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A message about democracy in the federal shutdown

The U.S. Capitol buildling in Washington, D.C. (YJI photo)

Lexington, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – The federal government shutdown – started almost a month ago  when President Donald Trump didn’t get the billions in funding he wanted for a wall on the Mexican border – is the longest in American history.
What makes this deadlock a particularly dire problem is not its longevity or the preposterous reason Trump offered – studies and history have shown the futility of such a border project –  but the shutdown’s impact on regular Americans.
At this moment, 800,000 federal workers are not getting paid, forcing many into personal financial crisis. This, of course, warranted a series of detrimental chain reactions: Communities that serve federal workers are suffering damages to their economies, American ports of entry are especially vulnerable to attacks, and some national parks are being littered to the verge of closure.
And all this happened in the first three weeks.
While federal workers are being denied of their given wages, most lawmakers are still getting paid. Even though some have refused payment in solidarity, it is not enough. The shutdown has surpassed any political showdown, touching all of our lives.
This ultimately reveals the biggest victims of such national unrest: the American working and middle class. And thus, this is the flaw of American representative democracy as we know it.
People who are most impacted by the shutdown are low-income workers who have no disposable funding reserved for times of emergency. However, those who truly have the power to reinstate wages for people in need and surrounding economies are often affluent.
When Trump, like-minded politicians and pro-wall advocates promote an inefficient and hateful policy at the expense of their constituents’ livelihoods, they are fully aware of the extent of their control over the American legislative system and society.
In a response to Trump’s Jan. 8 address to the nation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the president to “stop holding American people hostage.”
Pelosi is correct. Migrants crossing the U.S. and Mexico border illegally are often women and children fleeing violence and persecution. They are in need of help. In attempting to eliminate the fictional threat of these “dangerous illegals,” Trump has exposed the nation to bigger perils.
What is at stake is not just the endangerment of national security, but the economic and emotional well-being of potential voters. Trump believes that he is attempting to deliver on his biggest campaign promise, yet he is completely missing the mark.
Similarly, this event demonstrates a fundamental weakness in our system of politics: a pivotal disconnect between ordinary citizens and people they have elected to represent them. To Americans, this is often a completely normal phenomenon. In our history of democratic trial and error, we have been conditioned to the system that perpetuates a vicious cycle — one that often sacrifices lower and middle-income citizens for the political and economic gain of those with affluence and power. It’s a “trickle-down” political structure that gives little to no power to the people.
That being said, many are unaware that these disruptive policies are hurting their communities and relocating necessary resources.
Currently, more than 340,000 people have raised over $20 million to A Go Fund Me campaign promising to bring Trump’s plan to fruition on his behalf. In their pitch for contributions, organizers say that American citizens are “better equipped” than the government to build the wall.
This demonstrates that many Americans continue to support a system that not just fails them but is intended to take advantage of them.
Regardless of one’s opinions on Trump, the Republican Party or its followers left in the wake of their attempt at political monopoly – it is evident that widespread dissatisfaction with the government and the alienation of Americans within their own political system will continue.
With the estimated $8 billion dollars that costs to build the wall, the government stands to ameliorate many issues, including pay for public school teachers, healthcare, investment in clean energy, as well as many others that will impact ordinary Americans in the short and long term.
Americans youths impacted by the shutdown must advocate for themselves. The solution to the shutdown is not to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, but to use federal resources to invest in education, healthcare and the environment – our future.
Yunkyo Kim is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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