OPINION: Trump’s 1st century solution to a 21st century problem

OPINION: Trump’s 1st century solution to a 21st century problem

The world is a mess. Wars, famines, terrorism, the usual. Also, much of the U.S. government is shut down — let me count the ways (with a little help from CNN, The New York Times and other sources):

Some 420,000 federal employees are working without pay and 380,000 more, who are furloughed, are not being paid and will not be paid, ever. Agencies affected include the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Food and Drug Administration (where many food inspectors haven’t inspected anything since Dec. 22).

Airports in Houston, Atlanta, Miami and probably elsewhere have had to close security checkpoints because Transportation Security Administration workers have been calling out sick. (Maybe they’re  flipping burgers to pay the rent.) In addition to sanitation problems, people have destroyed Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park. Many immigration courts are closed. People missing court dates because of the shutdown are being given new dates years from now. Some federal court offices that operate primarily on fees have run out of money.

Federal agencies that aren't funded are more susceptible to cyberattacks because cybersecurity is often augmented by contractors. Scientists have ceased their work for various federal research agencies, including NASA and the National Science Foundation. FBI agents are working without pay, and the shutdown may hamper recruiting efforts.

Almost all civil cases in federal courts have been delayed. The SEC has stopped reviewing and approving filings for initial public offerings. No new Freedom of Information Act requests are being processed at certain agencies. USDA loans are on hold for people in rural areas.

National Transportation Safety Board investigations of fatal accidents have been put on hold. Wildfire prep work and firefighter training have been halted. About 41,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen who are working without pay have been advised to hold garage sales. The Federal Communications Commission has stopped most of its operations, including its Consumer Complaint Center.

The IRS may not be able to answer questions about the new tax law. Environmental Protection Agency pollution inspectors aren't on the job. Employers can't use the federal system, E-Verify, to confirm whether workers are in the U.S. legally. Some Border Patrol officers have sued the Trump administration over the missing pay.

The National Zoo is closed, as are the Smithsonian's 19 museums in and around Washington. Food programs, health care and paychecks are in doubt for Native American tribes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development hasn't been able to renew roughly 1,650 contracts with private building owners who rent units to low-income tenants.

Secret Service agents are working without pay.

WIC, a program that provides food assistance to more than 7 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers and young children, is still funded, as is SNAP (food stamps), but both will run out if the shutdown continues much longer. The FDA has stopped some inspections of food, including fruit, meat, seafood and vegetables.

But all is not lost: President Trump gave some advice to landlords of federal workers who can't pay the rent. "I would encourage them to be nice and easy," he said.

That ought to do the trick. Now maybe we can have that symbolic but useless and hideously expensive wall — Mr. Trump’s 1st century solution to a 21st century problem.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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