Government Shutdown: the Other Leaders of America

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Ashna Satpathy For the 24 months that the United States of America has been engulfed in this Trumpian era, not many could have foreseen the longest government shutdown approaching, and that it wasn’t going to be pretty. The shutdown began on December 22, 2018, and lasted for 35 days, approximately 5 weeks. Trump ordered this shutdown as a response for not getting funding for his wall on the southern border. He will keep the government shut down for as long as it takes until him and Congress can come to some sort of agreement – one in which he gets his funding. So far, both parties have offered solutions; Trump has proposed that if he is given $5.7 billion, he will reopen the government and give limited protections for dreamers, while the Democrats want the government to reopen but are reluctant to give Trump the money. While the days of the shutdown are quickly adding up, both parties are busy making far-fetched offers in negotiations and struggling to find common ground. Compromise has yet to be made, and federal workers are being hit hard as they can’t be paid with their normally scheduled paychecks. They have to wait until after the shutdown, which could be at any time, to be paid. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck, and going over a month without one can be devastating. According to NBC, as of January 22, “TSA experienced a national rate of unscheduled absences 7.5 percent compared to a 3.3 percent rate one year ago on the same weekday” and according to TSA, “many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.” Sophomore Brendan Myers believes that “it’s ridiculous, everything about it. [He’s] literally putting people out of work when they could actually be doing something productive for the country.” Brendan has a cousin who works for the government in Columbus Ohio, and he expressed that “they’ve just got nothing going for them.” His cousin has a new baby at home, too. CBS reported that The 800,000 government workers affected have lost an average of $5,000 each since the shutdown began last month, adding to about $200 million per workday in delayed wages.” Similarly, freshman Keely Moll has had encounters with this economic debacle and explained that her family’s “global entry interview was canceled because of the government shutdown. TSA was not conducting interviews and we were not even notified ahead of time that our interview was canceled.” Furthermore, upon returning from London on Monday, Keely noted that “a U.S customs agent here in Chicago mentioned that he wasn’t getting paid.” According to Trump, federal workers not having a financial safety net is rationalized because a “safety net is going to be having a strong border because we’re going to be safe.” Sophomore Colin Campbell had a similar story when traveling to and from the Washington DC. He mentions that “it wasn’t really noticeable at first. Everything was quite normal, occasionally there would be fewer employees at the security terminals and such, but I didn’t realize the impact until I heard that Washington Dulles International Airport sent out an email to their flyers saying to get to the airport early due to the increased time through security because of low staff.” With Trump being at an all-time high disapproval rating, and the people quickly scraping together an emergency plan for federal workers, there is no doubt that the country will feel the effects of this shutdown for a while, because everything in this country, especially as it pertains to economics, causes a ripple effect. For example, Julie Burr, an administrative assistant in the Department of Transportation, is a single mom that just picked up a second job to keep her family afloat during the shutdown. However, her second job is “only about 25 percent of [the] pay” that Burr makes at her federal job, meaning that it will by no means cover all of her bills. But the hardship doesn’t stop there: because Burr is a contractor, “if other federal workers are granted back pay after the shutdown, she is unlikely to see any of that money” (NPR). Burr is not only losing crucial revenue that she needs to provide for her family, but she will most likely never be compensating for the money that the shutdown took from her. Burr reflects on the saddening lengths she will have to go even after the shutdown is over to keep her family afloat: “I guess the drastic thing would be to start taking back Christmas gifts or, you know, maybe selling things…I hope it doesn’t come to that” (Burr). For many Latin students, it is easy to forget and feel unaffected by this shutdown, but it’s important to recognize the 800,000 federal employees affected by this. It’s arguably even more important to be gracious to all of the workers that still chose to come to work every day and perform their jobs, even though they aren’t being paid. Senior Lily Campbell gives her input into why federal workers continue to show up to their jobs every day:

“They show up to work because they have to—because they will lose their job, health benefits, and pension, most likely, if they don’t. It’s as if the federal government is playing poker with their workers: the government has a bad hand but the federal workers can’t take the chance to see if they’re bluffing,” 
It would be a shame, while the government continues on with their quarreling, to neglect the women and men who truly run this country, the ones behind the scenes that keep it going, the ones that allow for the government to bicker without the United States of America falling apart. ]]>