The average American isn't a U.S. History major, nor a fanatic about the political atmosphere/government, seen in the downfall of political turnout and national voting. So to the average person, the phrase: "The government has been shut down!" may raise few heads and throw an air of caution, but for the most part, it doesn't seem like it would affect our day to day lives.
But oh, how mistaken they are.
When I took my first government class, I was an overly excited freshmen, first beginning high school and dipping my toes into the first of many AP Classes. AP Government was a rigorous class: filled with hundreds of terms to memorize, jargon to understand and the necessity to remember the thousands of loopholes that exist within our legislative system that has been exploited over history. But the most important aspect about understanding government, the highlighted fact of the class, was that the government does not run on its own.
Why did the government shut down?
What does this mean? It means that the government is truly by the people and for the people. It is a system set up that can only be ran correctly by the population, as it is set to take into account all the voices of the people and reflect the majority. Those in argument against the government fail to take into account this fact: the government nor the government heads are not to blame for the failures seen of it today, rather, the people are to blame.
There's a growing separation between the government and the people: only a minority of the population is voting, only a minority are speaking out and so, only a minority of people are being heard. This has drastic effects, as extreme beliefs held by radical Democrats or Republicans statistically are always within the minority of the population but differs from the nation from being more driven to go out and vote.
This means, for candidates to win, they're no longer seeking the approval of the entire nation. They're seeking the approval of radicals, and thus, their political agendas line up as radical as their constituents beliefs. Sound familiar?
So how does this play into the government shut down? Well, after a candidate is selected for office, one of the first major decisions that has to be made by the new president is deciding the federal budget (Yes, America does have a budget!) which allocates only a certain amount of money to different sectors of the government.
For example, here is a graph of the allocations made in 2017:
As you can tell by the graph, the government allocates the majority of the money towards programs such as Medicare, MedicAid, Social Security and the military. The need for the budget is essential, because over the last couple of centuries, America had dug itself into a deep, deep whole of debt: the need to buy oversea steel during the Industrial Revolution, the war efforts in WWI and WWII, the Great Depression reparations to today's importation of goods heavily stemming from China and military building.
Now 21.7 trillion dollars need to be paid back, plus interest, and we are firmly stuck to the federal-made budget.
Compounded with highly partisan politics today, deciding the federal budget isn't easy, as most has to go to mandatory services, leaving "discretionary spending" up in the air for allocations between Republicans and Democrats. The largest of this category is defense spending, of which Republicans almost always argue in favor for more money to be out towards it, while Democrats do the opposite.
At the end of discussions, normally a compromise can be set, and allocations are then made accordingly. Of course, this allocation can shift per the year, such as the budget in 1944 would reflect a higher allocation towards defense as America was in the midst of WWII. But since no major war has involved America over the last couple of decades, there is a growing need to want to lower this defense allocation by Democrats, which doesn't sit well with Republicans.
What caused the government shut-down?
What if a compromise isn't made? Well, this is exactly what has happened, and the big spark of the issue is over Trump's legislation for the building of the Mexico-Texan Wall to keep illegal immigrants out.
Wanting to allocate billions of dollars into its construction, this would need to be factored into the federal budget, but then, it would take billions of dollars away from other important sectors not within the mandatory spending, such as education and environmental research — a decision Democrats are refusing to compromise on.
After the year ends, normally the new federal budget is put into place and the funds are allocated, but without an agreed upon budget, the last budget is carried over into the new year which by then, most of the funds would have already dried up.
So, how's it affecting students?
As part of the government, the paycheck of federal workers is one sector of the government budget plan. With no plan, or a plan carried into the new year, no federally employed worker can be paid, and thus, most stop working because of it. This is not extended to only congressmen and women. Everyone from postal workers, TSA agents, diplomats and the armed services are not being payed, and thus, they aren't going to work.
It leaves America defenseless and in a state of panic: airport lines wait increases by tenfold, the red tape around bureaucracy doubles and moving forward seems harder than stepping back. Any place that is federally funded, such as national museums and national parks, are closed down with the shut down until a compromise can be made as well as federal agencies. So sorry, but no, the FDA isn't checking your lettuce at the current moment.
What hits hard for many college students is dealing with FAFSA renewal. Allocations of financial aid are set at a standstill when the IRS data retrieval tool doesn't work, yet the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can't be contacted, because it's shut down, too. Along with this, students are also getting hit with cancelled flights and multiple hour long security lines at airport gates while trying to return back from winter break.
With the addition of such a big government expense, such as the wall, comes sacrifice to other sectors and a greater national debt: one Democrats in Congress can't afford to increase. The upkeep itself on the wall is another government expense as national forces are going to need to be posted around the large border 24/7, leading to more government paychecks, as well as the wall's upkeep in making sure no part is broken. The current thorn in the plan is that we are now currently 30 days into our shut-down and feeling the rising tension in Congress.
Whether or not we come to a compromise all boils down to whether or not we build the wall. Trump's entire political platform is centered around it, and not meeting his promises would break his political standing and lower his approval rating, which already broke records for being America's historically lowest. But for now, we continue to see the implications of this political standstill, hurting both ourselves and our future.