6 Ways the Trump Shutdown Is Hurting the Country

Yves here. The scolding tone of this post IMHO undermines its impact. This itemization of the damage done by the shutdown is compelling; the layering on Trump outrage comes off as overegging the pudding.

By Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political activist from Texas. He can be found on Twitter @fawfulfan. Originally published at Alternet

We are now two weeks into President Donald Trump’s petulant gambit to shut down the federal government until Congress gives him his border wall. He has even threatened to keep the government closed for months or years. And while not everyone is immediately feeling the effects, for many it is profound: some 800,000 federal workershave either been furloughed or are being made to work without pay. All of this has serious consequences.

Here are just some of the consequences of the ongoing shutdown:

  1. Families in public housing are facing risks to their health and safety.

If you live in public housing funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, you might be having a lot of trouble getting in touch with anyone for help. That’s because, according to NBC News, HUD workers have largely been furloughed as the agency’s funding has dried up:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is one of the seven agencies most directly affected by the standoff between President Donald Trump, who is demanding $5 billion in border wall funding, and congressional Democrats, who want to reopen the government without it. Since Dec. 22, the vast majority of federal housing employees have been forced to stay home without pay — prohibited from doing any work, including responding to emails.

Most of HUD’s routine enforcement activities have been suspended, including mandatory health and safety inspections of housing for low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities, according to the shutdown contingency plan that HUD posted on its website.

And it could soon get a lot worse. If the shutdown lasts much longer, HUD’s rental assistance subsidies and affordable housing grants to state and local governments could run out, potentially threatening the housing of millions of people.

  1. Our national parks are in chaos.

With the government shut down, national parks are unattended, and garbage is accumulating. The National Park Service is getting some assistance with D.C. sites it manages as local crews pick up the slack, but that arrangement isn’t enough to take care of everything properly. Experts warn that even once the government reopens and park employees clear away the trash, the environmental damage could be permanent in some places.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Trump’s Interior Department decided to keep the parks open even with no one to man them, with the result that people visiting — and some people are getting killed, according to the Washington Post:

Three days after most of the federal workforce was furloughed on Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell 700 feet to her death at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The following day, Christmas, a man died at Yosemite National Park in California after suffering a head injury from a fall. On Dec. 27, a woman was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee.

It’s not clear if these deaths would have been prevented absent a shutdown, but former officials told the Post that the furloughing of employees does pose serious risks.

  1. TSA agents are allegedly blowing off work.

According to CNN, hundreds of TSA agents faced with demands to work without pay are calling in sick to get off work. While some may be doing so to protest the loss of pay, others may simply have no choice: a union official has said that many of the officers calling in sick need to look after their children now that they have no money to afford daycare, or else are working side jobs to get through the shutdown.

For the record, Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton denied the reports in a combative statement, calling them “fake news”:

  1. You might have problems getting your tax refund.

A Washington Post report suggests that the Internal Revenue Service, which has furloughed about 90 percent of its workforce, will not issue tax refunds during the shutdown, as it drags into tax season:

From late January through March 2 of 2018, the IRS paid out $147.6 billion in tax refunds to 48.5 million households. That money could be frozen within the IRS if the refunds are stalled.

Early last year, as part of its contingency planning for possible government shutdowns, the IRS said it would not issue any tax refunds during a shutdown. Treasury and IRS officials have not said they will completely suspend all tax refunds next month, but a senior administration official said such disbursements would be severely affected and likely slowed if they are paid.

This confusion will come on top of the fact that many people don’t know whether they are getting a refund at all this year due to the GOP’s 2017 tax bill, which threw withholding rates into confusion around the country.

  1. Food stamps are at risk.

The same Washington Post report also said that, if the shutdown drags into February, the Department of Agriculture might not have enough funds to fully administer the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP):

Congress has not allocated funding for SNAP beyond January, and the program’s emergency reserves would not cover even two-thirds of February’s payments, according to past disbursements. Last September, the most recent month for which data is available, SNAP disbursed $4.7 billion in benefits to recipients across every U.S. state.

Lawmakers last year appropriated $3 billion into a “contingency” fund for SNAP. USDA officials would not comment on the status of the $3 billion, but if all of that money is still available, it would cover 64 percent of February’s obligations.

  1. Mike Pence gets a raise!

There are a few people who might actually benefit from the shutdown: Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet.

Since 2013, Congress has staved off automatic, scheduled raises for senior executive officials. But ironically, with Congress unable to pass a continuing resolution that Trump will sign, those automatic raises will retroactively go into effect this month. Pence himself stands to make about $10,000 from the increase although the vice president has stated he will refuse the extra pay during the shutdown.

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  1. ambrit

    At first glance, the TSA work ‘slowdown’ is a net positive. If the airports go strictly ‘by the book’ and slow down boarding due to a shortage of panopticonners, then frequent flyers might finally get good and mad and agitate for doing away with this “make work” and “manufacture fear” ‘crime family’ organization. Frankly, the TSA has to go. They do nothing to make anyone safer, and slow everything down. A massive drain on the flying public’s time and money. (How is the TSA funded anyway? My money’s on purloined private money and valuables.)
    As for food stamps, well, they being basically state run, why not let the states go all deficit spending and reimburse the state later? Special rules you say? Hah! Look at how the Pentagon ‘handles’ funding for weapons programs and learn from them.
    Now, considering the Republican ‘War on Poor People,” the snafus in food stamps and HUD rental assistance are features desired by the hard core right wing.
    Trump needs to turn the tables on the Democrat Party nomenklatura and admit that he ordered the shutdown, and claim that he did it in response to an “unreasonable and radical Democrat Parties demands.”
    If the Democrats want to really get things stirred up, they should try to quietly get Social Security payments sequestered, and blame Trump.
    Both sides are playing a game of “Headless Chicken” in the middle of an interstate.

