Dear 100 Hour Board,
Soooo... the ongoing shutdown. Trump's fault? Pelosi's fault? Or does it take two to tango?
However unlikely your solution is, what do you want to see happen to resolve this conflict?
PS - If anyone wants to rant about how ridiculous it is that our government is structured in such a way that it can indefinitely refuse paychecks to hundreds of thousands of workers who can't quit for fear of losing pensions they've spent their whole lives earning, here's your chance.
I think it's important that we understand what a shutdown is and how it works before we go too deep into this current shutdown and whose fault it is. My dad has a Master's degree in Public Policy, taught American Heritage at BYU-I, worked as a federal contractor for 15+ years, and has been involved in various levels of City, County, and State government. So I talked with him on the phone to make sure that I could provided a nuanced and accurate answer for you all.
How Government Spending is Allocated
The fiscal year for the federal government starts on September 1st. The Federal Government operates under a budget that must receive approval from both houses of Congress and the President. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, and then are passed on to the Senate and the President. I think that most people would agree that the Federal Government should operate under a budget. The idea of the Federal Government being able to spend whatever it wants is a scary idea. Forcing them to operate under a budget approved by our representatives is a way to ensure that we are being represented by our government and that they are constrained to the powers given to them under the Constitution.
Each individual agency and subsets of each agency have separate budgets and the house may propose a budget for any or all agencies. It is entirely possible to fund the Department of Defense without funding the National Forest service. This gives the government some flexibility in what gets approved when, and is an important point later on down the road.
What Happens When a Budget is Not Approved
What happens when a budget is not approved by September 1st? There are three options:
- Pass a partial or entire budget
- Pass a continuing resolution, which basically allows agencies to operate under last year's budget but without additional expenses such as new contracts or material purchases
- Halt spending entirely. This is the default option if neither options 1 or 2 occur
This would be a pretty normal situation, but the President and the Republican Party have refused to sign continuing resolutions in order to force a budget to be signed. This means that most agencies have been shut down, as opposed to continuing resolutions.
Hope this helps!
I'm going to get a PhD in political science (I just got into Princeton, y'all!) and even I am so sick and frustrated at the government and the shutdown I feel like I don't have enough energy left in me to go off on a rant. Basically Republicans and Democrats were agreed on a bill that would fund the government that didn't include money for the border wall. But then Fox News started calling Trump a wimp for giving into the bill without demanding funding for the wall (which ISN'T EVEN NECESSARY AND IS A WASTE OF MONEY but I digress), so Trump decided to shut down the government so his favorite people on TV wouldn't keep calling him a coward. And then, even though he said he'd take responsibility for the shutdown, he blamed the Democrats!
Yes, Democrats are somewhat responsible as well because if they really wanted to they could have given into Trump's demands and reopened the government. However, Trump is the primary one responsible (which, again, he said he would take full responsibility for shutting down the government over the border wall). And, as Guesthouse says, it wouldn't have been very wise for the Democrats to simply give into Trump's demands, or it'd just teach him that if he hurts enough people (who he claimed were quite happy to suffer for the border wall) he'll get his way. It's despicable he uses people as playing cards, but honestly I don't think it's going to stop.
-guppy of doom
I don't want to project my personal politics as facts, because they're not. They're opinions. And my opinion is that Pelosi isn't great, but we've had lame politicians in Congress before and gotten this kind of thing figured out. The shutdown probably would have happened for at least a little while anyway and we would have been upset, but after a couple of days, it would end, just like it always has. The reason it's been going on for 4 weeks is that we have a president who is 70 years old but still throws tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants. He wants to spend billions of dollars on a wall without knowing ANYTHING about what actual data says about immigration. So my gut says, it's partially everyone's fault for sucking at compromises, but it's mostly his fault for wanting something that's way too expensive and totally ineffective. I could go into detail about the sociological data on immigration, but trust me when I say that this idea is so useless. Also, it's not diplomatic at all. It's like a stupid childish way to solve what we think is a problem. Plus, it's inhumane. It's pretty obvious how Trump feels about other people that he doesn't like. He's perpetuating the horrible narratives we've created about human beings who want to live better lives. Haven't we come far enough along in humanity to be able to act more mature about this kind of thing? Sheesh.
It's also not fair at ALL to the federal employees who are suffering because of this. It's not their fault that our government is so defective. Sure, it's not news to us. We've dealt with shutdowns before. I hope it gets figured out soon. It may seem infuriating that Pelosi is so stubborn and keeps rejecting Trump's compromises, and I don't agree with a lot of her platform either, but I don't think the solution to this shutdown is to cave and give Trump the money for his stupid wall. Appeasing toddlers by feeding them candy every time they cry isn't good parenting, and giving Trump his wall just because he's used to being given everything he wants isn't the solution to this problem.
Mostly I'm just kinda disappointed and frankly embarrassed... I live in a country that still treats people like garbage if they aren't rich white men. I'm gonna do my best to help make the world a little bit better, but as far as this shutdown goes, I don't really have a lot of control. So I'm just gonna keep watching the John Mulaney Kid Gorgeous special on Netflix and laughing at the horse in the hospital bit for its accuracy.