Partial government shutdown leaves workers in limbo


The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. remains closed due to the government shutdown. The National Park Service is among the agencies which have halted operation. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Across the nation, federal employees, ranging from air traffic controllers to weather forecasters, are either furloughed and not working, or being forced to work without pay.

We didn’t get as many gifts for Christmas.”

— sophomore Seth Pickford

Since Dec. 22, the federal government has been partially shut down because of a failure by Congress and the President to agree on a budget. The shutdown means that many federal agencies have halted their operations (although essential personnel are still working without pay, and military personnel, excluding the Coast Guard, are still being paid).

At 26 days and counting, the current shutdown has earned the dubious distinction of being the longest shutdown on record, surpassing the previous record of 21 days, and there is still no end in sight: even President Trump himself has said that he is prepared to keep the government closed for a “very long time–months or even years.”

Trump’s reason for the shutdown is Congress’ unwillingness to fund a border wall, one of his signature campaign promises, the cost of which has been estimated at $5 billion. Trump has toyed with the idea of declaring a national emergency, which would allow him to sidestep Congressional approval, but the political implications of such a declaration would be immense–while it could end the shutdown and fund the wall, it would set an uncomfortable new precedent for Democrats and Republicans alike.

While the political stalemate continues to play out in Washington, some Northwest students have been hit especially hard.

“(My family has) cut back on spending,” said sophomore Seth Pickford, whose parents are both government employees. “We didn’t get as many gifts for Christmas.”

Pickford’s family has been forced to adapt, for the time being, to a new reality: zero income.

“We have a lot of savings,” Pickford said. “But we still can’t spend money on frivolous things.”

Seth’s brother, senior Gage Pickford, added that his parents had to take out a loan to pay for a medical procedure.

“My mom is working 14 hour days,” Gage said. “But she isn’t getting any pay for it.”

The shutdown has also stirred up dissatisfaction with government among teachers.

“I think it’s Congress’ job to pass a budget, and the President’s job to work with Congress to get a budget passed,” said English teacher Alex Wertz. “If federal workers are going unpaid, that should include Congress and the President.”

No matter the ultimate outcome, one thing is clear: as the shutdown drags on, it will only bring more uncertainty in the coming days and weeks.