Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

The Shutdown, Day 23: An Apology, A Prod, and a Call

[NB: You know the drill. Check the byline. /~Rayne]

First, an apology.

The government shutdown is personal; I have a lifelong friend who works for a federal agency and I have another friend who isn’t employed by the government. They are both hurting.

The first is a single woman ten years away from retirement; she’s raised a son, providing most of his support over the years at the expense of saving for retirement.

The other woman co-owns a small construction company with her spouse, specializing in home repairs and remodeling. She has several kids in school right now who are nickel-and-diming her to death with fairly typical needs — like AP tests and sports fees, uniforms, and equipment, essential if a kid has been working toward a sport scholarship. (Yes, children are yet again being punished for Trump’s and GOP Senate’s willful intransigence.)

Friend 1 doesn’t have a paycheck now. I think she’ll manage through the end of the month but then what? Tap into her IRA and draw down only to face a penalty later while losing the benefit of gains on her investment? How does she juggle trying to save for retirement, paying for her medications, keeping a roof over her head and her car in good order, while not getting too stressed out and making her blood pressure worse?

Friend 2 has now lost two construction contracts this month because they were small jobs for government employees who have been forced to cancel them. Her family counted on those contracts to get them through the slowest portion of the construction year. They don’t have a lot of reserves to draw on because they have a small business they need to finance and well, kids. Children are expensive, from diapers to college application fees and textbooks. God help them if any family member gets sick.

I am so very sorry, friends and friends I haven’t yet met. I can hear your stress; I know you want to work and you don’t want to be forced to take desperate measures to stay afloat. I wish you didn’t have to go through this wholly unnecessary and utterly unfair bullshit. I hope that writing this and other posts asking fellow voters to call their senators will help. Again, I am so very sorry.

Next, a prod.

I know many of the furloughed government employees are dealing with stressful first time experiences, like calling landlords and creditors to work out payment. Many of them feel great shame about this.

It’s not you. It’s not your fault. It’s about us, the rest of us. It’s about the Senate and Trump. Please don’t take the shame on your shoulders — you have enough to bear already.

Tell your landlord and creditors openly you’re a government employee or reliant on government employees. You’re not alone in this and they are surely hearing it from others.

My prod to members of Congress and to their constituents: government employees need some sort of tax credit or waiver of penalty if they have to draw down from their 401K or IRAs to pay the bills. Can we get something like this submitted promptly, please? Can we get behind it?

My prod to our community: if you can afford it, make a donation to a local food pantry. Many government employees have been forced to get help for themselves and their families. Ask around for other local opportunities to help since federal employees can’t take tips or other forms of remuneration. Local union offices may be able to help direct your contributions.

Finally, a call.

Make one. Make several. Call your senators regardless of their party affiliation and tell them 1) we need the government reopened, and 2) we still don’t need the “fucken wall.” This shutdown is not only hurting our government employees but it is wasting our tax dollars. We have pissed away on this shutdown any money which could have been spent on increased border security.

A constituent in Illinois said Senators Duckworth and Durbin have been getting more phone calls from the build-the-wall faction than the reopen-government-no-wall faction. This is probably due to the assumption that the Democrats are going to do the right thing and vote against the wall but for reopening government; we should no longer make that assumption given how desperate things are for many furloughed workers. Call your senators first, then call your rep (House has already voted along party lines for reopening government and against the requested wall funding). Recruit friends and family members to make calls as well.

If you have a GOP senator, ask them to work with other GOP senators to remove Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader because his failure to bring both bills to reopen government and wall funding aids and abets President Trump’s obstruction of justice by interfering with Department of Justice and federal court operations.

It’s been done before; Trent Lott was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader. (It’d be karmic payback considering how helpful McConnell was with Lott’s departure.)

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Treat this as an open thread.

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51 replies
  1. timbo says:

    Thanks for mentioning that McConnell can be removed.  The thing is… who will lead the Senate forward if he goes?  Murkowski?

      • Rayne says:

        That’s why we need the phone calls — to emphasize the people’s will to reopen government through or around McConnell.

        My guess is public opinion polling will rapidly change sentiment in GOP Senate caucus among the Class II senators up for re-election in 2020.

    • Rayne says:

      If I had to guess I’d think the GOP would swing behind Graham — and that’s a whole new kettle of fish. But I think he’s less likely to be obstructionist than McConnell.

  2. Arj says:

    This is a slow-motion tragedy, with innocent bystanders held hostage.  As appalling as Trump is, his enablers – among whom McConnell is an impudent ringleader – are worse.

