Unable To See The End of The Government Shutdown



A protestor affected by the shutdown stands outside the White House. (Keith Ellison/Flickr)

Kira Berzack

The government of the United States officially shut down on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. The shutdown was initiated due to a disagreement within the Senate. The president is trying to pass a budget that would grant 5.7 billion dollars strictly to fund border security, more precisely: The Wall.

President Trump’s rationale of the bill is that the protection of American citizens takes precedence over the acceptance of migrants who have come to the U.S. undocumented. On Jan. 22, 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted “Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security. With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S.” Through this tweet, President Trump expressed his desire for border security. He showed his persistence and reluctance to cave to the efforts of the opposition to derail his plans.

Not only has this bill caused an internal conflict within the Senate, but it has also placed a suspension on thousands of federal officers’ paychecks in agencies such as TSA, FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Lori McLaurin is a 28-year IRS veteran who works in the Philadelphia office. “When they say, ‘one paycheck away from homeless,’ I’m not there, but I’m real close. And it’s disturbing,” remarked McLaurin, exemplifying the true and harmful part of the shutdown.

There is no question that this partial government shutdown has had a huge impact on government employees and the economy as a whole. It has caused a ripple effect of a loss of billions and billions of dollars per a day. So, how did we get here? This is a zero-sum game, meaning neither side will truly win.

President Trump campaigned on the platform that he would secure the southern border in order to  reduce illegal immigration, drugs and rampant gun smuggling. He also stated that he would urge Mexico to pay. In the first six months of his presidency, he tried to pass a budget including 25 billion dollars in funding for a southern border wall.

At the beginning of his presidency, the Republicans held a majority in both the House and the Senate. It seemed like a certainty that a wall would be funded. The Speaker of the House at the time was Republican Paul Ryan; he was an arch enemy of Trump and was completely against the wall. In November 2018, through midterm elections the House become Democratic and the Senate remained Republican. The change of power in the House was effective as of Jan. 3, 2019. President Trump felt this was the time for his last ditch effort to fund the wall– the platform on which he was elected president.

It is clear that 5.7 billion dollars will not fund a continuous concrete wall of 1,933 miles. A writer for Fox News, Liberty Vittert, wrote “The Trump administration wants to enforce border security with a combination of a physical wall and natural barriers that would protect the estimated 1,933 miles-long border between the United States and Mexico. Many different cost estimates have been thrown around, from as little as $8 billion to as much as $70 billion, with anywhere from $150 million per year to $750 million per year in maintenance.” This is a fight about general border security.

Democratic Party leaders feels that the wall is not a necessity for America. These leaders support other measures for border security. The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a thirty-foot wall,” said Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader. Republican leaders, including the president, feel that there is a need for increased border security in the form of a wall.

Israel has proven that walls do work. After experiencing an influx of refugees from Sudan and other African countries, Israel constructed a fence on their border with Egypt. Senator Ron Johnson said, “Israel… had a real problem with illegal immigrants coming in from the southern border, about 16,000 in one year. In two years, they constructed 143-mile fence, about $2.9 million per mile, and it cut that illegal immigration rate from about 16,000 to I think 18. Cut it by 99 percent.”

After 35 days of the partial government shutdown, President Trump signed a bill to temporarily reopen government organizations until February 15 while they are still negotiating a budget. Some 800,000 government employees missed getting their paychecks at this time. This is a huge repercussion on workers who live paycheck to paycheck. In addition to this, there are millions of government contracts that are on hold until further notice.

This debate is not just about the 5.7 billion dollars. After all, this amount represents just .00126% of government expenditure. It is about political parties unable to compromise and a stalemate preventing a possible solution.