Dickinson Reacts to Government Shutdown, Temporary Reopening

Rachael Franchini ’19, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Dickinson students and faculty voiced concern over the partial government shutdown and its impact on government workers and others across the country.

The shutdown, which began Dec. 21, 2018 and temporarily ended last Friday, temporarily ended for three weeks after President Donald Trump signed a spending bill last Friday. Lawmakers have until Feb. 15 to negotiate the official annual budget, but Assistant Professor of Political Science Sarah Niebler holds that “[t]he shutdown doesn’t show any signs of ending soon.”

A government shutdown results from a gap in government funding when Congress and the president cannot agree on a budget. The 2018-2019 shutdown, over the contentious issue of funding for a wall at the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico, is the longest in U.S. history at 34 days up to last Friday, Jan. 25.

“While there have been government shutdowns in the past few years, this one has gone on longer than anyone has expected,” said Mychal Herber ’19, a political science major. “At first, I was hopeful that Congress and the President would be able to quickly agree on a solution, as they have in the past, but I am now becoming increasingly frustrated at the absolute lack of action.”

“I think part of the reason the shutdown has continued as long as it has is because we’re so far from the next election. I don’t think a shutdown would last nearly this long if it were in the spring or summer of an election year,” said Niebler.

Secretary of College Democrats, Preston MacLean ’20 stated that he supports Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her stance to block border funding.

“There are smart, technology-based steps we can take to prevent illegal migration and narcotics and human smuggling,” MacLean stated. “We can do this while living up to our national values and interests… they’re not exclusive. What doesn’t make sense, from a practical and moral stance, is to expand an already existing network of border fences/walls… A wall doesn’t do much along a lot of the border.”

Dickinsonians expressed their thoughts regarding the furloughed government workers and those working without pay.

“There are real, serious consequences that hundreds of thousands of government workers continue to face through no fault of their own, and it isn’t fair that they have to suffer because of the President’s inflexibility,” said Herber.

“I want to express my feelings regarding the 800,000 workers—from all sorts of different agencies and departments—and their millions of dependents for the strain placed on them by their lapsed paycheck,” stated MacLean. “Especially egregious are those forced to work without pay. The dignity of work comes not only from serving your community but being able to feed and house your family and support your local economy. This was a slap in their faces,” he concluded.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Katie Marchetti said the shutdown revealed the “financial precarity” of many government workers.

“The fact that most financial advisers recommend having at least six months of expenses in savings yet many federal workers are turning to food banks after missing two paychecks shows the disconnect between what is advised and what is lived reality,” said Marchetti.

She also expressed concern for federal parks and organizations suffering from the shutdown. 

“National parks are predicting it will take years to repair the damage inflicted on ecosystems as a result of the shutdown and leaders of national Native organizations have highlighted the negative effects of the shutdown on health and welfare on reservations,” she stated. “I personally know several academics whose research is on hold while they wait for federal workers to come back and review their applications for federal research grants – science has literally stopped,” Marchetti added.

In light of the reopening for negotiations, MacLean says that he is “cautiously optimistic.”

“[T]he Democrats are offering clear solutions, involving new and improved screening and monitoring technologies and processes, and I hope the president sees that as negotiations move forward… [W]e have good ideas to bring to the table and the president agreeing to fund the government through is a substantial step in the right direction. Now we can start actually coming to an appropriate response to the border issue and performing the basic legislating and oversight functions of government.”

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