    1. JerryDenim

      I share some of your animus towards the TSA but to say “they do nothing to make anyone safer” is hyperbole on par with the stark raving mad, frighteningly wrong proclamations I hear from Fox News libertarian acolytes, like “the government cannot create jobs” or “the government produces nothing of value”. The TSA detects and confiscates thousands of knives, guns and other weapons from passengers every year along with flammable liquids, explosives and other prohibited electronic devices that pose a significant in-flight fire risk. Without TSA or a private analog doing the same work, all of that confiscated contraband would be flying alongside the public and a certain percentage of that dangerous contraband would be causing in-flight catastrophes on a weekly if not daily basis. The TSA undoubtedly prevents fatalities, the only question is how many.

      The TSA was a post 9-11 response to the outrageous failures of market forces to field a reliable airport security service. Pre-TSA outsourced security contractors and sub contractors hired by the airport authorities and airlines were blatantly falsifying documents, hiring felons and cutting any corner they could in a typical race-to-the-bottom neoliberal fashion, so the US government rightfully stepped in. The TSA is far from perfect and they probably should be an arm of the FAA not the creepy Bush Homeland Security apparatus, but they do make a very tangible contribution to public safety.

      1. ambrit

        The problem I have with your argument is that I see no data indicating significant in flight ‘disasters’ of the nature you suggest are possible. There were the once popular ‘vacation’ enabling “Air Pirate Funnies” to worry about, yes, but the use of aircraft as terror weapons, excepting military uses, was probably the innovation of bin Lauden. I admit that I do not have evidence with which to ‘falsify’ your idea, so I’ll leave it there.

        1. JTMcPhee

          We are supposed to believe that the TSA is staffed by conscientious skilled operatives that “catch” all the Terrarists who hate us for our freedoms, and the idiots who insist on bringing guns and blades with them because freedoms? That they prevent and deter mass deaths weekly or daily basis? There’s no new data because the TSA just does not report the many failures in “screening” that happen daily. Here’s an older view: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/tsa-misses-95-of-weapons-explosives-in-security-tests-2015-06-01

          Writer also assumes that there’s a steady stream of Bad Guys just itching to get aboard with the explosives and guns and knives that the TSA system does not deter or detect. More “security theater,” no more “security.” And this is straight projection of the argument that Homeland Security is “protecting” us, without much proof, especially since their have been a tiny number of “incidents” that were not instigated by the FBI, and there’s been essentially zero data support from Homeland Security and TSA on all the events they supposedly have prevented. Though they say that they can;t reveal that information, because it would reveal ‘methods and tactics’ that would em;owner the Bad Guys…

          1. a different chris

            >there’s a steady stream of Bad Guys just itching to get aboard

            There is a steady stream of Bad Guys, but they just want to get to their destination in one piece like the rest of us.

            Airline terrorism is a pretty small nut and of course we have the biggest hammer possible aimed at it. And we still miss, per you link.

        2. JerryDenim

          You can’t never prove any preemptive safety related action actually stopped an accident from occurring in the future because there’s no way to run a parallel simulation with the preempted risk factor re-inserted. Based on your logic there would be no merit in removing thousands of guns, power saws, chef knives, bottles of bleach and other such dangerous items from the play spaces of toddlers because we can’t know for sure that the toddlers would have used the dangerous items to injure themselves. That’s absolute nonsense and I am sure you know it. Even small risks coupled with large numbers will bite you rather quickly, that’s called mathematics.

          The LA Times just ran a story a few days ago stating:

          ” In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, a record 3,957 firearms — nearly 11 a day — were discovered in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints across the country, a 17% increase from the previous year, according to the TSA. Of the guns uncovered in 2017, 84% were loaded.
          The total does not include the hundreds of other forbidden items found in carry-on luggage, including explosives, knives and replica weapons.”


          … And that’s while people know TSA is on the job actively looking. Can you imagine what the number would be if there was zero enforcement? You wanna fly around with that many armed felons?

          Knives and guns aren’t really what worry me the most though. I agree with those who have pointed out that public awareness is a fantastic and effective defense against another 9/11 style event. Judging from your comments and other comments on this thread there seems to be a misconception that the TSA’s sole purpose is to confiscate weapons from people in the cabin in order to prevent another 9/11 style hijacking/mass murder. That is only a part of their mission. The TSA is also tasked with confiscating hazardous materials from boarding passengers and their checked luggage which could accidentally bring down an airplane full of passengers. Any of you “The TSA is completely worthless” commenters on this thread know how much halon it takes to extinguish a faulty lithium ion battery in one of those Chinese hoverboards? Well, don’t feel too bad about it, the FAA and the NTSB isn’t too sure about it either, which is why those prone-to-spontaneous-combustion hover-boards are banned. You better damn well hope the TSA catches every single one of those nasty buggers anybody tries to bring onboard your flight. Airliners with uncontained fires seldom manage to fly for more than 17 minutes before they become uncontrollable or the crew is incapacitated by fumes. How do you think a raging hazmat fire in a cargo compartment is going to end if your airplane is over the ocean or a large patch of mountainous terrain with no suitable airports around? Let’s just say the odds are not in your favor.

