The Slatest

The Government Shutdown Is Going to Continue to Get Worse

A child and adult on bicycles pass overflowing garbage cans. Behind them, the White House is distantly visible.
Trash on the National Mall, which went uncollected because of the partial government shutdown, can be seen in front of the White House on Jan. 2, 2019.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

On the 12th day of the partial government shutdown, stopgap measures meant to keep federal agencies running, employees paid, and countless government operations holding on through the holidays are starting to run out.

On Wednesday, the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, free attractions popular among tourists visiting D.C., closed to the public. (In Washington, as BuzzFeed reporter Zoe Tillman pointed out on Twitter, the Marriage Bureau at the D.C. Superior Court, funded by federal appropriations, is also closed, meaning no one can get a marriage license in the district.)

Elsewhere in the country, the effects of the shutdown on recreation will likely extend beyond the shutdown. In national parks, where employees have closed facilities but not barred entry, the accumulation of human waste around now-abandoned toilets and on paths has created a health hazard that has driven some residents living near the parks to volunteer their time cleaning bathrooms and collecting garbage, according to the Washington Post. Yosemite National Park has closed off two campgrounds and a popular redwood grove for public safety, as visitors have been using the side of the road to relieve themselves, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Facilities aren’t the only problem for some people looking to take a holiday vacation. Some essential personnel canceled trips to be able to hold things together during the shutdown. And for thousands of other federal employees, finances became a sudden concern. There are an estimated 800,000 workers feeling the impact of the shutdown, according to ABC News. About 420,000 of those workers are working under the promise of being paid retroactively, but the remaining have been furloughed.

Those affected work for nine federal departments and dozens of other, smaller agencies that had to close. While most of the military remains funded, the Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, is not. The Coast Guard announced on Friday it could provide emergency payments on Monday to its 42,000 active-duty service members for work in December, but it could not guarantee a paycheck in January.

And the shutdown doesn’t just worry federal employees. The Interior Department’s Indian Affairs bureau provides funding for federal employees to assist with basic services, including health clinics, food pantries, law enforcement, road maintenance, and education. With the shutdown, tribes are losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. The New York Times reported that on the Navajo Nation, unplowed roads have trapped people in their homes and left them unable to make the trip to buy water, groceries, or medicine.

Less troubling on the individual level but still of concern in the long term are the regulatory efforts that could become hampered by the shutdown. The Federal Trade Commission ran out of funding on Friday, meaning all of its investigations not related to mergers will be suspended. That’s of note because it includes the FTC’s monthslong investigation of Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. As former FTC officials told the Post, the delays could place the FTC in a weaker position as it faces off against Facebook. Lawmakers are already criticizing the FTC for moving too slowly in its investigation.

Next to go is the Federal Communications Commission, which is set to end most of its operations on Thursday. It will no longer be able to operate licensing services for broadcast companies, enforce consumer-protection measures, test and approve new devices, and respond to consumer complaints. More than 80 percent of its workers will be furloughed. Given that President Trump said on Wednesday that the shutdown will last “as long as it takes,” Americans should prepare for things to get worse.