Blue background white letters saying Government Shutdown and the edge of the capitol building in DC

This week was the first of the year where we all knew what was going to happen. We sat waiting for the inevitable shutdown to begin. We were on tenterhooks over who would be the next to leave or be fired from the government. We soiled ourselves as the results of the president’s medical were released. It all sounds like enthusiastic anticipation, and it was. All of us living in Central Ohio do what we can to create a modicum of excitement.

The shutdown of the federal government overshadowed everything else this week. Otherwise noteworthy stories barely received any attention, and nothing else happened at the national level to generate news. That is no complaint; the reasons for the shutdown and the effects it will have over, at least, the next few days deserve to have the huge spotlight on them.

Every year, the Congress must approve measures to keep a large part of the government funded and operating. Essentials such as Social Security, Medicaid, the post office, air traffic control, VA hospitals, etc. are largely unaffected and continue to function. The Congress can pass new legislation which could change the amount each department receives and open up funds for brand new programs and other expenses. That is the desired avenue for operating the people’s government. In the absence of that happening, the Congress passes a continuing resolution (CR). A CR funds every department and program, but only at existing levels, and it does not allow for any new spending. One which lasts a day or two is no problem. No department could need a budget increase in only a few hours, nor could a new government program have to be enacted overnight. However, a continuing resolution in place for longer than that can have serious implications. Already under-funded programs are bound by fixed budgets in the face of inflation, population increase, unforeseen disasters (natural and man-made), etc. No real progress is made in Washington because everything costs money and none can be moved, saved, or spent until an appropriations bill is passed. Should the Congress be unable to agree to pass even a CR, all the nonessential aspects of the government cease operations. Nearly a million federal employees stay home without a paycheck while the rest must still go to work (to staff the essential programs) with uncertainty over whether they will get paid. National Parks close. Passport and small business loan applications do not get processed. Customer service hotlines are taken down. All in all, the average American won’t feel too much pain from a shutdown unless it lasts for weeks. Yet that doesn’t mean not everyone should be angered by how this shutdown is playing out.

The deadline for passing some kind of spending measure was looming large at the start of the week. The Republicans were happy to either kick the fiscal can down the road yet again or shut down the government and blame the Democrats. The Democrats saw the opportunity to achieve a win over a single issue they know could bring in a lot of votes in the midterms and cement the support of an entire demographic. The issue is that of the so-called Dreamers. They are immigrants brought here as children by their undocumented parents. They had no choice about where they grew up and had no control over the method their parents chose to seek a better life. They are temporarily protected from deportation by the DACA legislation which also allows those with no criminal history to go to college, obtain a driver’s license, and enjoy the other basics of life Americans do. The Trump administration has always intended on ending DACA and deporting every “illegal” immigrant. The Democrats said they would not agree to any spending bill unless the Dreamers were fully protected. The first problem is that the Congress could have easily passed a CR and given itself a few more days to negotiate immigration policy during which time the government will have continued to fully function. The negotiations will have to take place no matter what, so the shutdown is nothing more than a political stunt. Both sides deserve the American people’s ire for that.

Each party has also earned its own share of rage. It is undeniable that the Republicans hate Hispanic people of color so much they are willing to shut down the government over the ability to throw them all out. Their racism and all-round bigotry are so severe, they will essentially hold the government ransom. The fact they keep getting elected to office shows it is not a case of a few racists worming their way through elections. There are millions upon millions of Americans whose hatred is so deep-rooted they continuously vote for those who ultimately do not represent them, just because they share their views on only one or two disgusting issues. If anyone should be barred from reaping the benefits of this great nation, it should be the witless conservative voters who support guns, environmental rape, institutional misogyny, and dozens of other loathsome ideas.

Even though the immigration issue did not have to result in a government shutdown, the Democrats were doing the right thing in standing their ground on an issue of such significance. The anger they drew in causing the shutdown was going to quickly be erased once they protected the Dreamers and showed they were willing to finally stand up to the far-right and actually help people. Sadly, they threw away a lot of that when they blurted out their willingness to fund a border wall to avoid and then end the shutdown. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the negotiations, said he was willing to build a wall to keep out immigrants in order to protect the ones already here. Luis Gutierrez said, via Twitter, despite the financial waste of a wall lives were more important than bricks. I guess he didn’t think about how Medicaid and Social Security could use those billions of dollars. Maybe he was just mentally exhausted and misspoke when he said the border wall was only about bricks and not lives. The Democrats had to offer the Republicans something they wanted. They couldn’t let the Republicans come to them with an offer. They had to try and score points by looking like the big boys in the room instead of giving people something they need and want. This was yet another easy shot they couldn’t make count; they truly are the Shaquille O’Neal of political parties. Frankly, I’m flabbergasted the Democrats’ spines held up for as long as 24 hours.

Prior to the shutdown debacle, almost the entire National Park System Advisory Board resigned. I had my money on Tillerson being the next to go, but maybe his visit to the somehow controversial US embassy in London will be the end of him. The advisory board works within the Department of the Interior to recommend and sign off on new national historic and natural landmarks. As part of Secretary Zinke’s war on conservation, he repeatedly failed to meet with the board members or listen to their ideas/recommendations. He was stalling until the May expiration of every member’s tenure. That way, he could prevent the designation of any new landmarks and put all his department’s energy into scaling back existing public land protections and proliferating resource exploitation. Zinke has literally been hiding from people since becoming a member of cabinet; he probably hid behind curtains made of Florida panther hide or Mexican wolf pelt. The board members could no longer waste their time on the board when they could be working to conserve America in other capacities. On one hand, we should be glad they are no longer serving Zinke and Trump, and have shone a new light on how dysfunctional the administration is becoming. Nobody should want experts like them being prevented from using their skills and expertise. On the other hand, they could have stayed and resisted the anti-conservation movement currently taking over the entire Department of the Interior. They would possibly have had more of an inside track on developments within the administration and held on to positions that may now be taken by extreme right-wingers. Many other advisory committees are experiencing similar problems and there are hundreds of federal positions currently unfilled. A lot of important work, especially in the Justice and Interior Departments, simply isn’t getting done. Regardless of your perspective, experts in their fields should be shaping public policy, not being ignored by partisan know-nothings who are hellbent on ruining this country. The hemorrhaging of the best and brightest people needs to stop, and it needs to stop right now.

The American media finally got something it was eagerly anticipating for more than a year: Trump’s medical results. The mainstream media was very excited when it found out a physical had been conducted and then went nuts trying to suck out every last drop of information about it. The official results were as predictable as everything else this week. Trump eats junk, doesn’t exercise, but is in excellent health. Who really cares, though? What would people do if the doctor had said Trump is suffering from arthritis in his little hands as well as carotenemia? What would anyone do with the information that his heart is so unhealthy the next time he sees an African American he will drop down dead? If he’s healthy, his agenda goes ahead. If he’s unhealthy and lives, his agenda goes ahead. If he’s unhealthy and dies, Pence takes over and his agenda goes ahead. I guess it’s too much to ask for the media to forget the two major parties fill their coffers every fall, and cover genuinely substantive stories about what is going on in our government.

At the time of writing, the shutdown is still in effect. There is a vote scheduled for a very short-term spending extension, but with no immigration agreement on the horizon. Each side stands to lose, and the fast-approaching midterms will no doubt involve a lot of finger-pointing with regards to this shutdown. The big story for the new week will involve how long it lasted, what concessions were given by the Democrats to end it, and what kind of political fallout it has produced.