Government shutdown to affect students, faculty
As the government shutdown nears the end of its third week, 800,000 federal workers have found themselves either furloughed or forced to work without pay for an indefinite period of time. The shutdown was initiated after Congress failed to pass a budget due to disagreement over funding for a border wall. The closure, which started on Dec. 22, is on track to break the record for longest government shutdown, with Trump warning that it could carry on for “months or even years.”
The livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of government employees from nine federal departments and a few smaller agencies, including Justice, Homeland Security, Agriculture and Transportation, have been put on hold. These workers, suffering anxiety over whether they’ll be able to pay future bills and provide for their families, have been caught in the crosshairs of a heedless political battle perpetuated by Trump and the GOP. And as the weeks drag on, all Americans — including UC Davis students and faculty — will increasingly bear the burden of Trump’s infantile squabbles. At the same time, migrants and families waiting at the border will continue to suffer the consequences of a non-functioning government.
With federal agencies like the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis closed indefinitely, the collection and release of data crucial to academic studies and research has nearly slowed to a stop. The scientific community has also suffered a devastating hit as laboratories across the nation have closed, including those of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Time-sensitive research has consequently been delayed and grant money has potentially been jeopardized. Although academic research itself has so far continued largely unscathed, a long-term shutdown could threaten universities’ ability to secure federal funding for future projects.
California’s national parks, which many Davis students visit to take a break from school, have been especially burdened by the shutdown. The parks are currently severely understaffed and visitor centers have closed, though the grounds have remained open with very little supervision and enforcement of rules. As a result, garbage cans and toilets are overflowing with trash and human waste, and off-road driving, poaching and other “lawlessness” in the parks have reportedly damaged the wildlife and environment. Popular destinations like Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Muir Woods and parts of Yosemite have consequently been forced to close their campgrounds due to health and safety concerns. Other national parks will undoubtedly follow suit if the government fails to reopen soon.
The shutdown also imperils the funding of the anti-hunger Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — better known on campus as CalFresh — which provides food stamps for about 40 million people and is expected to run out of money by the end of February. To further add to the chaos, the Food and Drug Administration, which supervises approximately 80 percent of the food supply in the U.S., announced that it has suspended food safety inspections of fruits, vegetables, seafood and other products considered high-risk for contamination.
It’s absurdly careless of the president and Republicans — those purportedly elected to represent the interests of Americans — to endanger such critical necessities and bring sectors of the government to a grinding halt over a ridiculous plan for a border wall. With seemingly no consideration of Americans’ lives, the Trump administration childishly and recklessly continues to hold the nation hostage.
Written by: The Editorial Board