  3. cfost says:

    Thanks, Rayne. I agree and empathize with all of the above. I feel that a couple of things need to be emphasized:
    First, “it’s about us, the rest of us.” That includes me. It seems increasingly important to resist the temptation to assume someone else is going to fix this country, whether that someone is an elected politician or a political activist or a journalist or whatever. Democracy starts with me and my family here in my home, I feel, because our words and deeds here at home have a way of making their way out into the public spaces. (Personal experience: if my 18yo nephew, voting by mail for the first time, doesn’t understand the instructions and the need for a stamp, then someone [me] ought to explain it to him, without judgement.)
    Second, I’m increasingly convinced that Trump’s actions are aimed at creating maximum chaos in this country, whether he is aware of it or not. Like Hillary said: a puppet. Whether he (or the Trump Organization) is aware of it or not.

    • Rayne says:

      Yup and yup. I worry for yet another friend who suffers from depression, made worse by their frustration about the state of the nation and world. They are overwhelmed by what must be done to fix this situation. But we are individuals, we can only control what we do — and sometimes that’s enough. If every voter made one phone call to a senator, it would make a difference. And if every adult ensured a youngling knew how to vote by mail, made sure they had a stamp in hand, walked them through it, it would make a difference.

      I have two newer voters who vote because I took them with me to the polls as kids and showed them how easy it was.

      And yes, Trump is sowing chaos. It’s extremely important for non-investor class as well as investors to recognize the screwing in progress — not just the bolloxing of markets like soybeans thanks to disruption of trade agreements. Money is made in volatility; the benefits are maximum to those who can predict volatility. Like the plummet of pound sterling on the outcome of the Brexit referendum; whoever shorted GBP made a killing.

      Who is shorting the U.S. right now?

      • cfost says:

        This is an important point. As usual, following the money is instructive. The currency markets are FAR bigger than the stock markets. Big players in that sphere are smart and well-informed. And the downtrend in the British Pound that you mention ended just days before the US 2016 election. Coincidence? No. Also, Russian individuals and entities and Cyprus banks have been players in the currency ( fx) markets for years. What, I ask myself, has Wilbur Ross been up to lately? Also, for whom was Farange working? Who would benefit from a sharp drop in the Pound? Why would Mnuchin, presumably well-informed, consent to sanctions relief that presents an obvious national security risk, unless compelled by fear or greed?

        • Rayne says:

          Farage should be investigated just as Arron Banks was supposed to be investigated, but the UK has had a real problem with doing the right thing save for going after Cambridge Analytica in spite of the findings that Leave(dot)eu violated campaign finance laws.

          Ross should never have been approved to Commerce Sec; he should since have been removed. But I’m sure that the point of having such a compromised, corrupt dirtbag in the cabinet is that the 25th Amendment couldn’t get unanimous support while Ross is a cabinet secretary. I’d like to know if somewhere he has holdings unreported that made a play in steel and aluminum while Trump was dicking around with tariffs, especially after Ross made such a bullshit show of playing with a soup can on TV while talking about how little the can would cost us even with tariffs. As if he was trying to convince us he was skimming a penny from each can and we wouldn’t miss it. Grrr…

          • Trip says:

            Interesting quick read:

            Brexit, lies, and rich folk

            In his book Heroic Failure, an excoriating analysis of the causes of Brexit, Fintan O’Toole identifies another book called The Sovereign Individual by William Rees-Mogg, the father of Jacob, as being particularly illuminating. In it, says O’Toole, Rees-Mogg senior espouses “an avowedly apocalyptic mess of Ayn Rand-ish prognostications, addressed quite explicitly to the super-rich”. Rees-Mogg senior wanted the ultra-rich to operate outside political boundaries, free “from all the constraints of nationality, citizenship and, of course, taxation”. This will starve nation states of tax revenue, leading to first their collapse and then to that of mass democracy itself.

            https://www.opendemocracy.net/aidan-mcquade/brexit-lies-and-rich-folk

            • Trip says:

              This why we need people like AOC so desperately right now, and why she is the constant target of attack.  She threatens the very core of this plan and ideology. “The People” know this instinctively if not intellectually. We will not survive tiny incremental steps, because they will indubitably lead to more concessions of this goal of the super-rich.

              McConnell has always struck me as one with the airs of aristocracy. His manner of speech (which I call fwa-fwa-fwa-ing), his deliberate avoidance of constituency without remorse (owing to a sense of being “better and above their wishes”) and his very archaic deliverance to wealth, by marrying fortunes together, for the mere purpose of more power and wealth for all concerned.

            • Rayne says:

              Fuck the Rees-Moggs, some of the worst examples of capitalism, too much like the Mercers. I’d hoped the spoiled prat Jacob, who was raised by a nanny to whom he attributes much of his development, would not have replicated. Sadly, his line will continue.

