We’re now living in the longest government shutdown in American history, thanks to President Donald Trump. Previously, the longest government shutdown took place under President Bill Clinton between 1995 and 1996 and capped out at 21 days. But after this past Friday, the current shutdown took its place. And the worst part is that there is no end in sight. With Trump leveling the stability of the economy and the American people as leverage for their border wall and the $5.7 billion that it will apparently cost to make it, many are becoming increasingly angry at his callousness, claiming that the government is treating them like pawns in a bid to not do their jobs. And it’s hard not to agree, considering that a whopping 800,000 federal employees are currently without a job, but most importantly, without pay. This is even more complex if you happen to be a federal worker who is a contractor—particularly because they will not be receiving back-pay like their full-time compatriots. To make matters worse, Black people specifically, while only making up 12% of the population when it comes to the demographics of this country, make up a whopping 18% of federal employees. This sizable percentage comes from the fact that historically when overt and covert discriminatory practices (like racism) kept Black people out of the private sector. Federal jobs gave Black people a way to circumvent that and access to such jobs gave birth to an entire group of working class and middle-class Black people. But even so, such status is still tied to being able to access a check each and every month and even missing one check, like so many have had to during this shutdown, is enough to devastate the financial stability of a singular family. Columbia University economics professor and Nobel Memorial Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz succinctly summed it up by saying:
It’s an inequality issue in that it affects people at the bottom. And it hits them really strongly because, in America, so many have experienced such high levels of inequality that a large fraction of Americans have no substantial cash reserves. They depend on that paycheck coming in every month. While everyone tends to have a house, car, health insurance and car payment to make, the person they owe money to aren’t inclined to be particularly forgiving or account for a government shutdown.
That’s not all either. Many Americans are predictably irate with the situation in Washington and hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, according to surveys conducted by the likes of HuffPost. Many Americans blame Trump AND both parties for the lack of a deal being reached, with many accusing said parties as playing politics with the general public’s lives. It is becoming clearer every day that a government shutdown of this magnitude will have lasting consequences far past what is being predicted now. And America is not ready for it.