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Never, ever a good reason for shutdown

December 27, 2018

There are many moving parts and many actors in this most recent partial shutdown of the federal government, but there is one main architect. That’s President Donald Trump.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans can agree on the broad contours of increased border security — think fewer walls and more fences, high tech and personnel. They can, therefore, arrive without much difficulty at a spending bill that keeps nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies funded.

The sticking point is a thing that has always been a bad idea — a border wall. The president is insisting he will not sign any spending bill that doesn’t give him $5 billion for such a wall. A wall that will ultimately go from the Gulf to the Pacific, traverse over government and private property — trampling the rights of those private owners, and despoiling the environment and disrupting wildlife. And will in all likelihood be ineffective.

This is all about the president being able to fulfill a campaign promise to his base to erect what has always been a bad idea. This isn’t about necessity. It’s about politics. There will be no spending bill without that $5 billion for a border wall, he says.

How political? Trump’s support — even among those wanting a border wall — is eroding because of continuing fallout from various investigations of the president and his campaign for obstruction and collusion; the president’s longtime lawyer/fixer pleading guilty for a crime in which he implicates the president in committing felonies involving hush money for sexual affairs; an abrupt decision to withdraw all troops from Syria and about half of those in Afghanistan — which sparked the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and severe criticism worldwide; and a forced shutdown of the Trump Foundation because of a whole lot of self-dealing.

Yes, Democrats are, so far, steadfast against a bad idea. Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to convince the president of compromise that involves more border security measures. Meanwhile, only one person remains hot about that wall. The president — the guy with the veto pen.

This means that days before Christmas, roughly 380,000 federal employees were furloughed without pay, though in the past they have been paid retroactively once the shutdown ends. So, essentially a paid vacation, right? Tell that to creditors and merchants who want to be paid immediately, furlough or not.

More than 420,000 “essential” employees continue to work, but also without pay. Among those essential employees are those who work for the FBI, the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration. This last one ensures screeners will still be on the job as our airports experience high-volume travel.

And among those 380,000 furloughed employees will be those who work for NASA, Housing and Urban Development, the Commerce Department and the National Parks Service, along with 52,000 at the Internal Revenue Service.

We’ve said it before. There is never, ever a good reason to force a government shutdown. It disrupts vital government services, hurts those dependent on those services, unfairly penalizes federal workers who provide those services and inflicts enduring economic fallout, the more severe the longer the shutdown lasts. The administration says it could continue through the new year. A new Congress is installed Jan. 3.

Someone has to blink here. We suggest it’s the guy with the bad idea. We also suggest that those in Congress who are enabling him cease and desist.

Guess who doesn’t suffer through this debacle — at least not financially? That would be members of Congress. They get paid because their salaries were funded by an already approved spending bill.

Have you caught on that Mexico will not fund the wall? Looking for Congress to do that is what this shutdown is all about. Mexico paying was always a piece of fiction. Here’s what else is — that the wall is needed and that any meaningful principle is involved in holding federal spending hostage to get it built.

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