          Paul Ryan doesn’t think the Department of Health and Human Services does anything important. Ted Cruz thinks the US doesn’t need the IRS. I expected a bit more thoughtfulness from the commenters here concerning the TSA. Extremely disappointing. Ill-informed, deregulatory zeal seems really contrary to the spirit of the post and this blog.

          1. rob

            Being anti-tsa isn’t being anti-regulation, I believe it is more that some of us remember that the system was working just fine before. Some people know that creating a nonsense agency with too much control for no actual advantage is unwise. There was security before, and they could ask things of passengers in reasonable ways, but the tsa is heavy handed and ham handed.
            You say you can’t know if removing some items will not prevent anything, well by the same logical assumptions, we also don’t know that removing any of that stuff has helped anything either. And that is the problem in this post 9-11 world. The war on terror, is based on fear. Not fear of terrorists being too afraid of the tsa to launch another airplane attack. It is to engender the american population with enough fear to accept these affronts to personal liberty, and allow the airlines and the gov’t to treat them like an abused dog.
            To me that is the problem. People who are younger than thirty now, don’t remember the world as it was. They don’t know any better than this, “all propaganda ,all the time”; that creates this false sense of safety.
            If the tsa was just security guards working for the airlines, then fine. but the rules really don’t benefit anyone. And their having too much power to wield over everyone is what is dangerous. The danger is exemplified by your lack of seeing anything wrong with a gov’t funded agency, soaking up billions of dollars for no real benefit. The TSA, is like ICE, and the dept of homeland security, They are not fixtures of american society. they are recently created agencies, whose daily actions are an affront to the constitution, and the rights that the american people are entitled to because of the BILL OF RIGHTS.
            All the things these agencies are supposed to be protecting us from, were already being taken care of by existing organizations.(who had their own problems)But the post 9-11 world ushered in these faux protection agencies who don’t really protect anything, they soak up billions of dollars, while pretending to help, when they don’t.
            As far as your example of tsa keeping scooters which may catch fire, maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. laptops can cause fires too, but they are still there, in cargo, where nothing could be done about it…. these are all just “odds”. So as far as your pretense that it is “mathamatics”, you are really missing the point that the “odds” are nothing will happen, as is evidenced, in that nothing usually happens. as were the odds that nothing has happened. None of which would prevent the odds that something “may” happen.
            But a post 9-11 anecdote as to tsa efficiency. A friend of my fathers was a commercial airline pilot, who also had to have his bags searched by tsa. And after taking his “shaving/grooming kit”, he was forced to fly without his stuff, and he reminded them that he was the pilot of the plane, and that if he wanted to, he could crash the plane whenever he wanted to. That logic wasn’t enough to get his toenail clippers back….all of this rather than just making cockpit doors invulnerable, and providing separate bathrooms for the cabin crew, so as not to be vulnerable to would be terrorists.
            TSA must stand for infinite wisdom.

          2. tegnost

            Thanks Jerry, indeed regulation is, for me, one of the easiest answers to our problems, and cynicism re the intent of state actors can gloss over the actual things that are being done. Definitely people will push the rules to whatever extent they an get away with and americans generally imo expect to be protected on the one hand and given a break with the other so maybe a tiny bit of entitlement goes into it. Flying has become very safe over my lifetime, when I was in hs the joke was don’t get on a mohawk airlines flight w/o a parachute, (a lot of good that would do you from coach). I can deal with the secutrity, it’s the surrounding surveillance state add on’s that pervade every aspect of life that I could conceivably live without. I’ll also give extra merit to anyone who speaks of their own industry, as you do here. But I wasn’t kidding about the passengers, I’m guessing some of those guns are carried by yahoos who think they’re going to shoot the first hijacker who crosses their path

            1. JerryDenim

              Thanks for letting me know I haven’t gone completely mad tegnost, people who know me would find it quite amusing to hear me defending the importantance of the TSA. Believe or not they’re not my favorite agency. Law enforcement and the aspiring demi-fascist personality types that gravitate towards those careers are generally not my favorite people. That said the majority of the TSA employees I have met are nice people just trying to earn a living. Most of them, like the rest of us want to feel their work has meaning and importance. They take great pride in doing work that keeps the public safe. I’m still a bit raw about the half-dozen or so manicure scissors the Canadians have confiscated from me over the years but I’m not so upset I’m going to claim their security serves no purpose or should be abolished. Despite the inconveniences and occasional indignities of airport security, in a country where people think detonating Tanerite at baby showers is a good idea (USA not Canada) I really want somebody to take away all the dangerous stuff from nit-wits who have no idea when they’re endangering themselves or others.

          1. ambrit

            I had not thought of them. Both they and the Jihadist pilots were resigned to personal extinction in the service of a ‘greater good.’ I concede the point.

      2. c_heale

        I have a question. Did no-one confiscate knives, guns, etc. before the TSA. I’m not from the USA so I don’t know.

        1. Carl

          Yes, as far back as the early 70s (when I started flying, as a child) you had to pass through a metal detector to get on the plane and I distinctly remember an agent of some sort confiscating the toy gun I received for Christmas. Guns and knives were prohibited; liquids, scissors, and all the other trumped-up bs that are features of security theater today were not.

          1. Spring Texan

            I believe you since you say a toy gun was confiscated but I sure don’t remember ANY of that at the El Paso airport. I was a kid and did take a few flights BEFORE the 70s (earliest probably 1956) so maybe the flights I remember were before then but I would have said there was really not much security at all including not metal detectors till later than the 70s, but could well be wrong.

            I do remember a hijacking to Cuba from the El Paso airport but don’t know the year.

