Related: Civil & Human Rights, In the Media, Political Issues, Politics, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues

Voices of Trinity: Shutdown Shakedown


Congress Has One Job poster










The United States Congress has one job:  to enact laws that serve We the People of the United States.  Congress is failing miserably at this job.  Partisan gridlock has grown worse and worse over the years, but we may have reached the nadir — the worst possible point — this week.  As of this writing it appears that Congress is unable to reach agreement on a short-term funding bill to keep the government running.  While some people may joke that life is good if the government is closed, in fact, many, many people are hurt by a shutdown of the federal government.  Making matters worse, the shutdown is really a shakedown — a tactic used by lawmakers and the president of the United States in a cruel and cynical political competition to please their “base” for votes and to get their way through brute force rather than reasonable negotiation and compromise.  We are at a point in America where the art of compromise is seen as being only for losers.  What a shame, what a loss, what a detestable retreat from what was once the most important part of national governance.

Many people suffer real harm even if the shutdown is short, or for some, even if the shutdown is only a threat.  People are worried about their jobs and income, the availability of federal government services, the ability to get answers and assistance from federal agencies responsible for everything from Social Security to Medicaid to federal financial aid.  People worry about the impact on our military and national security.  People can’t even turn to national parks to relieve the stress since many might close.  Even the National Zoo.

I asked members of the Trinity community to let us know what they are worried about if the federal government shuts down.  As usual, the Voices of Trinity are loud, eloquent and passionate.  Here’s a summary of the results of our informal internal survey as of 6 pm on Friday, January 19, 2018:

Among 110 responses from students, faculty and staff,

  • 62% are working in government themselves or have family members working in government, the military or related businesses
  • 37% depend on Social Security, Medicaid or other kinds of federal social services and support

Question:  How will a federal shutdown affect you?  What is your biggest worry?

The human cost of political irresponsibility is almost incalculable.  Even if the shutdown does not occur this time, or if it only lasts a few days, the stress, pain and suffering of real people who feel helpless, threatened and at their wits’ ends with our current political leaders is quite real.  For the Trinity community, being in Washington means that we are more affected by the federal government than we might be elsewhere.  Students, faculty and staff are legitimately worried about their paychecks or those of their family members, their Medicaid benefits, their ability to get answers in student financial aid offices, and so many related agencies.  This stress is piled heavily on top of the issues that have created this meltdown in our political system — the ongoing treatment of Dreamers as political bargaining chips in the cynical ping-pong game of DACA legislation, the issues about immigration policy and TPS and funding The Wall, the president’s utter disdain and contempt for people who are poor and in need and from countries like Haiti and El Salvador, the ways in which political leaders have fostered a mean-spirited, small-minded, inhumane and profoundly immoral culture that degrades so many people.  Our Democracy is quivering, our hope of finding a stable center for a Good Society is challenged like never before.

In all of this, the threat of a federal shutdown affects people in different ways.  While individual concerns may seem small, the collective impact for every day people trying to live their lives is enormous.  These are some of the many replies to the question, “What is your biggest worry about a federal shutdown?”

A student replies:  “Since I quit my job to go to school our only income is with my husband who is a contractor through the federal government — if it shuts down he will not be paid and it will not be paid back to him.”

Another student replies:  “The gov’t shutdown will have a major affect on my life as I depend on my salary to support my household. Now with my financial situation being affected that will further threaten my student status at Trinity.”

Student who is a federal worker: “I’ve been a public servant for 15 years and my biggest concern are loss if income, inability to pay my bills and how long the shutdown will last.”

Faculty member: “The shutdown stands between the biologist in the family receiving NSF funding for his research or not.”

Staff member:  “My aunt works for the federal government and she helps financially to support my extended family. I am concerned for workers like her who support themselves and others with their salaries. My concern is for workers who may be living check to check.”

Another student who is a federal worker:  “My biggest worry is that I will be unable to provide for my 1 year old daughter after I’ve exhausted my savings depending on the length of the shutdown.”

Faculty member:  “My son is a government employee. My husband receives military retirement and now, social security. I receive military retirement pay. A huge impact for us, especially since we pay most bills on the first of the month–which is when these paychecks are deposited.”

Student: ” I have Medicaid & I see constantly see a therapist. I’m afraid that if the federal government shuts down I won’t be able to see my therapist anymore because of no Medicaid.”

Faculty member:  “My husband has a contractor job that is assigned to the federal government and when the government closes he is not paid or has to use his sick and vacation days until they are gone and then not get paid for the remainder of the time. We are already living basically paycheck to paycheck so it is a huge issue for us.”

Student:  “I am a government employee & my biggest worry is being furloughed & being unable to get paid.”

