By Mathilde de Gooijer
The US government is currently in its twentieth day of shutdown: the second longest in history. Though some say it’s just politicians mucking about in Washington, the consequences are becoming clearer as the shutdown progresses. State employees in museums are angry with the president and uncertain if they will be paid the coming days.
A shutdown occurs when the President and Congress cannot agree on funding. President Trump has demanded 5.7 billion dollar to build a wall on the border with Mexico to stop immigrants from entering the country. This was one of the key promises during his presidential campaign in 2016. As a result of the midterm elections last November, Democrats have now taken over the House of Representatives, making it harder for Republican President Trump to get his policies through Congress.
Sh*t’s getting real
Over 800,000 federal workers across the nation have been affected by the shutdown one way or another. Either they’re on a temporary leave or they’re expected to carry on working without getting paid. At several airports TSA agents have called in sick, causing long lines at security checks. All national parks and federal funded museums are closed.
The consequences of the shutdown are being felt too in New York City. All Smithsonian museums had funding to stay open until January 1st, but since the shutdown is still going on, they are now closed. Most of these museums are in Washington DC, but New York is home to the Cooper Hewitt and the National Museum of the American Indian.
The Cooper Hewitt is a museum devoted to both historical and modern design and is set in a mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Construction worker Tyreese has seen many disappointed visitors come by. “Right on the first day there was a lady who was mad at Trump for closing the place,” he tells. The garden surrounding the mansion is a much-loved place for locals to drink coffee or spend their lunch break. “Now they come here and see it’s closed. That’s a very disappointing way to start your day. Everyone is blaming Trump and if you ask me, they’re right.”
Other attractions in New York that are now closed due to the shutdown include Hamilton Grange and the African Burial Ground. Ellis Island and Governors Island both are national parks and no longer receive federal funding. However, especially foreign tourists want to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty when they visit New York. The State of New York has therefore provided funding to keep these attractions open. Though Ellis Island is still open for visitors, the Museum of Immigration is not. “Most people want to see the museum and find out if their ancestors entered the country here. It’s misleading to tell them the island is open when the museum is not,” says tour guide Dante.
Too much at stake
Ticket agent Steve works at the docks where the ferry to Ellis Island leaves. “New York has so much income from tourism, we can’t miss out on that. Everyone wants to visit the Statue of Liberty, so we make it work.” Steve now receives his pay check from the State of New York, but is doesn’t mean he sleeps easily. “I’m glad I’m still getting paid, but no one knows how long the State of New York will keep on funding us. It could be over in a week and the shutdown doesn’t seem to come to an end any time soon.”
On the 9thof January, the President addressed the nation on primetime television to emphasize the importance of a border wall and explained why there is a shutdown. He ended up telling the same story about immigration and drugs which he has been telling for weeks now. Democrats Nancy Pelosi from the House of Representatives and Senator Chuck Schumer responded just ten minutes later saying Trump is spreading lies in order to divide the nation. They want to end the shutdown as soon as possible, but there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The record for the longest shutdown will be broken for sure, but that’s the only security people have for now.