U.S. Government Shutdown: Disagreement or Distraction?

U.S. Government Shutdown: Disagreement or Distraction?

            It’s the biggest showdown of Donald Trump’s presidency yet. The Democratic Party leadership are clashing swords with Trump’s administration over the controversial border wall. The struggle has already resulted in the longest and most devastating government shutdown in U.S. history.


            In a bid to stop construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Democrats are refusing to approve $5.7 Billion in funding for the 2019 budget. And both sides have taken surrender off the negotiating table.

            Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi firmly stated «WE ARE NOT DOING A WALL» while Trump said he can wait «whatever it takes» to get his money. The result – one fourth of the entire U.S. Federal Government was either partially or entirely shut down. What did it mean for the American people?

            Well, 800,000 federal workers were either furloughed or forced to work without pay. Many of them were American airport workers: air-traffic controllers and TSA agents labelled «essential» personnel. Of course the nation had already been through this in 2013 and expected the whole crisis to blow over. 

            But it wasn’t long until reality hit – when it became clear a compromise was nowhere in sight.

            The imperialists in Washington continued collecting their paychecks, while using the shutdown time to play the blame game. Nancy Pelosi refused to give even an inch on Trump’s demands, saying the whole shutdown is all the President’s fault. House Democrats put forward several dogmatic proposals, only to be inevitably rejected in the Republican controlled Senate. On the flip side, Trump offered few concessions in exchange for border wall funding. Democrats just considered them a ploy, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer even said it amounted to «hostage-taking».

            Amidst the bickering, workers waited patiently as the days rolled by, until on January 11th, 2019, thousands of affected federal workers missed their bi-monthly paycheck. Gradually, although formally lacking the right to strike, more and more airport workers informally did so by calling in sick. The rate of unscheduled absences reached as high as 7.4%, with airports across the U.S. closing down their notoriously irritating security checkpoints. And it was only after airlines began reporting millions of dollars in losses that the capitalist class’ politicians began to pay attention.

            On January 25th, the threat of a general strike from Association of Flight Attendants, and losses in the airline industry, forced the government to reopen. Trump temporarily retreated from his wall funding demands, agreeing to reopen the government for three weeks and continue negotiations. And at the same time, Democrats basked, and are still basking, in the glory of their temporary victory. They put sole responsibility on Trump for a 35-day government shutdown and worse yet – he has nothing to show for it. Schumer self-confidently remarked, «no one should ever underestimate the speaker [Nancy Pelosi] as Donald Trump has learned.» As if the threat of workers’ unrest and pressure from upset capitalists wasn’t the reason the federal government took action.

            And if the Democrats think Trump’s retreat to appease furloughed workers will last – they should think again. The February 15th re-closure date is fast approaching, still with no viable compromise in sight. House Democrats have promised funding for «homeland security priorities» but still have refused to entertain the wall idea.

            Nevertheless, Trump remains entrenched in his position. When asked on CBS’ Face The Nation if he considering another government shutdown, Trump responded «I don’t take anything off the table.» He even specifically mentioned that declaring a state of emergency was also still an option.

            But is the construction of a $5.7 billion border wall really socontroversial that the government needs to shut down and thousands of workers need to have their livelihoods shaken? With the U.S. government more than willing to allocate over half a trillion dollars to the military budget in 2019, it seems a bit strange that Washington would go lose its cool over a not-so-expensive solution to border security. Perhaps, the Democrats are right when they say the wall is Trump’s «distraction». Except, what they don’t mention is that they’re equally complicit.

            Alongside the mainstream media’s obsession with Trump’s shutdown of the government, is another fixation – spreading «democracy» to Venezuela. With media hysteria causing Americans to either worry about their next paycheck or fear a possible Latin American gang invasion, theres no time left to wonder if Washington’s preparation for another regime change is a good idea.

            The U.S. regime change narrative on Venezuela even shares many similarities with their approach to Syria. Washington imperialists label both Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and Bashar Al Assad «dictators», despite their election track records. They’re also apparently to blame for serious economic and political crises in their countries, which both just happen to have American money involved. And of course the U.S. blames Assad for the refugee crisis afflicting Europe. But it’s clearly the history of U.S. / NATO military interventions in the Middle East that are to blame. The same stands in Latin America – where the whole reason a border wall is being proposed, is to protect the U.S. from the consequences of it’s own actions in South America. Interventions in Chile and Nicaragua, as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, are only a few testaments to how U.S. destabilization of Venezuela will only make matters worse. And if the U.S. is looking for another Vietnam War in South America, then they’ll need more than a border wall to contain the consequences.

Donald Courter
Journalist, Political Reporter, Expert in Foreign Relations (USA)

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