The United States Capitol on a cloudy day. “I’m really concerned for this country and the direction it’s heading in,” said 9th grader Sophie Cullen. (Flickr Creative Commons: Phil Roeder)
The United States Capitol on a cloudy day. “I’m really concerned for this country and the direction it’s heading in,” said 9th grader Sophie Cullen.

Flickr Creative Commons: Phil Roeder

Students show growing dismay after month-long government shutdown

A opinion poll of grades 9-12 collects thoughts on the longest government shutdown in history

January 25, 2019

One month in

Martin Luther King Jr. Day—a day of celebration, service and progress—marked the 32nd of the longest government shutdown in United States history. Over the course of a month, numerous federal services have gone dormant, half a million federal workers have lost their wages, and Congress has, unsuccessfully, toiled over a compromise. Disagreement runs amok, but all sides can agree on one thing: the shutdown can’t go on.

The origins of the government shutdown are wary. However, the central conflict is Trump’s proposed border wall. He demanded that $5.7 billion in funding be included in the 2019 federal budget, and Congress rejected that proposal. Since late September, the house has tried to work things out and agree on the budget, but Trump is adamant about receiving the funds.

Disagreement runs amok, but all sides can agree on one thing: the shutdown can’t go on.

Normally, the federal budget is finalized by Sept. 30—its official due date—but it is not uncommon for deliberation to persist until the end of the year. If Congress still hasn’t reached an agreement by Dec. 22, a partial government shutdown ensues, and all non-essential discretionary programs close. There are only nine such programs, but their roles are pervasive.

TSA officers, as part of the Homeland Security program, have gone without pay for an entire month.This conflict coincides with peak winter travel rates, making it particularly untimely. Without a wage, officers tend to call in sick, or even quit their job and find part-time work to make ends meet.

Another prevalent concern is the closure of the Food and Drug Administration. Aside from drug approval delays, the FDA has stopped routinely screening high-risk foods—such as seafood, pork, and lettuce—for bacteria and parasites, meaning there is an increased chance of foodborne illness. Two days ago, however, the FDA announced it’s resuming routine food inspections.

A poll sent to 100 students, with a 35% response rate, details students’ beliefs on which side of the discussion was at fault, levels of concern, and what should happen next.


Student reactions

Students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School are feeling the effects of the shutdown in varying degrees. Up until now, the shutdown has lurked in the back of most students’ minds as a concern, but not one with repercussions reaching SPA’s halls. 

Overall, students reflected a high degree of concern for the nation, but responses ranged from indifference to consternation.

What next?

The shutdown has to end eventually. In fact, the sooner it ends, the less costly it will be in the long run. It’s reasonable to assume that withholding paychecks from federal officials and shutting down federal programs would save the government—and taxpayers—a sum of money, but it simply doesn’t. Most federal employees actually receive their missing paychecks when the government reopens, and if the programs they work in have been closed, their salary (funded by taxpayers) goes to waste.

There are a multitude of ways the government could reopen, but they invariably involve some party backing out. BBC predicts that Trump will strike a deal with Congress, which could go in many directions. Alternatively, if neither side backs down, Trump could declare a national emergency and seize the funds for his wall without congressional approval, which is a more inflammatory, but less likely route.

Last Saturday, Trump offered a three-year extension to protection for 700,000 DACA “Dreamers” in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. The Democrats showed little interest in his proposal; Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, denounced the plan as “not a compromise but more hostage taking.”

At SPA, the majority of students hold that Trump should let go of his proposed border wall funding. Nevertheless, a large portion of students are interested in a compromise instead.


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