The government shutdown now stretches into its third week. Here in the United States, this shutdown, which Trump insists will not be resolved until he receives full funding to build his racist and xenophobic border wall, is pushing financially strapped families like mine into even further economic precarity.
My family is a single income household. I cannot work a typical schedule because my daughter has some special needs that require me to be available on a flexible basis. Furthermore, the additional income would place our family into the Medicaid gap, where my daughter would lose her access to important services such as occupational therapy. Like many families around the country, we struggle to survive on our household income.
As food costs and utility prices continue to rise, we find it harder and harder to survive between paychecks. Tax refunds are our one opportunity every year to catch up on all the bills that have fallen behind, eliminate some debt, and to pay for necessary but normally unaffordable goods and services such as an eye exam and new glasses, or a tune up for the family car. Typically, tax season affords us a month or two of relief from the rest of the year’s financial anxiety. Every holiday season, as our budget becomes impossibly tight, we console ourselves with the knowledge that tax season is right around the corner.
Unfortunately, this experience is all too common for members of the working class, and every year we’re finding it harder and harder to hold on until we receive our refunds. Now, as the government shutdown continues with no end in sight, desperate families are faced with uncertainty about whether the IRS will be able to process this year’s returns in a timely manner.
The Trump administration has declared that tax refunds will not be affected by the shutdown, but pundits largely disagree. IRS employees aren’t being paid under the shutdown, and there are questions about whether the government can even legally provide the funding necessary to pay for tax returns while the government is shut down. As the uncertainty grows, struggling families like mine will have to wonder how long it will be until they can get their house payment caught up, or if the electric company will agree to yet another payment arrangement until the refunds are finally processed
Furthermore, workers and their families around the country who rely on income from a government job are being forced to turn to GoFundMe and other crowdfunding mechanisms in hopes of getting by until the shutdown ends. Low income, disabled and elderly people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, are concerned that the government shutdown will last for months, in which case funding will run out and they will be unable to afford enough food to survive. Additionally, the government shutdown has caused the FDA to halt food safety inspections, posing a public health risk for everyone but most especially for those working families, like my own, that cannot afford a trip to the emergency room or a doctor visit.
Meanwhile, desperate working class families that have been oppressed by imperialist violence in Latin America will continue to face instability, scarcity and uncertainty in their home countries. Many will be forced to face the unknown risks and dangers of travelling to the United States to seek asylum rather than remain in their destabilized and dangerous homes.
As asylum seekers travel here in search of safety, the Trump administration continues to demand funding for a border wall, and plans to send more troops to the southern border. Trump and his representatives continue to ramp up their xenophobic rhetoric in an effort to stoke fear and hatred toward refugees and immigrants, ensuring that these asylum seekers will be met with vitriol and danger if they reach the southern border of the United States.
While the Trump administration has taken the brunt of the blame for this government shutdown, Democrats are also complicit in this attack on workers. While they claim to want an end to the shutdown, they are also cynically embracing it as an opportunity to score political points and exposure in preparation for the upcoming election season. What’s worse is that theirs is a difference of degree, not of kind.
Congressional Democrats are unwilling to take a firm and clear stance against the anti-worker, anti-immigrant rhetoric of this administration. Instead, they admit to agreeing with him in spirit. In a joint statement with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer said “Make no mistake: Democrats and the President both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it.” Workers here and abroad simply cannot afford this sort of weak-willed “resistance”- we must organize a true resistance against bigotry and against the harmful political games of the ruling class.
The working class should not buy into the political games, the lies and the artificial division sewn by right-wing bigotry. Working class families on both sides of the border are under attack by the wealthy elite. Only through solidarity and unity can we fight back against this oppressive system that makes our very survival an everyday struggle. The workers’ struggle has no borders! Fight back!