2019-01-09 / Editorial

GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Michael N. Searles

When it comes to the partial government shutdown there’s a lot of finger pointing. Most fingers are pointed at the President, a growing number of people are blaming Republicans, and about one third blame the Democrats. The President initially said he was proud to shut down the government for border security and that he would take the mantle. He also added that he will be the one to shut it down and that he was not going to blame the Democrats. Soon, however, he reversed course and blamed the Democrats. Some Republicans have sided with the President and cast blame on the other party while a few Republicans have questioned the efficacy of shutting down operations of nine departments, including Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. The closing of even a portion of the federal government has real world affects. Lives are altered and some of the consequences cannot be undone. Even with reality staring the President in the face, he claimed that “many” of the federal workers affected by the shutdown want their workplaces to remain closed until Congress agrees to cough up taxpayer cash for a border wall with Mexico. The President later said I can relate to workers who cannot pay their bills, and I’m sure that they will make adjustments; they always do. The workers themselves tell different stories. Julie Burr, an administrative assistant on contract for the U.S. Department of Transportation in Kansas City, Missouri, has begun to cut back on her grocery shopping and has started a GoFundMe account to raise money to pay her rent. Amanda Wagner, Securities and Exchange Commission branch chief in Washington, D.C. and her husband are concerned about paying their mortgage and credit card bills. A sample letter designed by the Office of Personnel Management that oversees federal workers suggested that furloughed workers barter handyman services in exchange rent. The OPM however did not say how favorably landlords would receive this proposal or address federal workers’ skill levels or their willingness to provide those services. For those workers who have mortgages, would banks also be willing to trade services for mortgage payments? While workers look forward to an end to the shutdown, furloughed workers have no guarantee that they will receive compensation for time lost.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) which represents more than 700,000 federal employees filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration claiming that their member employees should not be forced to work without pay during the current partial government shutdown.

While claims and counter claims are hurled, it’s important to look carefully at what started the shutdown in the first place. The Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded until February 8, 2019 in an effort to avoid a partial shutdown just before Christmas. The House of Representatives was expected to quickly follow suit. The CR was passed with the expectation the President would sign it. The reason for Trump’s about face has been credited to Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh who complained that the President should not sign a bill that did not include $5 billion in border wall funding. From all indications, it was the harsh and negative reactions from his conservative base that made President Trump decide not to sign the CR against the advice of Congress, his advisors, and political insiders. So when we point fingers as to who is to blame for the current government shutdown, we need look no further than the Right Wing Triumvirate of Coulter, Ingraham and Limbaugh who seem to be the real power brokers in Washington.

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