Shutdown putting millions at risk

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category icon Columns, Opinion

By Tom H. Hastings, Guest Columnist

“They’ll make adjustments. They always do.”

So said Donald Trump when a reporter asked him about the millions of people directly affected by his shutdown.

Yes, millions. Nearly 400,000 federal workers are not being paid, and an equal number of workers who were fulfilling government contracts also are not being paid. Most of those 800,000 have dependents. So millions of Americans are going without a paycheck. Trump says they’ll adjust.

Wait — his shutdown? Yup. “I’m proud to shut down the government … I’m not gonna blame you for it.” That’s what Trump said, on camera, to Sen. Chuck Schumer in December 2018.

As with so many things this president has promised — Mexico will pay for the wall. He’s ordering the troops home from Syria now. He will push for term limits on Congress. He will make sure taxpayers can fully deduct health care insurance payments on their taxes. He will release his taxes as soon as the audit is finished — Trump makes a promise and then denies it. The Promisebreaker.

Back in the day, when I was a young single dad — just me and my two sons — I missed a paycheck once. It was a catastrophe. A crew of us were working construction, and the contractor bailed on all of us. Three of us were family men and two were single guys. All of us were panicked and scrambling. Yeah, we all “made adjustments.” It was hellish.

Now, Trump has created a fake crisis on the border — even though there are fewer migrants with problems coming in than ever. The National Security Council and the State Department both issued reports that list improvements that might be made in border security and neither recommends a wall.

The crisis is the shutdown itself and the millions of Americans thrown to the wolves by Trump. The new Congress has already passed a bill that would reopen the government and sent it to the Senate, but Trump says he’ll never sign.

To compound Trump’s crisis, the government workers and contractors will soon likely not be able to keep any semblance of safety net in place because they are themselves furloughed. When will Social Security checks stop? When will food stamps for 39 million Americans who depend on them even more acutely now cease?

I’m sure Trump is fantasizing that if he shuts it all down, the judicial system will not be able to continue to investigate the mounting evidence that his campaign conspired with Putin’s Russian operatives to steal the 2016 election. It was just revealed that his campaign manager, convicted felon Paul Manafort, admitted to sharing Trump campaign data with the Russians. We’ll see if Trump gets indicted by all this or if his dream of shutting down the third branch of government buys him some time.

Or maybe Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler, the new House head of the judiciary committee — and even Ken Starr, former solicitor general for President George H. W. Bush and the man whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton — are right and it may be possible, if evidence is strong enough, that a sitting president can be indicted.

Maybe Trump should get fitted for a big, orange jumpsuit.

I’m sure he’ll adjust.

Tom H. Hastings, is the director of the Oregon Peace Institute’s PeaceVoice program, as assistant professor for Portland State University’s Conflict Resolution Department, author of the book, “A New Era of Nonviolence,” and an occasional expert witness for the defense in court.