        2. Jeff N

          Does anyone remember what security checkpoints were like before 9/11? Staffed by the cheapest, outsourced/subcontracted, part-time/zero benefits, minimum wage staff.

            1. Pinhead

              The Homeland Secutiry Act, at the behest of unions, mandates that employees be paid the federal minimum wage. Unfortunately, in most cities big enough to have airports, the entry-level wage at McDonald’s is higher. So TSA gets the McDonald’s rejects. And it often shows.

          1. rob

            Back in @1991 I was coming back from nepal after some time in thailand where I found a samurai sword in an alley stand of a book store…. But since i had it wrapped in a rug, no one had a problem. The customs guy was just looking at my stuff because of my longish hair and likelyhood of smuggling drugs back in to the US. I ditched the hash in kathmandu..,that would have been too risky,with the dogs and all.
            People used to be able carry all sorts of stuff, and really it didn’t cause a problem.
            And since 9/11 had terrorists that were protected for years by the fbi, that one-off doesn’t really get to be called normal.

            1. Eudora Welty

              In 1997, I was departing from the Rome Italy airport back to the US. My portable alarm clock was ringing in my carry-on luggage & security came over to talk with me about it. I heard it, too, but I didn’t connect the dots; I kept denying it was me. This was all happening as the line of booked passengers and boarding; I remember walking and talking. Airport security let me get on with a ringing clock in my luggage! It was a very efficient loading process, which i was glad about.

        3. Dale

          In the early 1980s I flew from Bogotá To Atlanta at least four times carrying a three foot long engraved machete, in its leather scabbard. The stewards stowed my machetes in the overhead.

          1. Lil’D

            I was in Colombia for volunteer work in 1971-72 and machetes went in the bin from bogota to lax
            Got funny looks on the ground in Los Angeles but the machete is just an ordinary common tool in the mountains

          2. Howard W Hawhee

            A friend of mine flew Bogotá-Miami in 1974 with blowdarts from the Amazon and a bottle of the poison to go with them. Might have been in luggage though.

        4. JCC

          I used to fly regularly (almost weekly) with a full toolbox, suitcase and carry-on prior to 9/11 (throughout the late ’80’s and ’90’s). My luggage was regularly searched, although not as often as it would be today.

        5. Phacops

          I remember flying to an outdoor trip in Alaska ca 1999 and I was carrying my Leatherman tool. Sorta like a hefty swiss army knife. I just dropped it in the tray along with my change and retrieved it after going through the metal detector.

        6. The Rev Kev

          I heard that even after 9/11 when the TSA was formed, that they were still allowing passengers to take cigarette lighters with them aboard aircraft. The same sort that actual terrorists have used to try to light bombs with. Security theater is one thing but when you force smokers to actually wait to light up after leaving a plane, that is just one step too far.

        1. Tvc15

          Frequent flyer here. The TSA security check points are a worthless charade IMO and that’s not even addressing the degrading sub human experience. Lets go back to pre 9/11. I’m not scared and willing to take my chances.

          1. tegnost

            these days I think it’s the hijackers who are less willing to take chances getting
            chucked out the door at 30,000 feet by angry passengers. The days of “we’re going to spend a few hours in cuba” are over. Unfortunately the tsa is is more “security theater” that is actually more like a data mining operation, see the new i.d. requirements soon to be implemented, the next time I renew my license it will be “enhanced”

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              This was the story of flight 93. The hostages learned about the other planes and took action, too late in their case, but the warning about flying hijacked airliners into buildings broadcast by the Fox Network during the last episode of The Lone Gunmen in May 2001 is out now.

          2. Chris

            My favorite TSA experience to date was the time I was pulled aside for too much dense organic material in my carry on bag… it was paper. I had books. And comics. They made me miss my flight because I had too many books.

            1. Frequent flyer from Florida

              Ypu were lucky. A retired teacher, flying north to visit her daughter, was taken prisoner for 5 days and nights at Tampa airport because she had a bunch of books about Islam which she had bought to learn more about the subject.

              In one respect this is heartening. It shows that the TSA staff are somewhat literate.

      3. rob

        You can’t say it is hyperbole to say the tsa isn’t making anyone safer. The fact is things are still getting on board, just like they have always. And the fact that there may be prohibited items aboard doesn’t mean they will be used for any malicious acts. And to prove that, there is the history of airline travel which allowed many things on planes, with few problems. Now many tests have shown the tsa isn’t perfect, but people can’t clip their toenails on the plane. BIG DEAL.
        And the fact is 9/11 was a one-off. before and after. So considering decades went by with no 9/11 before hand, and decades are going by with no 9/11 after… to say the tsa is doing anything is just a statement of faith. The factis if someone wanted to take down a plane, they would just put a bomb in the checked baggage.and not even have to commit suicide while doing it.
        Add to the fact that the burger king wages they pay to the air field personnel means if anyone wanted to, they could bribe their way aboard whatever they wanted… if they wanted to. And the fact that all these decades go by without anyone doing this means they don’t want to…. not that TSA is saving us from all those terrorists out there…..
        It is saying the TSA is making us safer that is hyperbole, and it is a scam costing the taxpayers money, and making america a whole lot less free.Just making a population accept the police state bit by bit.
        RAther than say a scientific investigation as to how three building were brought down by two planes and a couple of fires. Fires have never brought down a high rise steel structure before,nor since. And there were building that were completely engulfed in flames, not just localized flames.
        Architects and engineers for 9/11 truth
        The 2012 documentary broadcast on colorado pbs broadcast…… after a decade of gathering details on what people were seeing at the event….. now that investigation would be worth spending tax dollars on.After all there is no statute of limitations on murder.
        And now the process is still going forward.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          …the fact that all these decades go by without anyone doing this means they don’t want to….