Staff member:  “My daughter and her husband both work for the government. Newlyweds who just purchased a home.”

Staff member:  “Our students that may have federal jobs and might be affected as they may have payment plans to fulfill aside from not having money to pay the babysitter, bus fare, gas, other that allows them to come to school. In general, our school may be impacted as well, although not like our students and federal workers, because the government will only allow essential personnel to work. This means that customer service representatives for the FAFSA site, COD, NSLDS, etc. may not be available unless they are contractors which I doubt. This may have an impact with students trying to navigate the FAFSA site and receiving help with issues with their FSA ID, etc; the same for the schools, as it may be more difficult to find help when trying to reach COD, NSLDS, FSA to resolve any issues or seek guidance.”

Question:  What would you like to say to President Trump and Members of Congress about the shutdown and the political issues that led to this point?

A pervasive sense of exhaustion, disgust and anger threads through the many answers to this question.  Representative sample of the replies:

“How can our lawmakers sleep at night, while individuals on DACA, parents relying on CHIP, those with federal jobs live in uncertainty and the stress that comes with it? It is time for compassion and courage to reign above servitude to pride, above pretense, above fear of appearing weak. Governance in a democracy requires listening to all, not just the constituency that donates the most campaign funding. Governing is not a game. It is a job with serious responsibilities and consequences — to real people.”

“I would let President Trump and his administration know that as the daughter of two naturalized citizens, I am disgusted with what they’ve rightful laws and policies they are trying to remove. This was a nation founded by immigrants. Immigrants help this nation thrive with astounding new ideals and beliefs. Immigrants and their families have helped shaped the greatness of the nation, what is in it for you to know that millions of students like me trying to make this nation better will be kicked out to start ALL OVER, in the “shithole” countries we come from? We come for the opportunity that the United States gives us that isn’t otherwise provided in our own homelands. We come to seek refuge. If you believe in the Holy Family, they were immigrants as well. Please take this into consideration.”

“Have a heart.”

“I don’t want to speak to the politicians in this situation as they have made it beyond obvious that they are not willing to listen and work collaboratively on solutions for our country. I WOULD like to speak with voters, though, and explain to them what a shutdown actually entails (Congress will still report for work, it’s regular employees and contractors with mortgages, rent, and families to support who suffer). I would encourage voters to actually educate themselves on issues like CHiP and DACA, since there’s so much misinformation about these programs floating around (like DACA recipients are welfare abusers who don’t work, when actually they are students, employees, and members of our military). The dysfunction evident in the legislative and executive branches is a mirror of the dysfunction of society right now- these politicians are only making the decisions they make to appeal to their bases. Since politicians don’t put themselves in office, our time would be better spent trying to create real dialogue among ourselves so we can vote in people who are actually willing to listen and work with others.”

“Stop the blame game and address the issues.”

“Honestly… my concerns would take all day… so if I had to break this situation down in one sentence in terms of how I would address the issue regarding. DACA, immigration, The Wall, Children’s Health Insurance, military spending. My message would be: “You WORK for the people and NOT your constituents.. You’re Fired”

“Peoples’ lives are at stake. This must be a time when you evaluate history and acknowledge the legislation held up by generations of politicians and presidents before you. Acknowledge the past and recognize the impact these decision will have on future generations. Not just the immediate effect— but long term affects. No president has created so many new changes to eradicate so many diverse populations of people with regard to detailed systems of aid, research, community support, and funding in history of the US. Step outside the insular thinking and recognize the immense damage — it is everlasting and irreversible.”

“Mr. President, we all walk our own journey in life and by God’s grace we do our best to live. You are not the first president to bring to face the hatred and racism bred in our country but you can be the last. Please look beyond the color of my skin and the accent carried in my voice. All is asked is that you do your job and serve the people of this country- Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Indigenous. We all come from the same Father and bleed the same red blood. Aren’t I, like you, a child of God”

“Stop thinking about building walls (actual and metaphorical) between this country and others, between the people within this country, and start focusing on quality of life and opportunities for all people.”

“If I were were able to speak to President Trump, I would tell him to stop being selfish and inconsiderate. His actions affect ALL of us and by acting childish YOU are causing America to look foolish. I don’t think anyone would want to be allies with a country that singles out their OWN people. When thinking please think of the pros and cons for EVERYONE. Just like you,many have families to care for and taking away those rights are outrageous. The DACA, taking away Obama Care that helped MILLIONS who could not afford healthcare, immigration, and this ridiculous wall is truly out of hatred and it is very obvious. Put yourself in the shoes of the families you have ruined and tell us what it felt like. You are only president for the title not to help America and its citizens.”

