Politicks Me Off: Longest Government Shutdown Unnecessary, Spurred by Conservative Commentators


Cartoon by Emily Nagy

The longest government shutdown in history concluded but left over 800,000 employees struggling after missing paychecks. Workers have returned to work with the next deadline being Feb. 15.

Esther Frances, Print Copy Editor

Over 800,000 federal employers spent 35 days either without work or working without pay as the longest government shutdown came to a temporary close Jan. 25. Even after agreeing to a short-term spending measure Dec. 18, President Trump decided to reverse this position and shut down the government Dec. 21 due to Congress not providing $5 billion to build a southern border wall.

Conservative media lashing out at President Trump for compromising with Democrats influenced him to shut down the government, though he should not be making important decisions based on what media specialists say. By shutting down the government, President Trump prioritized a personal project over almost one million American jobs.
Though the spending measure would have kept the government open until Feb. 8, the president decided that pleasing conservative pundits and his loyal base, who comprise only 30 percent of the population, according to a CNN telephone poll Sept. 2018, takes precedence over government workers’ jobs and wages.

Conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh made harsh comments towards President Trump’s short-term spending agreement on his radio show Dec. 19, including how “Trump gets nothing, and the Democrats get everything, including control of the House,” according to a Dec. 22 Washington Post article. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter added that Trump would have no legacy if the wall was not built and continued to blast both the President and Democratic support of the short-term spending measure on Twitter.

President Trump succumbed to media pressures and chose to shut down the government until he received his desired budget upfront rather than signing the short-term spending plan. This sets a dangerous precedent for both Trump and future presidents — if Congress yields to his desire in order to keep the government open, any president can shut down the government until they get what they want.

Federal employees have suffered the most during this shutdown as the second pay period without a paycheck passed Jan. 1. An estimated $6 billion in wages is owed to furloughed workers, according to the American Community Survey conducted by Sentier Research in January 2019. Even after the hard-earned money that was lost due to the shutdown exceeded the requested amount for the southern wall, President Trump still refused to prioritize American lives by reopening the government and is already threatening to shutdown the government again.

Though unable to change the state of the government, MCPS has been offering resources to federal workers without pay. Employment open houses offered interviews for open positions in the school system such as substitute teachers and bus drivers.

President Trump’s decision to shut down the government shows that his priority is not “America First,” as he promised in his campaign. He would rather prove to his conservative base that he refuses to back down on his campaign promises than to work in the favor of the rest of the country by reopening the government. Even now, as the government is reopened only for the next three weeks, there is no guarantee that it will not be shut down again in the future.

Different bills such as the End Government Shutdowns Act and the Stop STUPIDITY Act have already been proposed by senators trying to stop the harmful effects of government shutdowns. Solutions such as cutting lawmakers spending if a budget decision cannot be reached by a certain date can be used to motivate the president and Congress to arrive at a decision sooner rather than later so that American lives are not put on hold. With a week and a half left until the government shuts down again, hopefully President Trump will not cater his decisions to please his base and the conservative media and will instead keep American lives in mind and keep the government open.