          Exactly. Perhaps the stupidest thing about TSA security is that it only starts as you try to enter the concourses, where it creates a large mass of people all huddled together waiting to get through, and not at the entrance to the actual airport where anyone can walk in without being searched at all.

          If anyone wanted to harm a large number of people at the airport, TSA has arguably made it easier to do so. The fact that no one I’m aware of has taken advantage of this situation means they don’t really want to.

          1. Howard W Hawhee

            Second Colombia-related reply of mine today: I distinctly remember that in Bogotá in the mid-80s, the entire airport was surrounded by automatic weapons-bearing soldiers. And you went through at least three searches at various points before you could get on the plane.

      4. lyman alpha blob

        Recently my 72 year old father had a pocket knife confiscated by security at a large gathering. He uses the knife for things like opening cardboard boxes. Absolutely no one is safer because of it. Our family is a little poorer though as he had to pay to replace a perfectly good pocket knife and overall GDP just went down slightly because the tickets I’ll never buy again because of the treatment we received are more expensive than the replacement knife.

      5. lordkoos

        And yet somehow in the years before TSA was created, millions of people were able to fly safely with very few problems. 9/11 had nothing to do with airport security and everything to do with the failure of agencies trusted with our national security.

      6. Basil Pesto

        I agree with you that to say TSA doesn’t make anyone safer is daft, but that is something achieved routinely by similar security bodies at airports internationally without being anywhere near as humiliating. I’m in the states now for the first time in a little while and forgot how obscene the whole thing is. I found it infuriating, and I remember thinking ‘why would a gov’t treat their population like this for absolutely no reason?’ I’m convinced another dimension of the security theatre is to convince americans that the world beyond their borders is a lot scarier than it actually is (domestic and intl flights often seem to depart from the same terminals)

        In Australia it’s pretty straightforward, there’s occasionally a queue for security at busy times of the week but waits are nowhere near as long as at a US airport. The requirements for passing through the checkpoint are considerably less, ie we don’t have to remove every. single. piece. of. electronic. equipment. (I’m a filmmaker/photographer so that means I have a lot of doodads to unpack – US airports fill me with dread primarily for this reason now). As far as I’m aware, Australia’s aviation security record is very good.

        I remember last time I flew out of Gatwick maybe six or so years ago, not exactly a low-key airport, the security experience was genuinely delightful. They’d obviously gone to quite some lengths to get it to that point. Staff were extremely courteous and friendly and it was very efficient. Dunno if it’s still like that today.

        I’ve flown in and out of European airports a lot since then and I remember absolutely nothing about the security screening processes, which – excepting my weirdly nice Gatwick experience – I consider a good thing.

  2. Todde

    I think the tax refunds are safe regardless what the crack investigative reporters at the WaPo suggest.

    1. Andrew Thomas

      The IRS is already absurdly understaffed. If they lose 90% of their remaining staff through furloughs and can still process millions of returns in the same amount of time and with the same accuracy, it would be miraculous.

      1. fajensen

        In Denmark, the neoliberals, lib-dim and soc-dim, over a 15 year “run” sacked thousands of civil servents from the tax authorities with the goal of replacing them with sparkling unicorn software.

        Of course the magical software didn’t work, so, on top of being 4 billion in the hole on the crap software and its replacement (which will be crap too since the domain knowledge is gone), about 80 billion down on unrecoverable tax bills, alimony and fines, they got ripped off for at least 12 billion in tax fraud on taxation on stock dividends and nobody has yet dared looking at VAT fraud, which rumours say will be 10x that, about 120 billion. The government doesn’t even know what their damn budget is this year, the tax office hasn’t been able to produce the numbers!

        All in all, that is 20% of the annual revenue gone to fraud and sloth, never mind that they have not been able to asses property taxes correctly for 10 years and they postponed the sparkling unicorn project till after 2019, which happens to be an election year so one has to be feeling lucky buying property this year knowing that it is equally likely that the politicians did not dare to initiate the new property taxation regime.

        Point is: if we must have taxes, we want them to be correctly and equally applied, we do not want some pachinko machine system designed for fraud for the few and ruin for the rest.

        Cutting staffing without reducing the work load is just crazy and leads to banana-republic standards of enforcement.

    2. John Zelnicker

      January 5, 2019 at 7:28 am
      and Andrew Thomas

      I’m an Enrolled Agent and tax accountant.

      The IRS is closed and has not yet finished reprogramming their computers for the new tax season as they had to quit working on December 21. They will not be able to process tax returns or issue refunds until 3 to 4 weeks after the end of the shutdown.

      The agency has already announced that some $140 million in refunds expected to be paid through February will be delayed and that’s going to hurt a lot of people who depend on the Earned Income Tax Credit, etc., to make ends meet.

      The lack of refunds is also going to take a big bite out of the economy for the next couple of months.

      Andrew – You are right about the understaffing, but once they are up and running, the IRS will process those millions of returns accurately just as they usually do, which, of course, does not mean perfectly.

  3. Wukchumni

    Not mentioned is the lack of Federal subsidies during the shutdown for farmers that got hit by tariffism attacks on their livelihood.

    It rates way higher on the scale than Pence getting a raise…

    1. tegnost


      between this and paying immigrant labor a dollar a day it’s amazing they’re in business at all…

      full disclosure I was on an ultimate team in the 80’s with a resnick and I new he was rich, hawaii home la jolla home and apparently many more, but I didn’t know he was that rich He played well, it was good times.

