As Solidarity went to press, negotiations over the US government shutdown were ongoing. This article by Nicole Colson is from Socialist Worker, the paper of the International Socialist Organization.
As the federal government shutdown enters a third week, cutting off funds for so-called “non-essential” government services, it’s more and more clear that what those in power consider “non-essential” is very different from what we do.
Educational programs like Head Start, nutrition assistance to women and children, national parks, some medical services at the National Institutes of Health — all are among the many services closed down outright or facing the threat of their funding running out during the shutdown.
But at the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees and Customs and Border Protection agents are “still...around to enforce immigration law because the operations are ‘necessary for safety of life and protection of property,’” according to Alternet‘s Esther Yu-Hsi Lee. ICE agents are still arresting and deporting some 1,120 immigrants per day.
So the federal shutdown won’t stop the Obama administration from passing a terrible milestone in the next few weeks: two million immigrants deported in the five years since Barack Obama took office — more than any other president.
This contrast shows the twisted priorities of the federal government, evident even when that government is shut down.
The shutdown has affected public health — perhaps most obviously in a multi-state salmonella outbreak in chicken that caused hundreds to fall ill and dozens to be hospitalised.
Dr Chris Braden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, told Wired.com’s Maryn McKenna that his division normally totals 300 workers, but he was left with 40 people determined to be “essential.” The CDC eventually got 30 more people deemed “essential,” but only 10 of them went to work in Braden’s division, and not all of them were working on the PulseNet program that investigates foodborne illnesses.
It wasn’t until after 278 people across 18 states had been sickened by an antibiotic-resistant outbreak of salmonella that the CDC’s outbreak-tracking team was finally re-designated as an “essential” service.
This salmonella outbreak didn’t become a massive public health crisis, but it’s obvious that already understaffed and underfunded U.S. public health agencies are being stretched to their limits — with the potential for a worse crisis down the road.