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The government shutdown has shown us what our leaders truly value

Our government is currently working in spite of the people, not for it.

“I don’t really feel bad about the people who are furloughed,” my father said. “I don’t think the government should be employing so many people.”

We were talking about the government shutdown, specifically the size of our government. He explained how he thought the government was too big, and how the idea of such a huge employee base being paid with his hard-earned tax dollars was appalling to him.

While I was able to help him come from the precipice of thoughtlessness, admitting that park rangers and military service members were essential government personnel, he wouldn’t budge on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

His thoughts regarding the size of our government are not rare. In fact, as the government shutdown comes to an end many people are feeling the same. Right-wing and libertarian pundits are calling for smaller government, saying that we have done fine without one this far. So why do we need one at all?

Advocates for smaller government are simply holding the shutdown as an example of why small government works. Our country didn’t spontaneously combusted or caved in on itself, so surely a smaller government is all we need.

However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the president and his advisors want to acknowledge it.

However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the President and his advisors want to acknowledge it. Click To Tweet

On January 16, 42,000 coast guard members went without a paycheck. This is the first time since the Revolutionary War that our military has not been paid while acting in defense of our country. However, the effects of the shutdown extend through all levels of government.

From IRS employees to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, over 800,000 government workers went without pay during the partial government shutdown. Some were furloughed, as they were deemed nonessential.

However, many, like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at some of the countries busiest airports were still required to report to work. Like our soldiers in foreign theater, they were required to work without pay. As a result, many are called in sick causing jams at airport security.

Going weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable. While Congress and the executive branch argue over a $5.7 billion border wall, the low-income employees that serve our country went without pay.

Going over weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable. Click To Tweet

For those displaced by the recent fires in California, aid was shut down as FEMA has been ordered to halt all operations.

Many recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received their February benefits two weeks early – halfway through January. The early push of funds to ensure benefits reached the neediest of people before funding ran out January 20th. Now, many who rely on the benefits to feed their children will be unable to put food on the table.

And as tax season approaches, over 30,000 IRS workers were ordered to work, however, like the members of the Coast Guard, the TSA, or other essential personnel, they worked without pay while the president fought for a wall we don’t need or want.

The ripple effects of the government shutdown are innumerable, and what’s more, it didn’t have to happen.

Government shutdowns are a relatively new invention. The first government shutdown only happened in 1976, two years after the national budget was placed in the hands of Congress. Since creating a hard deadline for the government fiscal year and putting the responsibility for the budget in the hands of Congress, it relies on a unanimous agreement between Congress and the executive branch.

By marrying these branches of government together, it allows for a constitutional crisis every time there is a need to fund the government. It allows Congress or the president to hold our country as a bargaining chip for their own agenda.

Today, that agenda was not just asking for a border wall, but also making an argument that our government is too large. In the eyes of those who thought this shutdown was productive, little value is seen on agencies like the IRS, SNAP, or FEMA. Further, the budget cuts that are affected the Coast Guard shows that there is little respect for the men and women who are defending our existing borders.

That is because those departments serve the people of this country, rather than the interests of bigotry and isolationism.

Bigotry and isolationism prevail in a government shutdown. Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. Click To Tweet

Those values prevailed in the shutdown.

Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. By holding the citizens of our country, and our country itself, for ransom we see the true motivation of our leadership. It’s without saying, Americans deserve better.