The Decline of American Democracy in The Face of Furloughed Federal Workers

Today marks the beginning of the second month to the longest government shutdown in American history.

The standstill hinges on President Donald Trump’s most prominent campaign promise. A $5.7 billion dollar and two-thousand miles long border wall dividing the United States and Mexico. House Democrats, accompanied by a few Republicans, refused to approve billions for the wall that they find “ineffective and expensive.” In retaliation, Trump has refused to approve funding legislation without the wall’s allowance, partially shutting down the government. As we push through day 31 of the government shutdown, the paychecks for approximately 800,000 federal workers are being held hostage. The amount of workers facing an economic crisis is nearly the equivalent of San Francisco’s population.

The federal workers affected by the shutdown are crucial employees to American safety. According to the New York Times our airports, food, and security are at high risk. For example, a union that represents Transportation Security Administration officers says that some officers have quit due to financial hardship. Air traffic controllers are calling out, leaving the safety of fliers at risk. Tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel are working without pay. Workers at the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service have resorted to food banks. The Food and Drug Administration has stopped inspecting seafood, vegetables, and “other foods at high risk of contamination.”

The aforementioned demonstrates the risk we face as a nation. The $5.7 billion dollar, two-thousand miles long border wall is a symbol for President Trump’s ego. Stopping short of declaring a national emergency on the southern border to bypass Congress and build the wall is a symbol for our dying democracy.

In her first House Floor speech, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) told a story about her constituent, Yahi Obed. Obed is the Bronx raised, Yemeni immigrant with a childhood dream of pursuing a career in aviation. Obed’s childhood dream has been a reality for the past 14 years, where he’s been an air traffic control supervisor at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Last week, Obed missed his first paycheck for the new year. He has two children, a several-thousand-dollar a month mortgage, and responsibility for thousands of flyers in one of the busiest airports in the United States and in the world. Obed is just one of 800,000 of people facing economic worries, distraction, and the liability of thousands, if not, millions, of everyday Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez finished her speech saying that this shutdown is “Not about the wall… The truth is, this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”

Last week, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell blocked the second House bill to reopen the government. President Trump has often blamed House Democrats for the shutdown, despite threatening that he could keep “shutdown going for months, or even years.”

Failure to compromise will continue crippling the lives of hundreds of thousands of federal workers. American lives are at risk. Bipartisanship will face an even further decline. And, President Trump will keep gaslighting the American public over the reality of these implications.

As the government shutdown looms on, here are 5 ways you can help furloughed federal workers: donate to a food pantry, donate to repair national parks, support businesses helping furloughed workers, search in your area local fundraisers, and most importantly, call your senators and representatives.

For District 27, University of Miami’s district, you can call Rep. Donna Shalala at (305) 668-2285. Her D.C. office phone number is (202) 225-3931. For all other districts, search on the official House of Representatives website.

You can contact Senator Marco Rubio at (202) 224-3041 and Senator Rick Scott at (202) 224-5274. For all other states, you can search on the official United States Senate website.

Art: Getty Images by Ringer Illustration

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