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A student’s guide to the US federal government shutdown of 2018

“The US government federal government shutdown of 2018 began at midnight on Saturday, January 20, 2018, and ended on the evening of Monday, January 22.” A daunting sentence for the American people. But what exactly does it mean? What happened, and why?

A government shutdown is when Congress and the President fail to pass appropriations and/or legislative funding to government operations and agencies – in other words, when the branches of government fail to agree on a budget for the government and its programs. Some of the programs affected are social security, medicare, food stamps, subsidized lunches, the IRS, and health agencies. The most recent shutdown occurred in 2013 regarding the Continuing Appropriations Resolution of 2014.

Most government agencies and branches are affected by government shutdowns. For example, local national parks are affected, but more pertinent programs like education and the military remain relatively unchanged during the shutdown. Private entities – stores, gyms, restaurants – will also remain unaffected. For students of the public education system, this is something that you don’t have to worry about affecting your everyday life directly.

“It has had no effect on me,” says freshman Thomas Griffiths. “It’s kind of strange that the government has stopped functioning, but for most students it hasn’t been noticeable”.

During the shutdown, students still went to school, adults went to work, and elected officials remained in combative legislative deadlock. There have been a total of 19 government shutdowns since 1976, but most of them happened over the weekend, and direct effects on everyday life are nearly invisible.

However, these shutdowns represent conflict within the government that can ultimately manifest in inaction. Many express concerns that a more effective and efficient system for breaking such ties should be found. “We need a better system,” says APUSH teacher Mr. Zimmel. “It should be something we can agree upon – a system where we can all work together for the better of the country.”

The shutdown also signals the persistence of the issue that drove the government into inaction for 36 hours – budget reforms. The government has failed to come up with a new budget after pushing it back since March 16, 2017. While the word “shutdown” is scary, the scariest thing is our elected officials’ procrastination of serious and dire issues that affect everyone in our nation.