Government shutdown causes diversity of opinion

The government shutdown lasted from Oct. 1-16 after Congress failed to pass appropriate legislation that would establish the budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

While the daily lives of most Americans did not change (according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, 78 percent of those polled said they were not inconvenienced by the government shutdown in any way), there were repercussions for the country as a whole.

The FDA stopped inspecting food; scientific research in medicine, astronomy, and astrophysics was put on hold; Head Start programs in six states were closed until a philanthropic donation of $10 million allowed them to reopen; and all the national parks were closed.

On top of all that, the shutdown reportedly cost the United States’ economy as much as $24 billion.

Now that it is over, The Trail interviewed several students to find out their reactions and learn whether they were impacted in any way.

The students were guaranteed anonymity so they could more freely express their opinions.

Some students were ambivalent toward the shutdown, as it did not interfere with their daily lives.

Others had friends who held government positions or were relying on government employees who were affected.

According to one junior, “My coworker’s husband is an FBI agent and he had to go to work without pay, while other people didn’t have to work. Now they’re both going to get paid even though some people worked and some didn’t.”

Another student had a friend whose backpacking trip through her school’s outdoors program was put in jeopardy.

“They had planned a week-long backpacking trip this year to the Grand Canyon and most people had already bought their plane tickets. Their permits were accepted and in the midst of being processed when the shutdown first happened…their permits were lost during the shutdown and cannot be processed…nine students got screwed over and have plane tickets to Tucson with no reason to go there,” the senior said.

By and large, although most students were not directly affected by the shutdown, from their comments it appears that it altered their view of our political system. In thinking about the causes of the shutdown, some students pointed to the two-party system. Others believe the radicalization of the Republican Party is to blame. Still others contend that the entire system is broken and needs an overhaul.

Those who place blame on both parties had this to say:

“We have idiots in the government right now that are basically having a tantrum over Obamacare,” a junior commented. “The two-party system has turned into a bipartisan catfight.”

“Both parties hold the idea that the state does not have a right to interfere in the economy and certain reactionary legislators want to jeopardize the social economic policies of the current government,” one senior said.

Others blame the radicalism flourishing in the Tea Party movement, which they believe has hijacked the Republican Party.

A senior argued, “At a grassroots level the Tea Party is very active. There’s no parallel phenomenon with the democrats. There was a parallel movement with Occupy, but it wasn’t taken seriously at all, and there are no Occupy lobbyists because the nature of Occupy is that it is anti-government.”

Many students think the shutdown has altered the lens through which the average American views our political system.

A senior said, “I certainly think that we are experiencing a climax in public dissatisfaction with the government.”

Others disagree and believe that right now most Americans do not really have an opinion one way or the other about the shutdown.

“We are still digesting or ignoring what happened,” one senior said. “It’s some sort of catalyst for thinking about the political system a different way, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

Those who said the shutdown has definitely motivated them to get more involved in politics stressed their belief that now is the time to act.

“Actions such as letter writing, protesting, and spreading information seem more important than ever, even if it only has minor effects,” one senior said.

A junior, on the other hand, is entirely discouraged and wants nothing to do with politics: “I never want to be involved in government because it’s a complete joke.  Unicorns battling on Neptune could be the real puppet masters for all we know. Even the Taliban has made good points about how stupid our government is and when they sound logical, that’s problematic.”

Another junior contended that our capitalist system is to blame for the government’s incompetency and that greed has irrevocably contaminated this country: “Capitalism as it is currently manifested in culture and policy simultaneously props the system up and threatens it. We have to completely quit participating in the current system and create our own models, our own myths.”

While the shutdown did not affect all students in a concrete way, it is safe to say it gave all of us something to think about.