“Fix DACA now and reauthorize Children’s Health Insurance. And just do your job of governing, which includes passing annual budgets”

“Include them all in your budget. Did the Dr. find a heart during your exam?”

“I wish we had a president who was really concerned about the working people of this country not just the wealthy. The people who will be adversely impacted by the policies of Trump will survive because they are resilient, but they will be damaged. His policies will limit the potential of so many marginalized people which will do nothing to make America great!!”

“To make sure that all programs stay in place because they are beneficial to all people. Especially DACA because some of my colleagues are on that program and it has help them to get through college and achieve milestones and dreams.”

“I would tell them that if there is a government shutdown because of these topics, then maybe they weren’t right for the jobs they are responsible for.”

“I will tell them to not be cold-hearted, that I’m losing more than what they could ever imagine; that my family will lose everything, too; that I would have to go back to a country that I don’t know because I came when I was 3 Years old here and I don’t remember my country; please take a moment and think if it would be your son or daughter dealing with the fact that they will go back to a place that is unknown to then start over and lose everything they have —- how would you feel?”

“To please stop holding DACA hostage as it relates to this wall. The government needs to do it’s job and keep the government running. The people who are making the decisions will continue to get paid, while many Americans and their families would suffer”

“Put your ego aside and actually do what is right for the people. Protecting life on all levels is urgent.”

“It’s a shame that the people elected into office and congress and those who run the world can not come up with a deal. I want to know what’s the issue? I can see if immigrants didn’t work or go to school and we’re lazy then maybe I could reason with the government but I cannot. These people are just like everyone else . They work hard jobs and go to school and to have to face stupidity from a leader with no common sense what so ever is astonishing. Trump doesn’t think things through at all. If he wants to deport them, where are they going back to? They came to America for a reason a better living and experience at life why would he do that. It’s beyond me and it makes me furious.”

“I will tell them to stop messing around because they are going to affect us more if their is no solution to DACA. And they need to come together and fix the problems their owns self have cause. Realize how much of this situation is affecting families. They don’t know what it’s like being apart from love ones”

“Going against DACA/immigration is against what this country was founded on. Immigration is key to this country’s success and humanity.”

“Honestly, these politicians have been inundated with how this will impact their constituents and they do not care. They can sit on a plane next to a man with a disease that will kill him without medical care (that he now depends on ACA for insurance) and they do not give a damn. Talking with them does nothing. They have been bought and paid for by big businesses (for profit prisons, NRA, etc.). It is time for term limits and the elimination of gerrymandering. It is time to get EVERYONE to the voting the booth and keep them engaged.”

“The criteria for establishing our priorities must be what we are doing to the image and likeness of God present in those effected by what we do. Yes to making DACA and CHIP permanent, to inclusive and compassionate immigration policies, greater balance in funding for the State Department and for diplomacy along with military spending. Any funding for a “Wall” is a waste.”

“Imagine that DACA existed years ago when your family immigrated to the United States and was suspended resulting in your family or you being sent back to a country you know nothing about. Imagine being forcefully separated from your children, as was the case with the young man who came to America as a child, married a U.S. citizen and just this week was separated from his family. What explanation can you give to his children? These are lives being affected, not just numbers.”

“I would recommend that their salaries be impacted by the shutdown as well. Give a briefing on the history of US with respect to “melting pot”, colonialism, and the danger of mimicking Hitler’s philosophy of supremacy.”

“Although I am afraid that it would fall in deaf ears as they all are only looking out for themselves. I would say that if they don’t fix it immediately, not only would I not vote for them (which I wouldn’t anyway) but I would make darn sure that no one in my immediate family and friends wouldn’t vote for them. I can not influence the president and republican party (intentionally in lower case) but I can sure be vocal and let my voice heard to influence those who vote. I will drive people to the polls and so will my family, I will do whatever it takes to ensure that our voice is heard at the polls. I firmly believe that the thought of not being elected again would make a dent since being kind, patriotic, and standing for what the majority of the people believes and wants doesn’t work.”

“Remember the people that your decisions will affect in these “issues” that you are having such difficulty coming to an agreement. What if these people were your direct family members? Would you still make the same choices? Will you be making the best decisions for their health and overall success as a member of society? Proceed with empathy.”

“A government shutdown is no way to run a democracy and is a failure of leadership and collaboration. However, today, at this moment in history, being on the brink of a government shutdown is absolutely the right course of action if it means swift passage of DACA and CHIP!”

“Our government should not be a racist capitalist machine. It should be a democracy and as elected leaders they should act accordingly.”


This entry was posted in Civil & Human Rights, In the Media, Political Issues, Politics, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: