What does it mean for the government to shut down?

What does it mean for the government to shut down?

Autumn Lee, Journalist

On January 20, the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump taking the office of president, the U.S. government shut down. A government shutdown occurs when Congress does not pass or the president does not sign legislation that funds government operations. At the center of the recent shutdown was a dispute over immigration policy—specifically, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the building of a border wall.  So, what effect does a government shutdown have?

An obvious group affected by a government shutdown are people who are employed by the federal government. U.S. military are considered essential workers and stay at their posts, and U.S. mail continues to be delivered. About half of federal employees are considered “non-essential,” however, and have to stay at home during a government shutdown (which may not sound so bad, except that they do not get paid for this “time off”). The FBI, the Justice Department, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Health and Human Services are just a few government employers whose operations are affected when the government shuts down. National parks, monuments, museums, and zoos close to the public.

Beyond the inconvenience for the general public and the financial hardship that it can cause government employees, a shutdown indicates that the representatives we elect to work together have difficulties doing just that. As anyone who has worked on a group project or played a team sport knows, when there is a deadline looming (or the clock is running out), you push harder and get the job done. You don’t argue and point fingers at each other and play “pass the blame.” The most recent Gallup polls show a public approval rating for Congress at 17% (December, 2017) and a public approval rating for the President at 36% (January, 2018). Clearly, our elected officials have some work to do.