Civilians’ Lives Shut Down

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Civilians’ Lives Shut Down

Art Credits to Emma Bertram!

Art Credits to Emma Bertram!

Art Credits to Emma Bertram!

Art Credits to Emma Bertram!

Ryan Zhang ‘20

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For five weeks, the government had been shut down over a dispute over border security between Republicans and Democrats. President Trump and other Republicans have advocated for a bill allocating more than five billion dollars towards border security, but Democrats have refused to support the bill. This led to a government shutdown as the two warring parties negotiated deals. But the government shutdown is not just about the government itself. What about all the federal workers who have to work without pay and the public services that depend on these people?

 

Although the main focus of the shutdown was the mess of negotiations for the bill, a problem that started as a mere blip on the radar has festered into a horrid cyst on the surface of our government. Furloughed, or temporarily laid off, workers would stop coming into work because of the absent paychecks. This led them to take on second jobs to make up for lost income. In fact, according to Time, the government furloughed 380,000 government workers,and 420,000 government workers have continued to work without pay, such as those in the Department of Homeland Security [1]. One area where the shutdown has had a massive impact is the TSA.

 

The TSA is responsible for keeping order and safety within the airport, so their disappearance has caused a great disturbance within airports. Many screeners, air traffic controllers, and safety inspectors have left, since they are not deemed as essential employees. This has caused greater wait times and delayed flights. For example, Miami International Airport closed off one of their concourses due to a lack of agents and the fear of a security issue [2]. On top of that, since many air traffic controllers left, air traffic has become more restricted, leading to even more delayed flights [2]. As Rishi Kundargi ‘20 recounts, “I sent my cousin to the airport two weeks ago and what should have been a 45-minute long security process took nearly an hour and a half! There were visibly fewer people working, so that could have been the reason why.” Similar to Kundargi, many must wait in lines that are two or three times longer than usual for a flight that may just be delayed. Some agents have orders to take up other missing agents’ positions, which causes less productivity. Overall, this creates frustration, not only among the employees but also the passengers.

 

In addition to the TSA, the FDA has also weathered the harsh effects of the government shutdown. About 41% of FDA workers were furloughed, so the FDA had to shift other workers around for different priorities [3]. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that they stopped routine food safety inspections of seafood, fruit, vegetables, and other foods because of the shutdown [3]. This could have severe implications for the health of U.S. citizens. Lucy Liao ‘22 said, “This situation reminds me of the recent romaine lettuce and E. coli scandal and it scares me that there could be even more disastrous food hazards because of the government shutdown.” The lack of inspectors to ensure that food is clean and disease-free could result in a decrease in quality and ultimately affect the health of the people. On the other hand, the meat department will continue food safety inspections, although workers have to work without pay. Gottlieb is trying to bring back inspectors to help lessen the impact of the shutdown, but due to the lack of pay, it may be difficult to convince them.

 

Although the shutdown may seem catastrophic for government employees, an equally horrible outcome is that average citizens have to suffer the consequences of government workers leaving their posts. People have to endure long wait times in the airport, preventing them from getting to work or even returning to their families. Food is at greater risk of containing harmful bacteria and pathogens due to a shortage of inspectors. The consequences are numerous, and this ordeal has not only cost the people their paychecks, but it has also cost the Presidency the people’s faith and trust that it could keep them safe and well.

 

[1] – http://time.com/5488566/government-shutdown-federal-workers-furlough-salary/

[2] – http://time.com/5501117/airports-tsa-government-shutdown-effects/

[3] – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/health/shutdown-fda-food-inspections.html

 

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