Trump to Federal Employees: Screw You

Declan Gunn

January 23rd, 2019

Today marks the 32nd day of President Trump’s petulant government shutdown. This shutdown officially started on December 22 of last year when the President refused to sign any appropriations bill (a federal spending bill) which wouldn’t allocate $5.7 billion to the funding of his Mexico-United States border wall.

 

Already the longest in U.S. history, this shutdown has adversely affected millions -- 4 million government contractors have been laid off, with 800,000 direct U.S. government workers furloughed; of those, 420,000 are still being forced to work without pay. The maltreatment, including missing their first paycheck of the year, has brought some workers to the breaking point -- a number of government employees, including many TSA agents, have quit. Even the U.S. federal courts are running out of funds, hitting the bottom of the barrel in another week and a half. Moreover, this has stunted economic growth, which hypocritical Republicans like President Trump claim to love. Among other issues, growing businesses have been denied loans by the U.S. SBA (Small Business Administration) and private companies have refused to go public, leading to a significant decrease in 2019’s overall economic growth. According to the president of the U.S. Federal Reserve, this will likely lead to an overall 1% less of an increase in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which amounts to over a third of our annual economic growth lost because of Trump’s shutdown.

 

The question of whether the US should be paying for the border wall shouldn’t be on the table at all -- for years, starting in his early days on the 2016 campaign trail, President Trump has promised that Mexico would pay for the wall. In fact, two of the President’s claims have been constant: (1) that the wall is a physical, concrete border and (2) that the Mexican government would pay for it. Both of these have shifted greatly in recent months, with President Trump now actively contradicting his past self. Instead of a wall, his recent comments have been about a “steel slat barrier” -- the photos he proceeded to tweet were of a fence. Furthermore, President Trump has been firmly rebutted by the Mexican government on the subject of wall-funding -- Mexico’s former President Nieto has said that his country would under no circumstances pay for a border wall and its current President Obrador has called the wall an internal U.S. matter that he has no concern for. Even so, President Trump has persisted: over a week into the shutdown where he was actively asking for the U.S. to pay for the wall, he claimed that Mexico would fund it through the USMCA (a free-trade agreement recently adopted as an alternative to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement). This seems to have been all talk, though; the President has not ceased complaining for Congress to use U.S. taxpayer money to pay for the wall.

 

A solution to the issue of the shutdown is easy (even if talk of immigration is not) -- Congress simply needs to pass a spending bill that doesn’t include wall funding; President Trump can negotiate for that later. There’s no time limit on building the wall, so it’s unclear why the President is choosing to hold his ground now. As Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY, Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-San Francisco), and others have repeatedly said, the question of immigration is an important and pressing one, but not so pressing that the President should use the livelihoods of millions of government dependents as a bargaining chip.

 

The House of Representatives has already passed a spending bill that would end the shutdown and allow formal debate on immigration to reopen, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to bring it to the floor. This is clearly only as a deterrent for reopening the government -- the exact same spending bill passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support just weeks before. He hasn’t fully explained his reasoning, but it’s likely because he’s up for reelection in 2020 in Kentucky, a state where President Trump is more popular that he is. Senator McConnell likely wants to piggyback off the President’s popularity and knows that if he presents this bill, it will be seen as an act of defiance against the establishment. As such, he’s accepting the current situation without reservation and folding to Republican leadership.

 

Negotiations are still in full force -- just two days ago, President Trump offered a three year cessation in deportation attempts for DACA recipients (immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children) in return for his $5.7 billion in wall funding. Speaker Pelosi refused. There’s an important reason that Democratic Congressional leadership has refused to make any deals with the President during the shutdown -- if he sees that using millions of government workers as a bargaining chip works as a political strategy, the President is going to shut the government down every time he wants a policy change. Majority Leader McConnell needs to grow a spine and introduce the spending bill; our politicians need to stick to their guns and fight for what’s right: ending this government shutdown as soon as humanly possible.

 

N.B. A shorter version of this article originally appeared in Teens Resist’s “Sorry, We’re Closed: Dec. 27th 2018 - Jan. 21st 2019.” Teens Resist is Highly Indy’s sister website, and we recommend you check out said article here: https://www.teensresist.com/lists/sorry-were-closed-dec-27th-2018-jan-21st-2019.

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