“Poor Me” Misses Impact of Shutdown on Real People

Ideas and Issues

Valle de Bravo      In President Trump’s world, where it’s “all about me,” he seems to believe that he made the supreme sacrifice of staying home for the holidays in the White House rather than heading to Mar de Lago, his exclusive resort property in Florida.  Like many on a stay-cation, he has spent way too much of his time watching television and tweeting wildly enough to destabilize financial markets, the military, and most of the rest of us.  At one point in his tweets, Trump engaged in a little self-pity that he was ensconced in the White House, of all places, referring to himself as “poor me.”  I find that mind-blowing.  He shuts down 25% of the federal government with a temper tantrum, and is still clueless about the impact on the rest of us and all of the real people who are not only forced to call him “boss,” as federal workers, but untold others who are employed in one way or another as federal contractors.

Let’s look at the bare bones of this federal shutdown, which seems to be the third of this year, if you’re counting at home.  According to the Washington Post,

About 380,000 employees would be forced to take unpaid leave, also known as furlough, while other workers, deemed essential employees, would work without pay. Departments affected by the shutdown include Justice, Homeland Security, State, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce and Interior.

In past shutdowns, those that worked without pay, often got backpay, but many furloughed just don’t get paid period.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some states are concerned enough that they have stepped in to the gap to protect national parks,

Utah moved to make sure visitors’ centers at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks would not immediately go dark. New York is spending $65,000 a day to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open to tourists. Puerto Rico agreed to pay up to $80,000 for two weeks of services at the San Juan National Historic Site. Arizona has agreed to spend about $9,200 a day to make the shutdown “invisible to visitors” at Grand Canyon National Park.

Of course, some did that because the discredited, scandal-plagued Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke left the parks open during the last shutdown and in some cases, they were assaulted. Civil War relic collectors massed at Gettysburg for example with their metal detectors to see what they could steal.

Federal employees have never been popular with President Trump and his gang, so his cavalier shutdowns are becoming commonplace enough that many lawmakers and others just try to wait the whole thing out, which seems to be the strategy here until after the first of the new year.  But, those really impacted, besides inconvenienced citizens and visitors, are real people with presents to put under the tree, health and rent payments to make, and families to support.  Money matters.

Also hurt the worst are federal contractors many of who are lower paid like cleaners, security workers, day care providers, and others.  There’s no back pay coming their way once this is all over.  For example, the Washington Post told the story of Lila Johnson, 71, of Hagerstown, Maryland:

From Monday to Friday, she works the 6-to-10 p.m. shift at the Agriculture Department, cleaning men’s and women’s bathrooms on a contract basis. Although she supplements her salary with social security and a pension from George Washington University (where she also worked as a janitor), she worries the absence of her contracting salary will put her behind on crucial payments — her automobile lease and insurance, plus her townhouse rental.

“It’s just putting me in a bind. I am going to have to juggle my bills around. My part-time job at the Agriculture Department helps me make ends meet,” she said.

Compounding her situation is that her 15-year-old great-grandson and 5-year-old great-grandson live with her in her three-bedroom home, for which the rent is close to $1,000 a month.

“It’s not easy putting food on the table for kids and buying them clothes and shoes. That’s why I am still working,” she said. “But I did pretty good this year with presents.”

For now, Johnson puts the blame on Republicans, especially Trump.

“Trump is throwing a temper tantrum for a wall,” she said. “What’s the wall going to do? He just wants to say, ‘I delivered my promise.’ But he’s messing with people’s lives.”

President “Poor Me” should be the one thinking about the Lila Johnson’s and millions of others instead of watching television, tweeting, and eating bonbons furnished by the White House staff of federal employees under the White House Christmas tree in his government-paid pad, thinking it’s all about himself.  That’s not the way government works.  It’s about the people, pal, not you.