Federal Flush

How is the government shutdown sending us down the drain?


An observation regarding the recent federal government shutdown.

Avery Young, Staff Writer

1/19/2018, was Congress’ deadline for the heavily debated new Federal budget. A Federal Government shutdown usually only occurs with an evenly split amount of representatives from both parties. This year, as a result of a multitude of factors and despite the GOP controlling both the House and the Senate, agreements simply could not be made.


So, the federal government shut down again. What does that mean for the vast majority of people? Federal employees, military personnel, and civilians alike all experience the consequences of a halted bureaucracy.  


The federal shutdown was, up until the Carter presidency, fairly unstructured and varied in intensity case-by-case. A system was instituted in the late 1970’s to handle the shutdown more uniformly, with a division of federal employees into essential and non-essential categories.


Essential employees work during the shutdown and have their pay withheld for the duration of the closure. Essential employees for the most recent shutdown included air traffic controllers, immigration officers, and travel and customs agents. Nonessential employees are generally furloughed if the shutdown lasts for long enough.


Military personnel also work during the shutdown, though their pay is held until the shutdown ends. Military personnel are also fully paid for the work done following reinstatement of funding. Unfortunately, reimbursement often fails to cover the month’s expenses and long-term shutdowns can be extremely detrimental to many government employees.


For everyone else, the government shutdown is usually life as normal. Depending on which programs are on the chopping block, sometimes services that can save lives are threatened as funding for subsidized school lunches and head start programs will run out if not reinstated. Fortunately, the majority of programs only stop functioning for a short time if at all and those that do lose funding rather than being shut down immediately.


On Monday, 1/22, the three-day-old shutdown was thrown out by the Senate in a “victory” for the Republican party with an 81-18 vote. The bill signed by President Trump ended the shutdown and allowed for federal employees to be paid throughout further shutdowns, which makes for less of an impact at the lower levels of functioning government. Unfortunately, the bill is merely a three-week stopgap  to lessen the imminence of the situation. The threat of shutdown has only been pushed back and will make its way back to the table in a few week’s time.


Only time will tell how and with what level of efficiency the shutdown will be resolved, however an increasing number of programs will lose funding not likely to be reinstated without some sort of compromise on both accounts.