What if Trump doesn't budge on the border wall? Government shutdown could cause holiday travel chaos

A look at how the government shutdown might impact your holiday travel plans

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 19, 2018 9:27AM (EST)


Could your holiday travel plans be hindered by a government shutdown?

This was the dire prospect raised by MarketWatch in an article on Tuesday. As Victor Reklaitis wrote:

Even if a service has been essential in the past and stayed in operation, that doesn’t mean it will be in the future, he cautioned. For example, Trump could decide against having Transportation Security Administration agents or air-traffic controllers continue working; in that case, business travel and package deliveries would be held up, the spending expert said.

In case the obvious needs to be stated: If Trump actually shut down the air traffic control system, it would freeze the American economy during one of its busiest and most profitable seasons.

"Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience with these shutdowns – and the government has learned how to work around them to minimize the political and economic costs," David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, told Salon by email. "I find it really hard to believe that holiday travel will be significant disrupted as long as President Trump designates TSA and FAA as essential services, which I’ll bet he does if we have a shutdown. I think investors, business and consumers will shrug this off as another one of these baffling things that Washington does that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t make much difference in our daily lives -- as long as it isn’t too prolonged."

He added, "The more worrisome element is that this is one more symptom of a dysfunctional federal government and political system, another reason for people in all walks of life to worry that the current leadership of the country will be incapable of responding effectively in a crisis of some sort -- a financial crisis, a terrorism strike, a natural disaster that overwhelms emergency responders, an immediate national security threat. Above all else, we all want to be sure that there are adults in charge in Washington who can handle a crisis, and there is increasing reason to believe that that’s not currently the case."

The prospect of a second government shutdown in 2018 exists because President Donald Trump has made it clear to congressional Democrats that he would allow that to happen in order to receive funding for a US-Mexico border wall. Over the weekend Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor to the president and one of his most outspoken supporters of a wall, told CBS News' "Face the Nation" that "we're gonna do whatever is necessary to build the border wall, to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration."

He later added, "This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country, whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country. The Democrat Party has a simple choice: They can either choose to fight for America's working class or to promote illegal immigration. You can't do both."

On Tuesday, however, the White House appeared to back off from the shutdown threat when press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted that the administration wants to avoid a shutdown and that there are “other ways to get to that $5 billion.”

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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