  4. megamike

    If you have the money and fly private jet you skip any TSA pat downs
    As usual, throughout history, those below the wealthy class are the ones suspected to be the subversives and terrorists thus they must be searched.

  5. Off The Street

    So much ignored by the WaPo folks, like all those programs that waste taxpayer money but provide(d) kickbacks, graft or other benefits to a select few. Pick your favorite in a target-rich environment beyond the typical Ignobel Prize winners.

    One beef I have with media is that it seems to ascribe a single cause to a problem that would intuitively, or with a slight inspection or even detailed review, have multiple and often conflicting causes. That complexity doesn’t fit in sound bites and doesn’t sell papers or advertising beyond a small circle.

  6. marym

    Shutdown Leaves Government Contractors Without Work And Likely No Back Pay

    Six days into the government’s partial shutdown, with no end in sight, hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been left without pay, even as some work over the holidays. But another group of workers has also been hit hard and, unlike federal workers, may never see retroactive pay: government contractors.

    Many government contractors ― from food workers and janitors to security services and computer software developers ― depend on federal funds for their wages. ..

    And while federal employees, who may or may not have to work during the shutdown, will likely later get back pay for this period, government contractors in all likelihood will not.

    1. ocop

      Yes, a prolonged shutdown is going to be a huge blow to a number of people. I would assume the number of government contractors runs into the millions. Since only part of the government is “shut down”, some subset of the contractors in technical/professional roles (my wife is one of these) are able to work on other contracts at their firms. But I would bet dollars to donuts the janitorial staff (contractors), food services in .gov cafeterias (contractors), building maintenance (contractors), some IT services (contractors), call centers (contractors), etc are/will really feeling the pain

      SNAP/housing subsidy cuts will bite twice as hard for a lot of those folks too.

  7. jonst

    Sorry to see NC play an enabling role to the DC word game…..”Trump” shutdown indeed. Same for anyone who would employ the “Schumer” shutdown. Silly games.

    1. ambrit

      To the extent that notable events have to be called something. Truman was right in having the desk sign say, “The buck stops here.” Leaders are natural symbols and must suffer so.
      I play the “Heritage Foundation Care” word game, the said foundation having written the first version of the ACA some thirty years before, for the Republicans. First it became “Romneycare” in Massachusetts, and then “Obamacare” nationally. The name used really denotes who one wishes to blame the entire mess on. So, “Trump Shutdown” is both fair, accurate, and deceptive advertising.
      Game on!

    2. Andrew Thomas

      Games? Well, call it the McConnell/Trump shutdown, then. I would rather the uncrossable line be the $1trillion nuclear Armageddon program. But if you let this happen, in two months, or whenever, it’s everything they have ever wanted to get rid of but couldn’t. Defund it or the government stops again. And they will throw the privatization of the postal service in, too.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        Yes. If Schumer and Pelosi cave now, Trump and the Congressional Republicans will proceed by threatening a government shutdown for every bill. They will effectively negate the 2018 election results – it will be as if the House has not gone Democrat.

        I strongly suspect they may cave, however, after an intentionally futile “fight”. It’s more lucrative for the Democratic elite to lose loudly, in a highly visible way, than it is for them to work with Trump on key materialist Democratic policy issues. I.e. funding Medicare, maintaining Social Security, jobs, etc. Trump pushed a traditional Dem line on these issues during his campaign; he could have been reminded of this to facilitate the passage of bills that enhance the general welfare. Sanders pushed this strategy in a public statement shortly after the House went Democrat in November.

        Instead, the party of the we-want-cheap-nannies class went to the mat over a wall that won’t work for sh*t without 24/7 occupation, and heavily patrolled sea routes on both southern coasts. They could have let him have his boondoggle edifice, and then highlighted its failure ever after, while milking him for real Democratic wins. But, Pelosi and company don’t represent people who need, say, a Medicare buy-in option at age 55. Or a higher national minimum wage. Or removal of the income cap on social security taxes. They work for the high dollar donor class; those who maintain dominance in a society where most of the working stiffs are fearful, under-remunerated, and sickly.

        1. a different chris

          > If Schumer and Pelosi cave now

          They will. And you are right – let him build (or start to build) the stupid wall. 5 billion is chump change. Meanwhile, he will p*ss off half of the Republican part of Texas as the reality of building it starts affecting their lives. And the ineffectiveness of the expense becomes more obvious.

          And this:

          >Pelosi and company don’t represent people who

          Who do they represent? I’m as comfortable with immigrants as anybody. My issue is – they cannot vote. And I, who can vote, have many issues that I want addressed beyond what it’s like to live in Guatemala. So how is it politically intelligent to draw the line in the sand for people who can’t elect a dogcatcher even if they wanted to? You have to count on my vote, so you need to do something for me. I need to be the center of your attention, in fact.

          And again, I support their position.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I assume the wall push is a post mid term move where Trump needs an issue. I imagine Trump expects a wall production time line to take him through the election. Trump will be gone before the second new fence can be blamed.

          2. fajensen

            Trump’s problem is lowballing! The Trump wall is too cheap to attract buy-in from the establishment.

            He needs to ask for help: Once SAIC, Grumman, Northrop, Boeing and so on has festooned the wall with sensor- and effector- networks it will be more like 50 billion. Plenty of Gravy for all!

            The 5 billion is annual, for the private security contractors running the thing!

