From the West Coast to the East Coast, the government is failing its people. From teacher unions and school districts in Los Angeles to the highest office in the land led by President Donald Trump, people’s lives are being held hostage while shutdowns and strikes populate the news and affect the way in which everyday citizens live. The answer cannot be to just stop working. That is how a baby responds in the supermarket after not getting his or her way. They just sit on the floor and whine until they get their candy. What makes the shutdowns and strikes so frustrating is that the victims have no way to strike or shutdown in retaliation, or they’d be arrested, proving that our republic is not as even as we might want to believe.

I was a school teacher on and off for nine years and a wrestling coach for 16 years in both Ventura County and the Los Angeles City Section. My students came first, and they knew it. Whenever there was talk of a strike, I always had the same response: If teachers can strike for better conditions, shouldn’t students be able to strike for better teachers? If the ability to demand better conditions only goes one way, then the system is rigged. While I feel great sympathy for teachers who have 50 students (grading is never ending), I also know that teachers can curve the class to meet their curriculum needs. Right now, the students I feel bad for are the AP students losing valuable prep time before the May exams and athletes who are trying to get scholarships through basketball, wrestling and soccer.

“Kids are going to be on their own, which is not good,” said Rick Hayashida, who coaches football and track at Chatsworth Charter High School. “The kids in athletics put in extra time and it’s not fair to them.”

At the core is the funding for student resources, not raises. CNN reports, “While teachers demand millions more dollars in school funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District said it has already lost $97 million during the strike. That’s because the state funds schools based on daily attendance, and the number of kids going to school has plunged during the strike. On Thursday (1/17/19), for example, about 84,000 of the district’s 600,000 students went to school, LAUSD said. That’s a 37 percent drop in attendance from Wednesday (1/16/19).”

From where this funding will come is anyone’s guess. I think a tax that allocates for specific educational needs would work on most voters, but in Chicago, where strikes are being considered, the Chicago Teacher’s Union has a different approach. “Where will the money come from? Rich people,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said.

While taxing the rich is easy for many to say, sadly, governments view the middle class as rich. California’s income tax is broken down like so: 9.55 percent on taxable income between $47,056 and $1 million and then 10.55 percent on taxable income $1,000,001 or more. Raising taxes on people making $50,000 a year is not the answer, but perhaps a sales tax on alcohol, weed and guns allocated toward schools could help.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to hold America hostage. There is no way that the trifecta of Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell will solve this game of chicken. Which is a shame, because government employees, TSA workers and other groups such as NASA are not collecting checks. If the American people had a “shutdown” by not paying taxes, no president would salute them; they’d throw them in jail. 

McKay Coppins of The Atlantic states that only a complete breakdown can fix this: “For a deal to shake loose in this environment, it may require a failure of government so dramatic, so shocking, as to galvanize public outrage and force the two parties back to the negotiating table.”

Conservatives cry for a smaller government. Liberals cry for a government to fund as much as possible. Right now, we ironically have a smaller government and the people who are relying on it are being hurt financially and educationally. If the government’s job is to protect, it’s doing a poor job. If we, the people, must keep moving on, despite harsh circumstances, so should those we trust to take care of us.