Opinion

Throughout his unusual presidency, the one positive that President Donald Trump has been able to consistently tout is economic growth. Whether that came at the cost of the working class and societal consequences that take us back decades is, for the sake of argument, beside the point. The American economy is up. Congratulations, Mr. President.

But all good times must come to an end, and following the longest government shutdown in U.S. history even the staunchest of Trump supporters are now facing a reality check. With 800,000 federal employees looking at three weeks without a paycheck, overall confidence in the economy is rapidly dropping, and cracks are starting to form. It’s time to start thinking about the big picture.

Naturally, both sides argue that they are doing what is best for the American people, but there comes a point when the best thing for the American people is to pay them. The Democrats had have made it clear that they will not approve anything involving a wall, and as of January 11th, 6 in 10 Americans stand behind them. On the other hand, Trump himself has commented that it would be embarrassing for him to back down now, and therefore none of us can expect him to cave easily.

Trump has asked for $6 billion to fund the wall, which is admittedly less than the original proposal. It is also far less than the $21.6 billion estimated by the Department of Homeland Security, meaning that $6 billion would only cover a nominal portion of the border. In the big picture of border security, it would accomplish essentially nothing. The reality of the situation is that Trump is extending this painful shutdown needlessly for a small section of a wall that most Americans do not even want because he is afraid of being embarrassed.

It is unfortunate that, in the midst of adults on both sides of the political aisle trying to govern a country, there is an egomaniacal child concerned with nothing beyond his own skin.

As comfortable as it would be to say that Trump will back down, and Capitol Hill can return to its usual low-level bungling, that is appearing less possible by the day. The longer the shutdown continues, the more Americans will hold anyone involved responsible, regardless of their position on the wall. In defense of the Republicans, a number of them have voted to permanently reopen the government and forgo funds for the wall. It is only a few heavyweight players, most notably Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who until recently blocked the frequent requests from the Democrats to reopen the government.

On January 25th, an agreement was finally reached to temporarily reopen the government to ensure that federal employees receive their well overdue back-pay. However this by no means suggests that the problems have gone away. No progress has been made on the funding issue.

Trump has declared that in three weeks if a decision has not been made, he will either shut down the government or declare a national emergency. Although he has made it clear that he will not hesitate to do so, he also cannot be unaware of the backlash he would receive at this reckless use of his power. On the other hand, shutting down the government again is unconscionable.

The most likely scenario is that Congress will allow for some minor border funding with an unspecified purpose. This way, both sides can claim some sort of plausible deniability and say their purpose was achieved. Although coming to this agreement may take even more time, both Congress and Trump are eventually going to have to consider how reprising the shutdown will affect re-election. Simply being associated with the shutdown will feed their supporters’ desire for new faces in Washington.

In the event that repeated shutdowns leave a lasting mark on the economy, Trump might lose the backing he had from Republicans. Support for the wall is dropping almost as rapidly as America’s morale, and eventually, the president will have nothing to hide behind.

Partisanship aside, citizens are being held hostage by their own government, and the results are not pretty. In a debacle of this magnitude, blame cannot be limited to just one side. Compromise is always a two way street, however, in defense of the Republicans, a number of them have voted to reopen the government and forgo funds for the wall.

This irresponsibility with the lives of Americans speaks volumes towards the incompetence of our president and his administration. There are good people on both sides trying desperately to reach a compromise, and they are being thwarted by inability of a few key players to gracefully accept defeat. At this point, any discussion regarding the wall is ridiculous. The majority of the American people do not want it. The Democratic House does not want it, and Trump must eventually make his decision.

 

Emma Richardson is the opinion editor of the Arkansas Traveler. Emma worked as an opinion writer from 2018-2019.

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