Though most everyone focuses on the things we’ve lost during the government shutdown, it’s also important to consider the programs that have been kept intact during this period. In fact, the only thing that makes the furloughing of nearly a million government employees and drastic cuts to national parks, NASA and scientific research even more infuriating is looking at some of the junk that’s stayed on the payroll.
While we’re shutting programs down, why not get rid of some other troublesome government operations, too? Even if not permanently, it might be nice to have a temporary reprieve from some of these flawed policies:
Spending countless billions storing American citizens’ emails and phone calls seems like an unnecessary expenditure to me. Though the NSA practices may get an official pass in the interest of “national security,” the lack of evidence that this data collection actually helps to prevent terrorist attacks should be enough reason to suspend this program…not to mention its unconstitutionality.
Admittedly, about 6,000 NSA employees have been furloughed, but that is but a fraction of the estimated workforce, and a particularly small cut compared to other government program furloughs. Of course, one group that has been decidedly terminated during the shutdown is the review panel charged with overseeing NSA’s operations. Suddenly there’s no oversight for a program the government never really wanted oversight for. How convenient!
How are we handling immigration during the shutdown? Simply put: it’s a one-way street. Immigrants looking to come to the country are essentially on hold. 70% of government employees tasked with reviewing that process have been furloughed. On the other hand, 80% of employees on the deportation front are still in business.
As it stands, undocumented immigrants are still being pursued and put into detention centers while awaiting trials. The current shutdown obstacles, however, are delaying the process — which usually takes a year and a half already — even further, meaning an increase in the money spent on these detention camps.
Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that border patrol agents are still in full effect. Their positions have been declared critical to “safety of human life and protection of property.” Personally, I don’t consider families in search of a better life that threatening. If we’re committed to not letting anyone in during the shutdown, perhaps we could be content not to kick anyone out for a while, as well?
For as secretive as the government has been in regards to its drone program, you’d think one of the first cuts would be to an operation that most Americans wouldn’t even realize was missing. Nonetheless, Air Force-led drones are still quietly taking flight over foreign territories, although whether any attacks have taken place during the shutdown is unclear given the covert nature.
At the time of the shutdown, President Barack Obama said, “The threats to our national security have not changed.” Okay, but if we’re short on money, why continue funding a controversial program reviled by the United Nations and known to kill innocent children?
4. Guantanamo Bay
We’ve heard for ages that Guantanamo Bay will be closed, yet the indefinite detention center persists. Why not declare Gitmo inessential and get rid of the source of international embarrassment while we have the excuse?
Oddly enough, the government shutdown has allowed for some interesting loopholes in the handling of Guantanamo prisoners. Since Congressional restrictions ended along with the government funding, it would actually be easier to release the detainees who pose no threat.
Don’t hold your breath, though. “I would say that though [the shutdown] may mean some of the restrictions on transfer are not currently in force, that is not currently what is preventing the transfers from happening,” said Human Rights Watch representative Laura Pitter. “It is political will. The president certainly had the power to make the transfers happen before the shutdown.”
5. Drug Enforcement Administration
I wouldn’t necessarily advocate eliminating the DEA entirely, but while we’re furloughing people, it wouldn’t hurt to send some of those temporary pink slips to Drug Enforcement agents. The mismanaged “war on drugs” is one of the main factors that contributes to this country having the number one incarceration rate in the world and disproportionately locking up people of color, even though studies suggests whites and non-whites use illegal drugs at equivalent rates.
Instead, the government has deemed the DEA an “essential service.” It must be comforting to know that they can always find money to lock up individuals whose worst crime is generally battling an addiction.