During the last government shutdown, for a record 35 days in 2018-2019, Everglades National Park was operated by volunteers.
Will that have to happen again?
As the country hurtles toward an increasingly likely federal government shutdown on Oct. 1, it’s easy to think that this is all just Washington politics, partisan infighting with little bearing on real life. After all, both ex-President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have chimed in, adding to the sense that it’s part of the theatrics.
Trump said on his social-media platform Wednesday night that a shutdown is an opportunity to “defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots.” And DeSantis also seems to want a shutdown. Politico reported last week that the governor said “I got your back. Keep fighting,” as he spoke on the phone with several conservative members of the U.S House trying to push a shutdown if Democrats don’t give in to far-right demands.
‘All about me’
Both men have the same self-serving goal, of course — to boost their chances to win the Republican nomination for president. Trump, as is so often the case, is divorced from reality; federal prosecutions are unaffected by government shutdowns. DeSantis, meanwhile, has fallen so far in the polls that his encouragement to those who would shut down the government is worth less and less.
And neither candidates’ posturing should distract us from the more important point: Trump and DeSantis are actively rooting for something that will harm a lot of regular people. They’ll happily lead us into the abyss if it helps them claw for power.
A shutdown is a real hardship. If the federal government really does grind to a halt, the impacts will start small but build over time.
Federal employees won’t be paid, yet essential workers like those in federal prisons will have to work anyway — without being paid. Agencies like the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection would have their funding frozen, but many agents would likely be considered essential workers, working without pay.
Furloughed workers receive their pay, eventually. That’s not much help if your mortgage is due now. During the 2019 shutdown — under then-President Trump — TSA agents called out sick in large numbers, causing travel delays and massive lines at security checkpoints. No wonder.
As U.S Rep Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from Florida who worked for DeSantis, told Politico: “This is really going to hurt the American people. And oh, by the way, it’s going to cost us billions of dollars.”
Park in peril
In South Florida, beloved Everglades National Park would be affected. In 2018, as trash piled up in many national parks across the country, a band of volunteers kept a few visitor centers open and tried to keep the garbage at bay. In 2016, during a shorter shutdown, the park wasn’t as fortunate. Visitors’ centers at the parks were closed. In 2018, the government allowed them to remain open as long as they didn’t use government resources or personnel. Now it looks like we might be heading that way again.
This is all happening because the hard-right Freedom Caucus wants to push for things like funding for the wall on the southern border. It’s a power flex. It hurts regular people and federal workers. It causes inconvenience and headaches. DeSantis and Trump are quick to capitalize on our misery, while real people pay the price.
So here’s a piece of free advice. Visit Everglades Park now, while it’s still fully functioning. That may not be the case much longer.
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