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Student opinions on the shutdown, week 3

The federal shutdown officially became the longest in history as it entered its 22nd day Saturday, and the only signs coming out of Washington are of both President Donald Trump and leading Democrats in Congress digging in.

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Shown in the picture, emerging from talks at the White House that broke down on January 9, from left to right, are House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland; Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York; US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California; and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, of Illinois.

Since the two “second in charge” people from each chamber are from our two home states of Maryland and Illinois, we’d like to present some students’ opinions about the shutdown from those two states, but material is sparse from Maryland, where tens of thousands of federal workers actually live and send their own kids to school. As that is the case, we turn to Illinois for a few excerpts of spot-on student writing and reporting in the first of what we sincerely hope will be a very short series of shutdown stories.

Counties of northern Illinois (Belvidere, covered by the star, is the Boone County seat.)

Belvidere North High School, Boone County, Illinois

After a long list of agencies and government services that are fine for the time being, reporter Yasmin Vizguerra in The North View points out potential problems if the shutdown should last too long. Money has already been provided for school lunches, for example, but only until March, when even funding for that essential service could expire. Then she quotes a student and responds to Mr Trump’s televised speech on Tuesday.

“I feel like right now with the shutdown and everything, many people feel strongly towards it, because all these agencies that are to help us are all suddenly closed and he’s willing to keep it up until he gets his wall,” [one sophomore student said].

Trump also met with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. But when she refused to accept his demand for his border wall, it had him walking out of the White House meeting, calling it a “waste of his time.”

On January 8, Trump delivered a speech where he addressed the reasoning behind the shutdown, expressing that it was due to the drug trafficking that has made its way into the U.S. and the supposed human trafficking.

That, however, is far from the truth, as more drugs come in from major port cities and not from Mexico and less violence is committed by the immigrant population than the general population.

So Trump’s claims about whatever he says this wall will do are fake: it won’t help the situation at all, as it’s known that it’s all false.

Additional support for Ms Vizguerra’s statement comes from an article entitled “No Fire, No Fury—Just Failure,” written by Fiona Flaherty in the Yorktown Sentry student newspaper at Yorktown High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in the Washington suburbs. “Perhaps the most painful part of the president’s speech was his account of several very violent crimes that were committed by illegal immigrants. For the record, illegal and legal immigrants commit less crimes than native-born citizens,” she writes. “The president used his very carefully crafted message as an attempt to scare people into thinking that they will be raped, beheaded, beaten to death, and/or will have a loved one stripped from them by illegal aliens. The stories that are true about crimes like these are terribly sad, but only represent a very small minority of both criminals and crimes.”

However, until Trump makes his decision, we’re stuck waiting and hoping it doesn’t lead to other problems.

Minooka Community High School, Will County, Illinois

In an extensive op-ed for the Peace Pipe Chatter, editor in chief Cassady Cundari implores the government to allow workers to do their jobs and get paid as well as students not to let the talk of the shutdown go in one ear and out the other.

As students here in Minooka, the government showdown 725 miles away in Washington, D.C., can seem distant and outlandish. So when social media references the partial government shutdown that’s been going on since Dec. 22, which may end up being the longest government shutdown in history since the 1995-1996 shutdown of 21 days, the details may just as well go in one ear and out the other.

But I want you to consider how this government shutdown hangs on President Donald Trump’s request for over $5.7 billion in border wall funding and the Democratic Party’s refusal to yield. I implore you to ask yourself:

  • Whether this wall is worth the 800,000 government workers and their families scrambling to find alternative sources of income to make up for missed paychecks.

  • Whether this wall is worth what POLITICO calls workers clamoring for unemployment benefits, uncertainty for food stamp funding, hundreds of TSA call-outs, neglected national parks, and federal scientists missing crucial gatherings.

  • Whether this $5.7 billion wall is worth an idle government in a time where new representation was elected into Congress to lead differently, propose bold ideas, and incite positive policy change for all Americans.

  • Whether it’s worth childcare costs weighing heavy on federal employees, landlords dipping into reserves, transportation progresses delayed, and courts barely scraping by to stay afloat.

I implore you not to let this matter go in one ear and out the other. …

The course of action is simple: Trump must swallow his pride and end the shutdown, ensure just compensation for federal workers, and allow the border security discussion to persist in Congress where both parties can reach a more viable alternative than the divisive and counterproductive wall.

“Separate the shutdown from arguments over border security,” said Schumer. “There is bipartisan legislation supported by Democrats and Republicans to reopen the government while allowing debate over border security to continue. There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over policy difference.”

From Ms Flaherty: “A border wall is not going to help the janitors at the USDA pay the bills and put food on the table for their families. In his speech, the president swore to protect the American people. A wall might protect the American people from a small percentage of violent crimes, but no wall can protect us from misinformation and fear mongering to advance a dubious agenda.”

A wall will never be worth the havoc it has already wrought upon our nation, and construction has not yet even begun.

Niles West High School, Skokie, Cook County, Illinois

Academics editor Wyatt Zwik, writing in The Niles West News, asks a few people at the school to analyze the shutdown.

AP Government teacher Joseph Edwards attributes the extended government shutdown to pushback from conservative media who egged the president on to refuse anything that does not fully fund his border wall.

“Before winter break, President Trump indicated he would be more than willing to shut down the government if he didn’t get money for the wall, so in that regards in my mind it’s mainly President Trump who caused this,” Edwards said. “There was a bill that the Senate had passed that would have provided for funding and the White House had indicated before break that they were going to accept it. And then it seems as if there was pushback from—seemingly conservative—media that then caused the White House to reconsider and be willing to hold this fight over the funding of the wall.”

Senior … thinks that the government shutdown is mostly due to irresponsibility on the part of President Trump.

“I think the president and his childish demeanor are responsible for the government shutdown,” [he] said. “I think that him holding 800,000 employees hostage to fulfill his campaign promise is pretty problematic—especially when this wall is now going to be at the expense of the taxpayer instead of Mexico paying for it.”

Senior … believes the shutdown is a just a signal of incompetency in our government, with both parties being at fault.

“I think that the government shutdown is a representation of our government’s incompetence. I’m not trying to lean towards one side, but it shows that nobody is able to negotiate, because we have our president who’s hell-bent on getting $5.6 billion when we’re currently trillions of dollars in debt,” [he] said. “On the other side, we have Democrats who maybe aren’t taking national security that seriously, so despite what side you’re on, it’s definitely a representation of government incompetence.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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