Democrats and Republicans; they might as well be synonymous for government shutdown in the twenty-first century. While many pundits will be quick to point out the benefits of divided government, often citing the late 1990s as an example, the most unfortunate victims of these tumultuous times are the government workers. Just several weeks after the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history, we might be days away from another potential shutdown. Earlier this week, a deal was reached in principle to avert it again. However, hanging in the balance of these conflicts are the government workers deemed “nonessential,” and other groups disparately hurt more by the shutdown than the politicians. The country needs a new political device to exact change.
Government shutdowns should not be tools for pushing congressional or presidential agendas. They devastate government employees. During the last shutdown, Secretary of Commerce made the ridiculous request of furloughed government workers to seek out payday lenders. The government workers should not be forced to take on debt at exorbitant interest rates due to political squabbling. However, in the current age, shutdowns have been used to further political agendas. There lies the problem. Politicians are in turn playing with the lives of the people they are meant to represent. TSA workers are sent home leaving airports barren. Even people who are a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, are unable to pay for food. So what is the greater good in all of this pain?
In this circumstance, neither side wanted to be seen as caving. President Trump is intent on building a wall to secure the southern border, while Nancy Pelosi and the House Dems are equally vigorous in opposing it. An added wrinkle to this past shutdown was the posturing of Senate Dems eager to run for President, stepping over each other to more vehemently argue against the practicality or humanity of a Southern barrier. While it is certainly not a bold position to argue that furloughed government employees shouldn’t be caught in the cross hairs of petty political conflict, it is crucial to take a step back from one’s party lines and realize the hardship that the workers are going through is unnecessary.
Government, when running smoothly, can be a beautiful thing, but a government whose only constituency being shut down like a pet rock will not do anything for you. A government that holds furloughed workers and others hostage is one that is hard to believe in. This past shutdown was about the wall. It is not that hard to imagine a world in which an even pettier shutdown occurs and the workers will have to pray that they can get through that one too.
We as a editorial board hope that the two recent government shutdowns do not portend a new norm where divided government does leads to inevitable gridlock. We hope a new framework can be instituted that does not leave civilians hurting and the politicians in their luxurious dwellings while telling those hurt to seek payday lenders.