President Trump signed off on legislation late last week to end the government shutdown. Both political parties claimed victory, which, as hundreds of thousands of furloughed and unpaid federal workers will tell you, is nonsense.
With White House staff behind the president applauding the end of the shutdown, and a short distance away Democratic Party leaders gloating over their “win” over the president, federal workers know the worst may be yet to come.
The truce is only for the next three weeks, as party leaders try to work out a more lasting agreement. Still in play, apparently, is Trump’s promise to voters of a multi-billion-dollar wall along the U.S./Mexico border. The president insists it’s a matter of national security. Critics say such a wall would not improve border security, and at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Democrats are likely to counter with an offer of more funding for tighter border security at ports of entry and crucial passage areas along the 2,000-mile stretch.
If Trump stands firm and Democrats hold their ground, when the three-week truce expires we could be right back where we were before last Friday’s agreement. Federal employees are aware of this reality, which will not help them sleep better at night.
So, what exactly was accomplished in the longest federal government shutdown in history?
The quick answer is — nothing. In fact, according to officials at the Council of Economic Advisors, the shutdown possibly cost the nation’s economy a minimum of $130 billion in lost production. Sort of makes Trump’s $5.7-billion demand in wall funding seem puny by comparison.
But the hit the gross domestic product suffered over 35 days of a partial government shutdown proves just how destructive government shutdowns — especially over purely political differences — can be.
We may never really know why the president relented, but maybe Trump finally acknowledged the pain the shutdown was causing average Americans across the nation, especially after discouraging comments from his Cabinet members advising suffering furloughed workers to “get a loan.”
In some ways, Trump and his inner circle can’t really be blamed for such casual disregard for what federal workers were going through for more than a month, because those leaders likely have never lived paycheck to paycheck, worrying about mortgage or car payments, or eating one meal a day to stretch the family budget.
While Congress attempts to find acceptable middle ground with the Trump administration, we have a suggestion: The House and Senate should draft legislation making government shutdowns illegal. There is no reason why federal workers should be punished for the malfeasance of partisan policy makers.
Maybe a lot of Americans don’t understand how close such political game-playing comes to tearing apart this nation. But you can bet leaders of other nations watched and understood, waiting for our government to rip itself to shreds.
American citizens need to keep in mind that what happens in Congress and the White House is, in the final analysis, up to us, and the decisions we make when we go to the polls to vote, and our engagement with those we elect after we put them in office.
We also need to remember this was not necessarily a Trump problem, or a Republican or Democrat problem. All our leaders must share the blame for a string of policy failures that plague our highest levels of government.
It is acceptable for politicians to disagree. It is dangerous to disagree to the point of shutting down a government. Based on the evidence, this drama is far from over.