of a shutdown like this. On top of this, if the parents in these families work non-essential government jobs (food service, janitorial service, building security), they could be off even worse. Non-essential government employees are subject to being furloughed, or temporarily out of work, for the extent of the shutdown. If this lasts more than a few weeks, hundreds of families could be seriously affected. 

What can we do?

There isn't much that we can do in this situation, as it is entirely based on the decisions of government officials. What I would suggest, though, is to not support the border wall as it is planned. Even if you are a strong believer in border control, this wall could cost billions of dollars and it may not even work. An outward change in the public's opinion of the wall could possibly sway President Trump to reconsider his plan to build it, making the possibility of a government shutdown much smaller. This is a long shot, but based on Trump's history of caring much more about his "fans" than the future of the country, it's definitely worth a shot.