The US Government Shutdown has entered its fifth week – thirty-three days to be precise. How did this shutdown occur, which has led federal government employees with no salaries for weeks? The political problem was conceived out of stark difference of positions between the US President and its House of Representatives in Congress.
Indeed, government shutdowns are not new in the US political history.
Prior to this situation, the country experienced a government shutdown in 2013 during the Obama administration as a result of opposition to the Patient Act and Affordable Care Act popularly known as Obamacare.
Hitherto, the longest shutdown was in 1996 during the Bill Clinton presidency when he opted against cutting spending and shrinking government – a proposal made by the then Republican House led by its speaker, Newt Gingrich. That came to an end after 21 days when a compromise was reached.
Currently, an agreement between the Democrats and Republicans could halt the shutdown. Their interest are conflicting. President Donald Trump’s wants to build a border wall and Democrats want immigration reform. President Trump campaigned on the issue of immigration, assuring Americans that he would build a wall along the US-Mexico border, if elected.
He is president now. He needs to get it done no matter the barrier his way. The wall is estimated to cost about $5.7bn.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been unequivocal in her submissions that there would be no deal if the White House continues to put the wall on the table, satirically indicating that the administration may get $1 for it. Despite series of encounter between the two sides, neither is ready to budge with meetings turning heated in the end-As the impasse shows no signs of defusing.
The real victims of the government shutdown are the American people, and the over 800,000 federal employees working without pay or furloughed. These are regular people who are finding it hard to pay their bills, mortgages and food supplies.
In a recent interview with CNN, one furloughed worker lamented on how she was struggling to purchase insulin and other medical bills vital to her health.
The most fundamental effect of any shutdown is the abrupt cut of government services. Parks and recreational facilities funded by government are closed. Public institutions operate with very limited time resources or halt activities altogether while they whine and wait for the political actors to make a headway.
One of the critical agencies affected is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that are obligated to maintain security, order at airports and deal with potential assailants coming through. For weeks without paycheck can be only interpreted as a security risk for the country.
The US Economy is generally expected to take a hit when the numbers are released later this year.
After the 2013 shutdown, Standard and Poors, a financial ratings agency reported that the government had lost $24bn from its economy. This should be disturbing to all stakeholders.
The impasse has caused non-political actors, including celebrities and foreign observers to speak up. One other speaker who has added his voice to the political windstorm is former President George W. Bush, who posted a picture of himself on Instagram serving out pizza to his Secret Service detail. For years after his presidency he has stayed out of political conversations, yet, decided to break his silence for the greater good.
The opinion polls are out to get the President to yield. While 29% think Democrats are to blame, an immense 53% lay the blame on Mr. Trump’s doorstep. Only 13% believe both sides are to take responsibility.
Whether or not that is suicidal for the administration, we can only observe.
Interestingly, high leveled talks between the President of the United States and the House Speaker together with Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer has not resumed in weeks.
The two sides appear to be waiting on who blinks first. Concession would mean defeat. Defeat might be politically costly for either side, while the flipping game continues, and the economy suffers