            Congress would lap that right up!


    it seems to me that your president has far too much power…
    Having all this services shut down by some top fight over a wall seems ridiculous to me as outsider and looks like total blackmail

    1. Andrew Thomas

      Julia, without the Senate backing him up, he couldn’t do it. And the senate is run, to an extent that is astonishing, by the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

      1. Darthbobber

        He could, but he’d actually need to veto whatever passed to do it. McConnell is just protecting his senators from having to go on record on a vote, and Trump from needing to veto if enough senators defect.

    2. Tom Bradford

      “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana.

      Re the Great Wall of China – “although effective against horses … any wall needs to be manned adequately for it to be effective. By the end of the Ming, fighting men were needed all over the empires to deal with internal revolts (as the Ming economy broke down due to various factors) and the Manchu threat. There simply wasn’t enough men (or the money to pay them) to man the whole length of the Wall, so the bulk of the defenders were at Shanhai Pass. The Manchus simply rode around and attacked the lesser defended passes. In light of this, the Great Wall of China was certainly failure as the resources spent on building the wall could well be used on other things like paying the soldiers, critically, and a unmanned wall was not going to defend itself.”

    3. Kurtismayfield

      Congress could pass a bill with two thirds majority and it will get through the Presidential veto.. the problem is that the Republicans are afraid of their rabid constituents voting them out. Unlike the Democrats who always piss on the left and call it rain, the Right will vote you out in a primary.

      1. ambrit

        My version of the joke.
        The Old Jew looks around and exclaims; “Hold it! Today is the Sabbath! What am I doing here, I can’t drink today.” The Muslim freshman looks around and cries out; “Wait a minute! This place serves the juice of the grape! I shouldn’t be here!” The Jesus joke also looks around and turns to the other two; “Don’t get all upset! We’re all cousins here. I’ll just change all the wine back into water and we can all relax.” Then the ‘K’ Street lobbyist walks in….

  9. David Carl Grimes

    The shutdown is going to affect DC badly. Even though the DC area is very affluent, it’s an expensive place to live and lots of federal workers, like the rest of America, live paycheck to paycheck. Expensive real estate, expensive restaurants, etc. Government workers may get their back pay. But government contractors might not. And there are a lot of government contractors in the area, particularly in the defense and biotech areas.

    1. marym

      Thanks for bringing attention to the contractor issue. I have a similar general comment possibly still floating in the ether which also references contractors at the lower end of the income scale, such as food service and custodial workers, but no estimates of the scope.

    2. lordkoos

      The fact that there are so many large and lucrative defense contracts for American corporations leads me to believe that this standoff isn’t going to be long lasting. I don’t think the corporate overlords are going to accept not getting paid for an extended period.

      1. JTMcPhee

        I believe the military contracts are largely exempt from all this, as being “essential services.” And I doubt GIs and seamen and airmen are in danger of having to do their own KP and guard duty and picking up cigarette butts or tending the yards of officers’ housing (part of my day as a “troop” in 1966-69), that’s all contractor work now.

        One can be sure that Boeing and Lockheed Martin and the rest will not feel any pinch,though they may have to bury their recoupment and swilling of any delayed costs in future billings in that unaudited BS loop that runs around the Pentagram. Since the War Department has “lost” trillions of unaccounted dollars over the years, and since “contractor” leeches are so good at milking and bilking, one need not lose sleep over these “legal fictions” not getting paid. Some of what they do, from one of the law firms that specializes in investigating and prosecuting qui tam actions brought to them by actual loyal US citizens known derisively as “whistleblowers:” https://www.falseclaimsact.com/common-types-of-fraud/defense-contractor-fraud

        Here’s an interesting bit of reporting from Upstate New York: “How shutdown is affecting Upstate NY: No lost pay at Steuben County VA, Fort Drum,” https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2019/01/04/government-shutdown-2019-new-york-military-pay/2473736002/ No apparent effects, and the US Postal Service, not yet completely looted, continues to deliver the mail because it is separately funded.

        And here’s the Grey Wh@re’s reporting on what the effects are: “What Is and Isn’t Affected by the Government Shutdown,” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/us/whats-affected-government-shutdown.html

  10. Bobby Gladd

    Riddle me this.

    Say I’m a “Constitutional Conservative” “Strict Constructionist” “Originalist / Textualist.”

    I scour the entirety of the Constitution multiple times and find not one word nor phrase setting forth procedure for “shutting down the government.”

    Now, Article I, Section 5 authorizes both Houses of Congress to set their own rules of procedure. So, I search out the current pdf copies of those, and, again, not one word or phrase explicating shutdown processes.

    The Constitution, consequently, seems to assume 24/7/365.25 operation. Just as — a good bit more explicitly — “the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned” (Amendment XIV, Section 4).

    (Tangentially, neither is there any language in the Constitution for dissolving the government.” Does that require an Amendment?)

    Not that I’ve checked, but I’m fairly confident that such shutdown-procedure language exists in the statutes governing operations of various federal departments and agencies — but those cannot map back to Constitutional authority (recall, I’m channeling a Scalia).

    Just strikes me as odd. You have to do a lot of “penumbral, emanating” “construe-ing” to get there, ‘eh?

  11. David Carl Grimes

    What’s Trump’s gameplan? Make the shutdown so economically painful that a $5 billion border wall will be a bargain?

    Another week and this will be the longest shutdown ever.

    1. marym


      fwiw from “senior administration officials”

      Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences

      The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

      The scale of the consequences also reflects a deep disconnect between Trump, who has largely cheered on a prolonged shutdown, and the officials running federal agencies, who are trying to minimize the fallout.

      White House officials have not fully briefed lawmakers on the expanding consequences of the government shutdown, leading to confusion about what happens as each week goes by.

