We had just graduated from UC Berkeley in May when we received news that somehow both of us had received job offers for federal agencies in Washington, D.C. My roommate began her position at Health and Human Services a month ago, and I had just started at the Federal Trade Commission two weeks ago. When we arrived, our co-workers joked about a “huge government shutdown,” but as the deadline to pass the budget approached, we sensed the sarcasm turn into real fear. We sat glued to the television as the countdown ended and the first government shutdown to occur in nearly two decades began.
The shutdown is a consequence of the failure of the legislative branch to pass a budget bill. Now, federal agencies cannot spend the appropriations allocated to pay its employees to do crucial everyday functions. At the root of the entire shutdown is the relentless political blackmail currently committed by a small but obnoxiously obstinate faction of Congress: the Tea Party. Discontent at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), this minority party is demanding that the Democratic Party delay the roll out of Obamacare provisions in a largely futile attempt to defund the legislation. In doing so, they are holding the American people hostage as a ransom and refusing to pass the budget in the Senate unless the Democratic Party succumbs to their ridiculous demands to reverse a policy that has not only already been passed into law by legislators but also has been declared constitutional by the highest court in the United States.
By forcing a government shutdown, the Tea Party is using the American people as leverage to obtain a favorable consequence for its political agenda. By no means am I advocating for a one-party system, but its strategy is childish and irresponsible. What makes the entire situation all the more pointless is that the health exchanges that are so intensely detested by the conservative side have already been established and began enrollment last Tuesday, Oct. 1, ironically the first day of the government shutdown. If the reversal of Obamacare is truly the desire of the electorate, the election of 2016 will reflect this sentiment and the correct political processes can be used to repeal the law—rather than those that place the welfare of the American people at stake while continuing to pay the salary of those who have put us in this position.
I knew graduating and becoming a real adult would be hard, but I didn’t think I would have to pay two months of rent without a single paycheck. I didn’t think I would have to worry about keeping a copy of my furlough notice just in case I would have to apply for unemployment. And I certainly didn’t think I would have to do all this as part of the ransom in some political blackmail scheme. I am a federal employee, but I am also a resident of the District of Columbia—a city unique from all others in that it is the only one prohibited from spending funds as it belongs to no state. And as our rainy day fund rapidly diminishes, we are at a loss for how we will continue to function as a city.
Perhaps I am closer to the issue than most, but I also know there are many who aren’t just forgoing their income. Some are forgoing cancer treatments, veterans’ benefits and food for their children. If these politicians really have the American people’s interest in mind, they should do us all a favor and stop the puerile antics. It’s time for John Boehner to put a clean budget bill that doesn’t have partisan amendments up for vote in the Senate so that the majority of legislators can allow the government to reopen and do its job.
—Ma is a Gunn alumna
and former News Editor.