  4. Tom says:

    On the brighter side, perhaps you’ve heard that Canadian air traffic controllers have been sending hundreds of pizzas to their counterparts at U.S. airports as a way of demonstrating their support & solidarity.

    • Rayne says:

      I hope the pizzas make it through. I know gift cards for restaurants have been offered by well-meaning citizens but they must be refused due to federal rules on gifts and tips.

      • Tom says:

        According to CBC news, the pizzas arrived & were eaten & appreciated.

        Also, looks like Rand Paul is going to have his hernia operation at the Shouldice Clinic in Toronto, the same place I had my gut stitched up in 1995. Maybe he’ll get the same swag I received, a t-shirt with a picture of the clinic and its cornball motto: “A cut above the rest”.

  5. Jenny says:

    Rayne, Thank You!

    Call or email. This is cruel. The lack of value for federal employees is appalling. GOP puts party before people.

    If you cannot get through to the DC phone numbers, then call the Senator’s local office. If that doesn’t work email them. Go directly to their website.

    McConnell is missing in action. He is the problem. I cannot get through to his DC phone number (haven’t for weeks) so I go to the local numbers in Kentucky.

    I did actually speak to a staffer from Sasse’s office last week stating it is the Senator’s job to reopen the government. Simple solution, Senate passes bill opening government, Senate overrides Trump’s veto. I stated the government employees are not getting paid; however the Senator is getting paid. The staffer said, “Well, he has decided to not accept pay while there is a shutdown.” I replied, “Well, good for him; however that is not a solution for the 800,000 government employees not being paid.” He said, “Yes, I agree.” Ugh!

  6. MattyG says:

    O/T: How do we know DT didn’t attent the Trump Tower meeting in person? And why do we think there was only one meeting? Didn’t Rudi spaz out at one point after the Cohen revelations about a possible previous meeting  – in what seemed at the time to be an effort to get out in front of something – something that never actually never got out publicly?

    Not being present at the meeting(s) seems like the thinnest of shreds of a fig leaf of deniability – wouldn’t be have been there?

    • P J Evans says:

      There’s more than a little suspicion that he was listening in on his phone (assuming he didn’t have that area bugged).

    • Pablo in the Gazebo says:

      I don’t know how she keeps all that timeline stuff straight in her head.  I mean, I just don’t.  And neither does Chris Hayes, from the look on his face.

      • Eureka says:

        Plus the complex webs of relationships, relevant laws and procedures…at least the timelines are linear, lol.

        Back when I was thinking of ways Tom Steyer could more productively spend his money, I imagined him renting out one of those giant mansions with three-story entryway walls such that the relationships, etc, could be mapped with color-coded yarns matrix-style.  There’s be enough money leftover to sponsor tours and cover the  rappelling equipment.  Facetious, kind of- barely- as such would be truly useful.

  7. Anon says:

    Thank you for stating this Rayne  I agree wholeheartedly.  I would add two suggestions if I may.  First when talking to people it is important to bear in mind, especially when speaking to Republicans, that for some the Federal workforce is the enemy.  As a case in point the Daily Caller has published an anonymous op ed  entitled: “I’m a Senior Trump Official, And I Hope a Long Shutdown Smokes Out the Resistance” which includes choice claims like the following:

    On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.

    Why would they? We can’t fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position — some do this in the same position for more than a decade. (RELATED: EPA Employees Who Watched Porn, Harassed Women And Got Promoted)

    They do nothing that warrants punishment and nothing of external value.

    The vengeful screed reads like it was written by Miller or Mulvaney and makes clear that stories of people suffering may well fall on plugged ears.  Indeed later on in the article it refers to federal employees as “pets” and claims that the agencies are operating more effectively than ever before.  The same attitude that drove people to seize a bird sanctuary and destroy artifacts or cut down the trees in Joshua park just to go 4 wheeling is at work here.

    That does not mean that we should omit meaningful stories like the ones you shared but that those stories should be paired with things that a Republican actually cares about.  For those who, like me, who have Republican Senators who are useless on a good day it is best I think to focus on trust.  That is, why would anyone trust them to manage, well anything ever again, if this is their idea of good governance?  This is not a serious attempt to trim government or even basic anarchy, it is just arson without direction.

