Imagine hundreds of thousands of people without pay, but having to work anyway. People go hungry because they are no longer provided aid for multiple weeks, or go unpaid for their hard labor. Numerous other services and businesses closed.
This is the current situation in the United States due to the government shutdown now in its third week. There are currently over 800,000 government workers in the United States. Most of those jobs are currently closed and the workers will miss a paycheck. In addition, agencies such as NASA and the National Park Services are not being funded.
Why even shut down the government in the first place? The government is usually shut down when funding plans can not be secured for the fiscal year (the period of time in which the government decides on budget plans). Government agencies, contractors, and numerous others do not receive funding and must close as a result. This causes the government to declare a shutdown.
This time it was debate about funding for border control, specifically the border wall and border security.
This would not be a problem if the government was not shut down for so long. When a shutdown happens it’s usually only for a few days, just over a week at most. The issue is when the shutdown is prolonged; in a normal scenario, the government shuts down, government workers and contractors carry out their work and receive their pay a few days later when the government opens back up.
Whenever a shutdown is prolonged, people don’t get their pay on the weeks they are supposed to. Sure, there is compensation for the damages in the form of back pays, but some workers don’t receive back pay if their line of work is considered “non-essential.” These may include government contractors (like engineers or artists) or people in a company that receives partial funding from the government.
Other effects may concern public health. National Parks and landmarks also close, creating health concerns as bathrooms clog since and trash is littered everywhere since there are only a handful of volunteers cleaning them.
According to some reports, people have defecated in public areas, as well as National Parks, and with no one to clean it up, it lingers.
Some services like food stamps await approval or aren’t given to some people. Many scholarship and grant opportunities, such as the Robert Kennedy Essay Grant, from numerous organizations are down, meaning people can’t get financial aid.
And the worst part: this is all preventable. There are at least two methods that President Trump could have utilized instead of a government shutdown.
Trump and congress could have approved funding plans for border security, or Trump could use his legislative powers to declare a state of emergency. A state of emergency would allow Trump to get external funding for the border wall without going through congress. Although it would likely come under fire as unconstitutional, it would have prevented or ended a government shutdown that is now the longest in history.