The shutdown began at midnight on December 22, 2018 after the Senate did not pass a budget that included US$5.6 billion for Donald Trump’s campaign promise of a U.S.–Mexican border wall.
The federal government did not shut down altogether. Nine executive departments were not given funding budgets, and that adds up to about 800,000 employees, resulting in one-fourth of the government going into shutdown mode.
Government workers are divided into two groups: “essential” and “nonessential”. Those categories considered nonessential were put on furlough and will not work or get paid until the shutdown is over. Essential workers are also not getting paid, but they have to go to work. Senators and members of the Congress got to decide which of their staff members were essential and which were not. The government employees deemed nonessential were put on furlough, which in business means that they were put on a leave of absence because of some special needs of their employer. All workers should receive back pay when the government reopens.
Senators and House members get paid during government shutdowns. This is a no-brainer because their salary rules are written into the Constitution: “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.” Government workers who are not getting paid think they are getting played, which means to be taken advantage of through planned circumstances.
Contract workers are not reimbursed for unpaid wages. Contract workers in this case are researchers, cooks, radar operators, health aids, computer programmers, scientists, farmers, and cleaning providers, just to mention a few. They are contracted to the government or work for a company that has a contract with the government. Military, such as the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps were fully funded for their budgets this year, but strangely, the Coast Guard, which is a military branch but part of Homeland Security, did not have their budget approved and are therefore not receiving their salaries. The Tea Party, mentioned in the poster above, is a fiscally conservative movement inside the Republican Party. They are strongly in favor of decreased government spending, lowering taxes and the reduction of the national debt. Their name comes from the 1773 political protest in Boston, which was the most significant incident that led to the *American Revolution.
Some furloughed federal employees apparently remembered the 1979 Pink Floyd release, Another Brick in the Wall, which was a protest against oppressive education. But this year the brick probably refers to the actual wall that Donald Trump claims he wants to build, and the fact that during this battle, government employees are feeling oppressed by their federal employer.
Both the furloughed federal employees and the out-of-work contractors have taken to calling themselves pawns, and have even taken to calling each other “fellow pawns”. Some of them chant while marching in protest, “Pay the workers, furlough Trump!”
Many furloughed employees exchanged the gifts they had bought for Christmas for cash, just to cover immediate needs. Most stores have a cash return policy if an item is accompanied with a receipt.
Government workers have creditors such as landlords and banks. Just like the rest of us, they need to pay rent, mortgage fees, credit card, electricity and water bills, car payments, and things like insurance premiums or school fees.
Whether the employees are working without pay or staying home without pay, they generally feel that they are being used as bargaining chips in a political power war.
It is not only about individual federal employees; 96% of NASA has been shut down, as well as more than 80% of the National Park Service, 80% of the Forest Service and 30% of the Department of Transportation. Most citizens of the United States think that the government should get its act together.
Meanwhile, trash is piling up in the Nation’s Capitol, as there are no longer any trash pick-ups.
Many members of both parties think enough is enough.
I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.