The issue to shut down the government was stalled by Congress on December 5, 2018, meaning that federal employees would still receive a paycheck. However, after fighting towards no shutdown the fight was lost after 16 days. On December 22, 2018, President Donald Trump shifted the lifestyle of government agency employees.
During the duration of the shutdown employees paid by the government would not be given their compensation. Instead of their holidays being filled with joy, comfort, and hope, thousands were struck with worry and fear.
The government shut down is on its’ 34th day and remains with no anticipation to come to an end. Despite this unfair hardship, federal employees are still expected to get up and go to work. Their hard work and long hours have gone unpaid for in recent weeks. Approximately 800,000 workers and their families are being affected by our President’s selfish acts. Until Congressional Democrats approve of funds for border wall security, the government will not be re-opened.
Trump has made statements towards his plans for the oncoming months. He indicated that he could keep several parts of the government shut down for “months or even years.”
From going unpaid to trying to figure out how to make a house payment on time to buying their children a new winter clothing, it is all on thin ice.
Rather than worrying about these workers being financially able to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads, Trump’s main priority is paying for his plan to enhance border security. He has cut funding to 36 agencies in hope that he could receive funding for wall.
The chaos remains in the air because paycheck balances remain at $0. However, despite their mixed emotions, federal employees are not allowed to go on strike. Since the Taft- Hartley Act was approved in 1947, they have not been allowed to fight for better pay, working conditions, or benefits. These employees are expected to go on as if they will have a paycheck with numbers other than just zeroes on it.
Putting these matters aside, it is unfair for Congress and the President to continue receiving their paycheck during a time in which so many employees are struggling. These powerful people have the capability to end this prolonged shutdown. If they are able to go along with their lives as if the U.S is not facing a “national emergency,” as Trump stated, then how is it justifiable?
The President and Congress should not be paid during this time if other federal employees are not. If we are on shutdown, they should be too. Furlough should apply to them and their salaries, not only ones they choose to be affected.
Taking a stand on this, more than 70 members of Congress are rejecting their pay during the shutdown. On January 1, 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote out a Tweet in hopes that she could create a chain reaction.
“Over 7,000 people in Massachusetts have been sent home or are working without pay during \%23TrumpShutDown. Until @realDonaldTrump re-opens the government, I’m donating my salary to @HIASrefugees, a nonprofit that helps refugees and makes our country stronger in the process,” she stated.
However this does not ease the shoulders of federal workers during this bumpy road. The feeling that they do not have a job because there is no money, their constant thought of how they are going to get by another week, the hope they continue to keep for the re-opening of the government remains. How is it fair for people to be working without pay?
Federal employees have not been notified about when this shutdown will end but only to prepare for a tough road ahead. It has been weeks of not knowing what the future holds for them.
Randy Erwin, the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees stated, “A lot of things are possible under this president, so I think we have to start preparing.”
In the end, the shutdown does come with its costs as well. The longer this furlough goes on, the costlier it could take to get the government back up and running. According to the Office of Management and Budget when Obama shut the government down for 16 days in 2013 it cost around $2.5 billion in back pay and compensation.
President Donald Trump is willing to do whatever it takes even if it takes an unknown length of time. Last week Trump warned Democratic leaders that he could keep the government shut down going for “months or even years.” The fact that while this occasion has never occurred for so long, it is possible. Thousands of jobs will be down the drain and the future of these families will be in the dark if the government does not re-open soon.
These 3 weeks have felt like an eternity to some families, including my own. How could a person who is supposed to lead our country and do what is best for every citizen make such an egocentric decision? Employees who protect our borders, handle our farming, education, and commerce are all without pay. The families of these federal workers are struggling to buy simple items like groceries and cleaning supplies.
The fact that this is happening should make Congress take action before things get out of hand. Thousands of families cannot go on living on thin ice because of their “temporary financial status” because of furlough. The people including these some of these workers were promised more than this. It is unconstitutional for this to be happening.
Since the start, Trump always said his goal was to “Make America Great Again.” In the mix of all this, there is no greatness being made in America right now. His explanations and arguments may convince many but definitely not those who are being influenced by the shutdown. If no one puts their foot down to end this drought, every citizen will eventually be affected.
In the President’s eyes the government shut down is thought to have great purpose but the length in which it has been going on is out of hand. Families are expected to pay bills and provide for their children but their previous paychecks will run out. There is no valid reason to temporarily put a stop to their pay. Just like other workers, the government employees work day in and day out to receive pay. Why should their stipends be put on hold?
An easier way out would be not to build this border wall at all. Before Trump got elected he mentioned this would be paid for by Mexico. Coming into office he realized that they would not. This means that his plan to “protect the U.S” is not very well planned out. Using this wall for border security will minimize the legal crossing of these immigrants but not completely stop it. The biggest reason that should be considered to get rid of Trump’s plan is that there is clearly not enough money to build it. The U.S should stop rushing and take time to realize how difficult $5 billion is to pay off before it is too late. $5 billion is the paycheck to thousands of workers who do so much for our country. It is the needs and wants of their children. Most importantly, it the money that our country does not need to spend on border security.
There is no need to take such an aggressive and urgent approach towards this problem. He calls illegal immigrants crossing the border without permission a “national emergency.” However, as a resident of a border town, I feel very safe. The aggressive and urgent action is unnecessary. There are other ways to fix or improve this issue; hiring more Border Patrol and Customs agents, spending more money on technology that covers our borders, and communicating with Mexico constantly could stop the wall. Additionally, these three solutions would not override $5 billion dollars or nearly half of that. Smart choices need to be made for the better of our country. Spending billions of dollars and building a wall at our borders is not a way to give America a better tomorrow.
Because the shutdown has taken a toll of federal employees due to the span of time, people in communities have reached out. Citizens have their hands out ready to help during this difficult time. In Laredo, Texas, various restaurants have given federal employees vouchers for free food for themselves and their families. They understand that they are currently under a dark cloud financially. Additionally, banks are now giving out loans without interest. The fact that these banks are considering the conditions that these employees are in shows that it is now time for everyone to come together as one.
A month of not knowing what is next has put federal workers and their loved ones in worry. The longer the President decides to keep this going, the worst it is going to get. Surviving day by day is the new motto for these federal employees that do so much for our country from maintaining it to protecting it. When the President thinks about keeping the government on shutdown, he should consider the families and financial standing of these employees as well.
This story was originally published on The Magnet Tribune on January 25, 2019.