The Divided Government of America: For the People, By the People? (OP-ED)

Nishat Mohinuddin, ’16

The Constitution and the government itself, since the birth of the United States of America, are said to be for the people and by the people. But how can a government be for the people when it has shutdown?

Crisis has fallen upon the United States, in a form that most people of our generation did not even know could happen: the government has shut down. How can something so catastrophic occur, especially in a democratic country? This form of strike has occurred in various countries all over the world, most of which were unstable countries. The shutdown raises questions about the stability of our government: is it really filled with adults, or a bunch of six year olds? If the government is supposed to represent us, the citizens, why are we having a shutdown?

In order to understand how the shutdown affects us, it is critical to understand why the shutdown occurred in the first place. The shutdown occurred because Congress and President Obama did not agree upon a spending bill that the government requires in order to receive funding from the Congress regarding Obamacare. The Republicans refused to accept a bill that does not “defund, derail, or otherwise chip away at Obamacare” and the Democrats were just as adamant about continuing the healthcare act. It is also critical to understand where these funds would come from: our own pockets (or rather, our parents’ tax money). Thus, this argument is about how citizens’ tax money should be allocated.

So what is this fear about Obamacare that has literally split the country in half? Is it the fear of a socialist systems infiltrating our capitalist country? Are we still living in the Cold War era, when anything that could eventually be beneficial for the citizens of our country (especially from the socialist perspective), is considered wrong?  Republicans, without any explanation, assert that the Obamacare would destroy the country and the economy. They believe that it “endangers” various principles including individual liberty and the free market system (capitalist beliefs). Well, maybe Republicans should also realize that the free market system is only beneficial to those on top of the food chain, the upper class.  The Republicans’ stance also rises from the fear that if Obamacare is allowed to flourish, Republican voters will change parties in the future.

Capitalism v. socialism and power play aside, this shutdown could cause devastating long term effects on the country, in certain states, certain areas, certain communities, and certain schools. Just because it has no effect on area A, doesn’t mean a school in area B that was just hit by a hurricane the previous year would not be affected either.

For most students the government shutdown has no direct impact, especially because school is obviously still open. But the shutdown is affecting thousands of Americans, especially since almost 80,000 government employees are now at a standstill, since most public places are closed. If one wants to personalize the shutdown, let’s think about national parks, zoos, museums, and monuments that have been attractions for families for years, but due to the shutdown, are currently closed. The national places are not currently being funded and therefore are officially closed until the government reopens. Places such as Washington D.C. are also deeply suffering due to the loss in the tourism. By closing the national sights, our tourists and airline businesses are terribly failing, and are approximately losing $30 million dollars on a daily basis as the shutdown continues. This seems ironic since this shutdown started concerning a money issue, but now the U.S., because of the shutdown, is really losing lots of money.   

Businesses are also having a hard time controlling their lack of customers, and many people, including veterans, the disabled, hospital patients, and the like, are not receiving the benefits and services they need to survive. If one observes the micro effects of this shutdown, one realizes that the lower class, especially women and children, are being affected the most. Women and children of a certain financial background are provided with aid from the government, be food stamps or WIC, yet this shutdown has caused approximately 9 million women and children to be at risk due to the halt of WIC. This sudden absence of nutrients that women and children need while being pregnant and the first year’s childhood will impact the health of the mother and the child. The shutdown also affects older children, or rather, students.

Many Financial Aid Programs will be decreasing the scholarship money in the future semesters since they are receiving minimum amounts from grants. Besides financial aid, multiple programs that help students with needs are unable to provide them with services since they are not being funded by the government.  In public schools, the school meal program that is being funded by the government is in high risk if the government shutdown continues until the end of October. This means that most children who are benefiting from the free or reduced fare lunch will suffer. If by October the government does not reopen, only schools with “excess funds” will be able continue to feed their students. So, many students from lower middle class and lower class families will suffer not only financially, but as a whole. The free lunch system in the U.S is taken for granted by many people, some because they have the financial capacity to provide for their own lunch. Yet many of us do not realize that in other countries where there is no free lunch option, the literacy and attendance rates at schools decline.

There is an obvious pattern for those who are the most affected by the shutdown: women, children, the disabled, and the lower class. For a government that is for the people, it is allowing the majority of its population to be further vulnerable as this shutdown continues. 

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