    Second, don’t confine this to senators congressional reps or even to federal republicans, talk to Republican and Democratic politicians at the state and local level.  Make clear you know that they don’t have a direct vote but note that they can talk to the ones who do.  In my experience many federal officials do listen to the signals they get from local parties and local officials.  Whether they like them or not they do depend upon them to get elected, and if your local party hears that it will pay a price for this then that will work its way up the chain.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks. I wanted to be more specific but I had to weigh offering more specific details about my friend who works for the feds over making a point about her economic situation. I think the second friend is a more important case to point out, that the effects aren’t confined to federal employees alone no matter what we think of them. It’s affecting the entire food chain around federal employees, including mom-and-pop small businesses who have a few employees and are generally the desired demographic for Republicans.

      I noted last week the senators have to fly home relying on unpaid TSA and air traffic controllers. That should give them pause no matter what right-wing media foments in propaganda.

      And yes, reaching out to state/local politicians is good — state and local governments often pick up the slack when feds can’t provide services. They aren’t budgeted for this.

  8. Eureka says:

    Since the NYT article came out, I noticed Malcolm Nance is using a different background image on his MSNBC tv appearances (this episode of Chris Hayes included).  It’s a fall scene, bridge across a river- is this near where Washington crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War or something?  Just a guess, and a different season, but I am asking in all seriousness:  does anyone know what this image is of?  Could be some other locale entirely- maybe he just moved, lol- but he used to use a Philadelphia city skyline image in his appearances.  He has spoken before of an appreciation for significant historical places.  And we have this small problem of ‘Russian Interference’ going.  I am wondering what this sign means.

      • Raven Eye says:

        That looks like the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge — crossing the Hudson.  Just a wee bit downstream from Fort Montgomery, NY.

        41.320276, -73.983431

        (Google Maps is our friend.)

        • Eureka says:

          Thanks, Raven Eye- see also my comment to Frank below.  Tho so far I didn’t find a good picture of this area (I don’t use google), it makes sense.

    • Eureka says:

      Thank you, Frank (if you are replying to me above)- I will have to re-look at pix tomorrow.  All of the geologically-old east coast river valleys are starting to look alike, lol.

  9. harpie says:

    https://twitter.com/AlecMacGillis/status/1084942105921896448

    2:35 PM – 14 Jan 2019 “If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell.” Provocative essay by major historian of Third Reich: >>>The Suffocation of Democracy Christopher R. Browning OCTOBER 25, 2018 ISSUE NY Books 

    Jane Mayer called this essay “breathtaking”.

  10. AlanK says:

    A bit OT, but perhaps the “why now?” aspect of the shutdown has something to do with Trump trying to negotiate with Pelosi about the investigations.

    • AlanK says:

      Should have said Trump-McConnell, since this site has presented a good case that these two are linked in the same foul embrace.

  11. Trip says:

    Is Gates being sentenced today (I thought I read or heard that somewhere), and if so, will that be public?

  12. Jenny says:

    Mr. Enabler, McConnell has another statement on his site entitled:  Border Security is Not Immoral

    https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=E9C3D40A-E4B7-4628-9DD9-4DAA0FFBFB87

    One thing he can do is blame others and refuse to take responsibility.  UGH.

    DC office:  202-224-2541; Louisville:  502-582-6304; Lexington:  859-224-8286; Fort Wright Office:  859-578-0188; London:  606-864-2026; Bowling Green:  270-781-1673; Paducah:  270-442-4554

    • Trip says:

      I think you let him off way too easily by labeling him an “enabler”, he is the driver of all of the bad legislation, while Trump is the frontman stooge.

    • harpie says:

      If border security were so important to Trump and Mitch, they might consider paying border security employees—like the Coast Guard, for one example:

      Steve Inskeep, NPR:

      3:31 AM – 15 Jan 2019 Retired rear admiral @CariThomasUSCG, of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance tells @MorningEdition all 42,000 members of the Coast Guard go without pay today due to the shutdown. Including those who are normally paid below the poverty line. And all who are on duty today. @NPR

  13. Trip says:

    Model claiming Trump secrets to be deported
    https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/1611562/trial-of-model-claiming-trump-secrets-to-begin-in-pattaya

    I feel really bad for this woman. My suspicions are that she was an opposition/ Navalny asset (maybe paid for work, or a fellow traveler). She is being dismissed for being a sex worker, aside from the obvious in that the US DOJ under Trump doesn’t want to uncover what she knows or might know about Deripaska.

    On the other hand, she could simply be a grifter. Or she might be both. But she certainly has added to the timeline of meetings by providing the video, which put Deripaska on the yacht discussing the US directly after Manafort’s NYC meeting with Kilimnik.

  14. harpie says:

    As Adam Klasfeld just noted on Twitter, Trump just retweeted Junior recommending the anonymous Daily Caller screed:

    I’m a Senior Trump Official and I Hope A Long Shutdown Smokes Out  The Resistance.

