When I first heard the government had shut down, I felt nonchalant about the circumstance. But when my family began to reap the consequences, the reality of how vital government is really hit home.
On Oct. 1, the government officially closed its doors because Congress could not pass the federal budget for the fiscal year.
In the Constitution, this is achieved when both the House and Senate agree upon a budget and send it to the president for his signature or veto.
Ironically, even during a government shutdown, government officials – members of Congress, governors, senators, etc. – still receive a paycheck. However, my father, a 47-year-old retired veteran who has served his country since the he was 18, has not been paid.
I received a late-night phone call on Sept. 30 from my father that quickly turned into a reality check. My father told me that he transferred money into my account. Of course, I was excited, but his words that followed really ended the celebration.
The reason that he sent me the money was because he will not be getting his veteran retirement benefits until the government reopens.
According to usa.gov, veterans’ compensation, pension, education and other benefits have been discontinued until further notice. Many federal employees charged with protecting us from terrorist threats, defending our borders, inspecting our food and keeping our skies safe will continue to work without pay until the shutdown ends.
To make matters worse, my father, who also works part time for the Transportation Security Administration at San Antonio International Airport, was written a furlough letter by his supervisor on Oct. 1, granting him an approved leave of absence from duty.
In the letter, his supervisor advised him that he can continue working at his post, but he will not be receiving a paycheck for his work. My father promptly responded that he cannot work for IOUs, but he hasn’t stopped working since.
In the days since the shutdown, negotiations have been in the works between the Republican and Democratic parties. Neither side has come to an agreement and there isn’t any indication that the government will reopen.
President Barack Obama said he doesn’t want to negotiate with someone who is supposed to be doing his or her job, in a speech given at the White House on Oct. 9.
“Members of Congress and the House Republicans, in particular, don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs,” Obama said. “And two of their very basic jobs are passing a budget and making sure that America is paying its bills.”
I reminisce back to 2009 during my senior year at Blountstown High School in Blountstown, Fla., where my American government teacher read a famous quote from U.S. President Thomas Jefferson that parallels our current status quo.
“A government big enough to give you everything you need is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”
I never realized how much power the government had until it decided to shut its doors.
The lack of communication between government officials is very disappointing. At first, I thought government officials were being malicious for no apparent reason. I then realized that these officials were not appointed, but they were elected.
Maybe the American people are partially to blame as well.