As of writing this on January 8th, the government has been partially shut down for 17 days. It's currently the second-longest shutdown in government history, beating out the shutdown during Obama's presidency in 2013 which lasted 16 days. The only shutdown that's lasted longer occurred during Clinton's presidency which lasted for 21 days and bridged from 1995 to 1996.
For context, the 2013 shutdown was started because funds were not properly appropriated for the fiscal 2014 year and the 1995-1996 shutdown occurred because Congress and the President were at a stalemate over cuts to Medicare to Medicaid. A government shutdown is never an optimal scenario, it's often the result of failed negotiations, a missed deadline or an ideological stalemate. This shutdown, however, feels less like a negotiation and more like a hostage situation.
This whole situation began over approving funding for Trump's border wall which we've all been hearing about since the beginning of his campaign trail. He's asking for $5.6 billion, to be exact, and as negotiations continue to falter it's become increasingly apparent that he's not willing to accept anything less than that.
Originally, we were all told that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Time passed and some contacts were made with the President of Mexico, who vehemently denied Mexico would have anything to do with Trump's wall. But through an incredible feat of mental gymnastics, Trump is now attempting to convince the American people and lawmakers that Mexico is indeed paying for the Wall through the revised North American Free Trade Agreement. From an economic standpoint, countries cannot lose money from a deficit. A trade deficit simply means that Country A is buying more goods from Country B than Country B is buying from Country A. Additionally, any money collected by the federal government through this updated trade agreement would have to be appropriated by Congress, leaving us at the exact same position that we are now.
And here we are, in the middle of a government shutdown with no end in sight. For weeks now, 800,000 federal workers have not seen a paycheck. People who depend on that money during the holidays have no reassurance that Trump has any inclination of negotiating. For these people, bills have to be paid, rent is due, and they cannot afford to wait around for Trump to make good on his broken campaign promise at their expense. If the shutdown continues until January 11, many federal workers will miss a paycheck.
So when Trump announced he was making a speech to the American people tonight, this felt like a good opportunity for a wall heat check. I expected plenty of lies, but at least I'd know where he stands on declaring a national emergency to completely bypass Congress and begin construction on the wall.
So I listened to his entire speech, and it was just about everything I expected. Fear mongering, deceptive/exaggerated statistics and flat out lies. There were a couple of things that struck me as contradictory or struck me as a red flag. He continually said that Democrats are the cause of the government shutdown, despite saying earlier in December that if the government shut down that he wouldn't blame them. He also conveniently avoided the fact that Democrats have offered a version of the bill that includes roughly $2 billion in border security upgrades, but no wall.
I also thought it was telling that he failed to speak directly to or address the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are either completely out of work right now or working for free. Trump didn't mention declaring a national emergency, but he called for addressing a supposed "humanitarian and security" crisis.
Every President for the past couple of presidencies has failed to deliver on a large campaign promise. For George H.W. Bush, it was that there would be no new taxes. For Obama, he promised that premiums wouldn't raise. For Trump, I have a feeling it's going to be his wall.