    Klasfeld:

    The whole essay is a noxious John Galt fantasy, but the crux of it positions the folks who inspect our food, make air travel safe and keep the national parks open as a mooching fifth column. // It seems inevitable they would demonize suffering federal workers.

  15. Trip says:

    Last bit:
    Ajit Pai Refuses to Brief Congress About Why Bounty Hunters Can Buy Cell Phone Location Data

    The Chairman’s staff said the selling of location data is not a ‘threat to the safety of human life or property that the FCC will address during the Trump shutdown.’
    Last week a Motherboard investigation revealed that cell phone providers and location aggregators have allowed real-time smartphone location data to be sold to bounty hunters, landlords, and used car salesman, among others. Soon after the story broke, Frank Pallone, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Pai for an emergency briefing on the issue. Monday, Pai refused that request, according to Pallone’s office.

    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mbymqp/ajit-pai-refuses-to-brief-congress-about-why-bounty-hunters-can-buy-cell-phone-location-data

    Remember the Russian church leader talking about the anti-Christ in smartphones? Well, yeah. It’s Ajit Pai.

  16. Charles says:

    Government workers in the lower ranks work for lower wages than they could get in the private sector. They submit their private lives to more scrutiny and control than most people have to (e.g., through the Hatch Act, e.g. for some, through FBI background checks). And the other side of the deal is supposed to be job security and good benefits.

    We need Congress, whenever it returns to sanity, to pass a law guaranteeing federal pay while there is a budget disagreement or an argument about the debt ceiling.

    Thanks for the post, Rayne. I will contact some Senators.

  17. e.a.f. says:

    It is simply beyond me how a wealthy formerly powerful nation would be run an extortion ring. trump referred to a number of other countries as “shit hole countries”. At least these countries don’t deliberately stop paying their employees. Other G6, 7, 20 countries manage to keep enough money on hand or have a protocal for being able to pay the bills. As I understand the American Constitution, it is what prevents payment of federal employees, however, some where along the line certainly some one ought to have figured out a way around it. The American Constitution was written back in the 1700s when there were actually very few people in the country and even fewer on pay roll.

    dtrump’s attitude towards all of this, in my opinion, goes beyond politics but something akin to a wreaking ball out to destroy the American economy, slowly, but surely. If this were to go on for months, the results would be devastating. Who does this work for? Who benefits? What would the general public be willing to give up to have things brought back to “normal”?

    If dtrump is on Putin’s payrolls, this is an excellent method of ensuring Putin gets his money’s worth and any other corporation/individual who benefits–pay day loan companies, real estate corps., banks–they get to seize homes which may already have been largely paid for, etc.

    Its interesting how the talking head shows on CNN and MSNBC talk and talk about what is going on but do little actual reporting, that I’ve seen how this is wrecking people’s lives and the American economy. CBS’s news last evening did a small segment on a Colorado town, where the impact is being felt. What do these t.v. stations have against telling the American public how this affects them and their community and their municipal budgets. Yes, when people don’t purchase things and pay sales taxes, communities and states are defunded. Now who does that work for. Trump has been clear, he may not “open” government even if he gets the wall. What is that all about, except destroying the U.S.A.

    No wall is going to help anyone recover from this economic shut down. He says he wants a wall to keep American safe. Many of us have seen the stats regarding the “safety”. The drugs come in via ports, etc. All the U.S.A. is going to need is a couple of good el coli out breaks and a couple of mid air collisions between large jets to kill hundreds if not thousands of people. So how does that compare to what is “saved” by a wall.

    working for no pay reminds me of SLAVERY. I thought that was outlawed around the time of the American civil war. There is no real guarantee the people now working will be paid in the future. They may have been promised money, but there is no guarantee they will be. So there we are back to the “good old days of SLAVERY”. These workers are not free to go. they are held by the promises and are desperate to have them full filled. They are being coerced into staying.

    The Canadian air traffic controllers work with the AMericans when they hand off the responsibility for the air craft from one zone to another. The Canadian air traffic controllers simply phone a pizza place close to the airport and have them delivered to the work site of the American Air traffic controllers. No gift cards necessary. if some one where to try to stop the delivery of the pizza’s I’m sure the American media would have a field day.

    McConnell’s refusal to bring these bills to the floor, leads me to conclude, he is happy with the status quo. He doesn’t “give a shit”. Wonder how much he and his are making off of the shut down? He needs to be removed and I’m sure there are enough ambitious Senators who want the job. Perhaps just the threat of removal will get him to do the right thing, well self preservation.

    Being sorry for American federal government workers isn’t enough. Citizens need to support the workers because if for no other reason, it will eventually impact all Americans.

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