  12. ChrisPacific

    It seems to me that the biggest cost is that it further entrenches the idea that it’s acceptable for the US government to be functional for fewer than 52 weeks per year as standard practice. Bear in mind it’s not the first time this has happened. If this is what checks and balances look like in reality then I’d say they are failing.

  13. kaydub

    If the janitorial staff quit taking out the trash, cleaning the restrooms, and sweeping the floors in the Capitol and White House, this would stop pretty quick. How about a regulation that provides a tax rebate for the hours you have been forcibly required to pay for a government that is not operating?

  14. d

    seems like Trump’s wall and shutdown to get it, seems to be like the Marginot line, from WW2, which for those who dont recall it, was built to protect the French from the Germans. and maybe you recall how that turned out. never thought the GOP would be emulating the French

    1. VietnamVet

      Exactly, but the Maginot Line worked. Germany invaded through the Ardennes Forest on the French Belgium border where there was no wall. Trump’s wall is purely ideological. The Democrat Republican conflict is between the belief in the free movement of people verses national borders. Israel’s internal concrete walls are also psychological barriers with the same purpose as prison walls. That’s why the President likes concrete. On the Crimea border to prevent Ukrainian infiltration Russia built a 37 mile chain linked fence topped with barbed wire for 2 million dollars or only 105 million dollars for the length of the 1,945 mile US Mexico. But, no wall by itself can prevent human migration. It has to be manned; either with armed local militias or a national draft. It is likely cheaper to make the lives of the people on both sides of the border better so they stay home. But, this was tossed in the trash with the Reagan counter revolution whose single goal is to make the rich richer.

  15. Bruce

    Spring is just around the corner, when farmers get government loans to buy the seeds for planting the year’s crops. When those seeds don’t get planted, you will notice the effect in the produce section, some of the smaller players won’t make it to 2020 and there will be further consolidation.

    The administration has taken the government hostage over a stupid proposal. I can’t save the hostage by myself and I would never support a wall, so what else is left but to say “OK Mr. President, go ahead and kill the hostage. I’m 63 y.o. and my life isn’t exciting enough, and I’m not a farmer or government contractor/employee, so I’ll be all right, Jack.”

    1. tegnost

      funny how your argument can be flipped on it’s head, and instead say spring is just around the corner, and if theres a wall there will be more expensive labor necessary to plant the crops. If those seeds don’t get planted you will notice an effect in the produce section, but here imo it changes. Smaller players are hiring more local labor up here in washington, and organic local produce, as well as trees shrubs etc…can be grown lucratively without relying entirely on unreasonably cheap labor, it’s the behemoth growers that will feel the pain, and for that I say good, I hope their monsanto/bayer seeds remain in their original packaging. The consolidation is now and always has been a financialization play in farming. Both the wall, and the shut down, are bad for corporate agribiz.

  16. Bobby Gladd

    Look, Mr. 45th rate POTUS, there either IS a southern border “national emergency” or there ISN’T one. Quit the lame, utterly transparent trolling that “I might call a national emergency if I want to.”

  17. Tomonthebeach


    1. ambrit

      The local General Dynamics ‘O’care phone bank is still up and running, if the number of cars in the parking lot is any indication. Whoever is running the phone bank is counting on getting paid sooner or later. As to who is actually deferring compensation, the company or the workers, I do not know yet. Those phone bankers have had a raise recently, up to $10.35 an hour! Prosperity is just around the corner!

  18. Eclair

    Even more worrying than TSA employees not being paid is the reality of air traffic controllers working without pay. And the air traffic control training school has been shut down. Based on this report.

    You do not want your air traffic controller thinking about how next month’s mortgage will be paid when she is guiding incoming flights into the New York area’s busy airports.

    1. ambrit

      Silly! Trump can do for air traffic control just what Reagan did, call in the military to carry the load. Reagan did it to break a Union. Cynics might say that Trump is doing it for the same reason.
      (I wonder what the penalty is for urinating on Reagan’s grave? I’m tempted.)

      1. Eclair

        Yes, I remember vividly when Reagan, his back to the wall, broke the air-traffic controllers’ union.

        So, we can use half the military to seal the borders (Canadians should call for an equal-opportunity wall up north) and half to man the air-traffic control towers. Just hope they don’t get their assignments confused; we certainly don’t want air-traffic control troops guiding in immigrants over the border to a safe landing, while the trigger-ready, xenophobically-trained troops start shooting at Emirates, KoreanAir or SAS on their glide path.

        But, I think you are on to something, ambrit. Trump (and a bunch of the hard-righters) are lords of chaos and destruction. Opportunities for looting will abound.

        1. ambrit

          And yet, Reagan had been head of the Screen Actors Guild! Then he discovered the blandishments of Anti-Communism.

  19. TG

    Yes, well, as Bernie Sanders pointed out in 2016, the rich want their cheap labor and by golly they’ll get their cheap labor no matter how much it hurts the rest of the country. One way or the other, Trump will fold.

    But not to worry, Congress has its priorities straight. Apparently the first order of business is not ending the government shutdown, but something far more critical: passing a law that makes it a crime to criticize the government of the state of Israel. I mean, a lot of those Americans getting cut off from food stamps probably needed to go on a diet anyhow, right?

  20. cat sick

    Why not let him have his wall ?

    It does not seem like a totally crazy or costly thing to do compared to the trillions of spending on pointless wars, His shut down seems to also appeal to his base, so for Trump this showdown seems to be a win-win, why not let him have the wall and compete on an issue that will not energize his base, this is a fight he has picked and wants to have….

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