These Billionaires' Donation Reveals the Private Sector's Answer to the Shutdown

A former hedge fund manager and his wife John and Laura Arnold have donated $10 million to help fund Head Start programs in several states, officials announced on Monday. The federally-funded program was rendered inoperable as fallout from the government shutdown continues to affect the rest of the country.

Head Start centers provide comprehensive care to pre-kindergarten children ages 0-5 from low-income families. They serve "the poorest of the poor in our country," according to Head Start spokesperson Sally Aman. Working families in these underprivileged communities depend on these centers for childcare, and over 7,000 children have already been impacted. So while the emergency injection of funds from Laura and John Arnolds couldn't have arrived at a more crucial time, the picture is sobering. The devolution of the U.S. government seems all but complete.

Upon learning that the Head Start program was facing closure, the Arnolds acted quickly and said, "We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature's collective failures.

"Epic political showdowns have happened before. The United States government shut down for 21 days in December 1995. The 90s were similarly characterized by tabloid-ish media fodder of a red-blue political divide, à la President Clinton and Newt Gingrich. But at the time, America was also enjoying a robust economy and years of peace.

The furloughs now arrive under completely different circumstances. The American economy, while still growing, is hardly soaring. Income disparity levels throughout America are unprecedented, as the rich are getting richer while the poor and middle class fall further behind. It is clear that the prevalence of economic struggles in America is growing. There are more than 46 million Americans living below the poverty line. In a nation of 315 million, that's over 14% of Americans who are considered impoverished.

When Congress decides that their political ideologies will supersede the needs of the American public, the ones who pay the heaviest price are those who can't afford to.

Requiring individuals to help provide services for dependents underscores something much worse than a political breakdown. The tyranny of the two-party system has finally become endemic to society. Political party lines should not define the scope of the underprivileged, nor should ideology take precedent over public service.

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Jessica Lee

Jessica is a Master of International Affairs candidate at Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs, where she is currently the Online Managing Editor at the Journal of International Affairs.

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