September the 30th marks the end of the federal fiscal year for the US government and the deadline for the re-drafting of their budget. With congressional meetings delayed due to Covid-19, the likelihood of a budget decision that would satisfy both Congress and President Donald Trump in such little time is unlikely. Disputes will undoubtedly occur as the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic is likely to affect the budget in areas Trump has previously prioritised such as the military and national defence. If unhappy with the budget (which the past indicates Trump is likely to be) the threat of another government shutdown is real.
What effects would a government shutdown have this close to the election? We can look back to 2018. On the 22nd of December 2018, Trump shutdown the government for 35 days making it the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States. Why did Trump do this? Because Congress wouldn’t fund his pledge to “build a wall”. While both sides were to blame for an unresolved solution, blame Trump got, and blame Trump would undoubtedly receive if he shut down the government again.
Upset has characterised 2020 with the year so far witnessing some of the most violent protests of the 21st century. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement has exploded with support and encouraged protests all across the country. Moreover, the pandemic itself has witnessed mass protests over issues such as healthcare, face-covering mandates and state shutdowns. If the government shuts down on September 30, it is likely a new wave of protests will erupt across America at a time where social unrest is already at its highest. The media will take this and run with it further fuelling calls form the left to defund the police and play into a narrative against Trump.
Economic unrest has also been paramount this year with Forbes estimating that the coronavirus pandemic is set to cost the United States around $8trillion in the coming decade, with millions of dollars’ worth of loses already. With thousands of businesses closed and so many out of work, a government shutdown would only increase the economic hardship of the country. According to the Democrats on the Senate Apparitions Committee, the past government shutdown saw 380,00 federal employees furloughed without pay and 420,000 still required to work while not receiving pay. More workers furloughed could not come at a worse time when so many Americans have recently lost their jobs or are unable to work.
While polls suggest Biden’s lead, we saw this once before in 2016 and look where we ended up. Trump is still in the running, however, and Biden needs something like this to secure the votes of those still undecided. We should not be so quick to dismiss the ways Trump could use this shutdown to his advantage. A government shutdown would enable him to turn to the tables on the Democrats in Congress arguing they are the irresponsible ones for allowing a government shutdown in such unprecedented times and that they are the ones who do not want to support the country through their budget proposals.
Therefore a government shutdown may not be an ultimatum for who will win in the upcoming election as both sides could play it to their advantage. However, if Trump does win again with two government shutdowns, a global pandemic, an economic crisis, an impeachment trial and the most violent social unrest the US has witnessed in decades under his belt, the Democrats will have a lot to think about.
Image: Wally Gobetz via Flickr