Tag Archives: shutdown

Speaking Of Symbolism…

Most sane observers understand that Trump’s wall is entirely symbolic. If built, it clearly wouldn’t prevent the entry of undocumented folks (the majority of whom fly in and overstay their visas) or the successful smuggling of drugs (which tend to come by ship or air).

Even Fox News rebutted the Administration’s claim that 4,000 terrorists had been stopped at the Southern border (the actual number appears to be 6 people on the watch list). I’m told that most of the Saudis responsible for 9/11 entered through Canada.

The obscenely expensive wall Trump wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico is solely intended to send a message: ignore the poem on Lady Liberty. If you are brown, you aren’t welcome.

The government shutdown triggered by his tantrum over the wall provided Trump watchers with another symbol–one more example of how truly corrupt our know-nothing President can be. Not that most of us needed the reminder.

As federal employees tried to figure out how they would pay their mortgages and put food on the table during the shutdown, as landlords threatened to evict tenants dependent upon Section 8 vouchers that stopped coming, as millions of Americans who rely on SNAP (food stamps) faced the likelihood that those benefits wouldn’t be forthcoming…Talking Points Memo reported that the President managed to keep a historic site incorporated in his hotel fully staffed.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Smithsonian museums are closed. There are no federal staffers to answer tourists’ questions at the Lincoln Memorial. And across the United States, national parks are cluttered with trash. Yet despite the federal government shutdown, a historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel remained open Friday for its handful of visitors, staffed by green-clad National Park Service rangers.

“We’re open!” one National Park Service ranger declared around lunchtime, pushing an elevator button for a lone visitor entering the site through a side entrance to ride to the top of the 315-foot-high, nearly 120-year-old clock tower.

The Trump administration appears to have gone out of its way to keep the attraction in the federally owned building that houses the Trump hotel open and staffed with National Park Service rangers, even as other federal agencies shut all but the most essential services.

A watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information request over the Trump Hotel’s exemption from a shutdown that furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers and crippled many agencies.

Completed in 1899, the Romanesque-style former post office is on the National Register of Historic Places. The GSA pays for the National Park Service to run the building’s clock tower for visits by the general public. The tower initially closed to the public after the shutdown started. The GSA noticed then that the deal under which the park service staffs the site had expired, and renewed it, and the park service reopened the tower this week, the agency said.

There could hardly be a clearer symbol of Trump’s priorities.

Are more than 800,000 hard-working federal workers desperately trying to make ends meet? Is air travel becoming dangerous as TSA personnel call in sick rather than continue working without pay? Are the national parks overflowing with trash? Well, first things first–we certainly don’t want to inconvenience Trump’s business.

The wall is a symbol of his bigotry; the park rangers tending to the clock tower are a symbol of his self-engrossed avarice.

His presidency is a shameful symbol of national decline.

We Didn’t Default….

But too many of our elected officials were perfectly willing to court disaster.

Eighteen Senators voted to continue the shutdown and to stop paying the nation’s bills. One hundred and twenty-six Representatives joined them, and several–including Todd Rokita and Marlin Stutzman from Indiana–blithely assured their constituents that a default “wouldn’t be a big deal”–all credible economists to the contrary.

The GOP brought the country to a screeching halt for three weeks–and for what? To remind us they disagreed with a law that had been passed by a democratic majority to make health insurance accessible to people who didn’t have it.

According to the Standard and Poor index, the government shutdown delivered a powerful blow to our still fragile economy. By the S & P’s estimate, this childish tantrum cost us $24 billion dollars–dollars that Elizabeth Warren accurately described as having been flushed down the drain for a completely unnecessary political stunt.

“$24 billion dollars. How many children could have been back in Head Start classes? How many seniors could have had a hot lunch through Meals on Wheels? How many scientists could have gotten their research funded? How many bridges could have been repaired and trains upgraded?”

We are governed by spoiled brats.

Winners and Losers and the Democratic Process

There’s a common saying among political geeks (of whom I am admittedly one): elections have consequences.

This is shorthand for the essential bargain of democratic systems. We The People agree not to wage war and/or insurrection, and instead to conduct contests at regular intervals, during which we try to convince a majority of those who will cast a vote to see things our way. Those contests–called elections–are supposed to be fair (we aren’t supposed to use trickery or intimidation to keep eligible citizens from the polls, for example), and when they are over and the votes are counted, the contenders are supposed to abide by the results.

Now, the losers don’t have to like the results. They don’t have to agree with the wisdom of the electorate. They can console each other by agreeing that the voters were stupid or venal or misled. But in our system–in any legitimate system–the losers’ recourse isn’t sabotage; it’s the next election.

Yesterday’s headlines made it glaringly clear that a substantial portion of the GOP, locally and nationally, is no longer willing to play by those rules.

In Indiana, voters elected Glenda Ritz by a very substantial margin–a margin exceeding that of Mike Pence, who was elected Governor. The Republicans (who hold all the other offices) aren’t happy that they lost this one. Fair enough. But they have proceeded to cheat, to use the offices to which they were elected to undermine the authority of the new Superintendent, and to strip the office of the powers it had when their guy occupied it. They weren’t–and aren’t–willing to work with her until the next election, when they can try to convince voters to elect their candidate. Instead, they are doing everything they can to thwart the will of a majority of Indiana voters and undermine the democratic process.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, we have a group of Representatives–a minority even within their own party–who don’t like a law that was duly passed in a prior legislative session. A majority of Representatives and Senators voted for that law, after many months of debate. It was signed by the President, and its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court. The wisdom of that law was a central issue in the ensuing Presidential campaign–an election Obama won by more than five million votes, and an election in which a million more people voted for Congressional Democrats than for Congressional Republicans.

Poll after poll confirms that a majority of Americans either favors keeping the Affordable Care Act or wishes it had gone farther. But even if that weren’t the case–even if their hatred of this particular legislation wasn’t so irrational and disproportionate–that’s not the issue. In a constitutional republic, the Tea Party goons responsible for shutting down the government cannot justify circumventing democratic processes and holding the nation hostage.

I’m not a particular fan of Thomas Friedman, but his recent column was exactly right. This is a coup. It isn’t an attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a frontal assault on the democratic process, on government legitimacy, and on the Constitution.

It’s a refusal to play by the rules, an effort to insure that–if they don’t like the outcome–elections won’t have consequences.