As I write this blog on Monday morning, September 30, 2013, Congress still has time to reverse course and do the right thing: step back from the disgraceful brinkmanship that’s holding our system of national governance hostage. However, retreat and compromise appears increasingly unlikely. Some people would rather break all the glass in the cabinet rather than allow government to offer a cup of water to people in need.
The principal force driving the impending shutdown is the political viewpoint that says that government should retreat from a mission to help people in need, with the Affordable Care Act — aka “Obamacare” — squarely in the crosshairs of the opposition. Some critics say that those who support healthcare reform are equally obtuse about compromise; while we all might wish that all parties could relent in this ugly staring contest, in fact, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and, while some details are certainly flawed, this law will extend healthcare coverage to millions of people who currently are uninsured. The same ideology that opposes this concept also works relentlessly against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This same ideology voted to eliminate food stamps last week. Turning our national back on hungry children, the sick and the elderly does not seem like a proud moment for the richest nation in human history.
In the same way, a federal government shutdown will hardly be felt by the very Congressional representatives whose petulant behavior is imposing severe hardship on others. Thousands of federal workers will suffer lost wages while elected officials will continue to eat well in the fancy restaurants of D.C. Critical research funded by the National Institutes of Health and other agencies will grind to a halt. With each passing day, programs that can operate on appropriations already in place will face the prospect of dwindling funds to operate. In D.C., Mayor Gray has declared all personnel in the D.C. Government “essential” and promises that city services will continue.
How will a federal shutdown affect Trinity?
For now, with the semester well underway, we should not see any negative impact immediately on federal financial aid programs. Pell Grants and federal student loans should be unaffected in any shutdown. Longer-term, depending on how long the work stoppage lasts, we could see interruptions in services from the U.S. Department of Education, particularly slowdowns in processing new grant applications.
Trinity does not rely on federal grants for operations, so we should not see any impact on our personnel.
However, we know that many Trinity students work in the federal government, or have family members who are federal workers, or who rely on federal government services. In a separate memo to the community today, I am inviting Trinity students, faculty and staff who are negatively affected by the impending shutdown to let me know so that we can help you with whatever assistance we can provide.
What else can we do? Tell Congress and the White House to get back to work. Tell our elected officials that shutting down the government is no way to run a country — and it’s a terrible example for the future generations of aspiring leaders. Working together, finding ways to compromise, shaping a nation and society that puts caring for those in need are all the values we seek to uphold at Trinity. These are the values we expect to find in our national leadership.
What do you think of the current government situation? Send in your comments by clicking on the link below.