Faces from the Crisis (Hint: It’s Not at the Southern Border)

“ ‘Right now, I can go get a bunch of loans, but if I’m not going to get paid, when am I going to pay those back?’ said Kerri Woodridge, a furloughed Office of Personnel Management employee.” WBAL-TV reported.

Freda McDonald, who’s furloughed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, brought up health care costs. She has an incurable neuromuscular disease, and her insurance deductibles reset with the new year.

“ ‘If they recommend surgery or recommend another procedure, can I afford to have that? Do I need to delay it? If I delay it, will it damage my legs to where I won’t be able to use them?’

Matthew Silverman, a federal law enforcement employee working without pay,” WBAL reports, “is considered essential. He said keeping his nonessential colleagues off the job is putting public safety at risk.

“ ‘We’re talking about forensics, we’re talking about DNA analysis, we’re talking about analysts all over the place,’ Silverman said.”

Of the 800,000 or so federal employees affected by the shutdown, approximately 26,000 live in and around Maryland.

Cathy Geier’s husband, NPR said, has been furloughed and her son works for the TSA.

“Geier’s son, a 28-year-old Transportation Security Administration employee in Washington state, is working without pay, and her husband, a U.S. Forest Service worker, has been furloughed during the shutdown. As a result, the family has dipped into limited savings to cover their son’s expenses, because they don’t want him to incur debt while the government remains closed.

“Geier said her husband, who injured his knee on the job, also has medical bills that are not being paid during the shutdown. The family has no fallback plan at the moment.

Tina Gonzalez-Poole’s husband works for the Federal Aviation Administration. While he is furloughed, the couple and their two-year-old daughter have no reliable income. …Gonzalez-Poole and her husband recently married and bought a house. On occasion, she has filled in as an adjunct English professor, but the family’s efforts to find new work right now have come up empty.

Sam Shirazi is furloughed, and while he’s been away from work, his young daughter has been home, too. Her private daycare facility is located inside a shuttered federal agency and has closed as a result. Yet Shirazi said he’s still been saddled with the weekly bill.”

With the exception of Cathy Geier’s son who works must continue to work for the TSA without pay, those are just a fraction of the more than 800,000 federal employees the Trump administration calls “non-essential.”

According to the latest SSRS poll (Jan. 13) conducted for CNN, “56 percent oppose a wall, 39 perecent favor it. …And less than half view the situation at the border as a crisis (45 percent say it’s a crisis, 52 percent that it is not).”

Further, “55 percent [say President Trump] is more responsible for the shutdown than are Democrats in Congress, while 32 percent say the blame rests mostly with the Democrats.”

For those Republicans who feel strongly that Democrats are to blame, let’s go to the tape from December 11, 2018.

“If we don’t get what we want,” President Trump said in front of the media in the Oval Office, “one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck,” Trump added. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

One statement that gets mistakenly repeated constantly by the President and Republicans is that Democrats are opposed to border security. That’s false. Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have offered money for “border security.” What they oppose is money for a border wall or barrier.

On a recent visit to the border at McAllen, Texas, President Trump said there’s “never [been] so many apprehensions ever in our history.”

As reported by Politifact, according to Trump’s own Border Patrol data, that statement is false.

Last Sunday (Jan. 6), the president was asked by a reporter about the pain furloughed federal workers are suffering.

“Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?”

“I can relate,” Trump said. “And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment. They always do. And they’ll make adjustment. People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.”

After spending more than an hour searching for evidence, I could not find a single furloughed federal employee who has publicly gone on the record in support of Trump’s shutdown for a border wall.

Last Tuesday (Jan. 8), in a speech from the Oval Office, Trump warned of a “security crisis at the Mexican border,” even though the numbers for illegal border crossings is at a 20-year low.

According to the Washington Post Fact Checker, “By any available measure, there is no new security crisis at the border.”

Is there anyone in Washington who has the power to check the president and reopen the government?

Yes, but the man who has that power does nothing.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.),” The Washington Post reports (Jan.11), “could bring a ‘clean’ funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

“McConnell already did it once, when he believed he had Trump’s blessing. Before the holidays he allowed a vote to keep the government running until Feb. 8, to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump’s demand for border wall funding. It passed easily.

“But then Trump bowed to pressure from his base, House Republicans dared not challenge him, and the parts of the government that had not yet been funded were shut down.”

However, “…in McConnell’s home state, there’s an effort to draw more attention to his lack of effort to intervene in the standoff. Federal workers protested outside of his office, a Democratic group is putting up a billboard to pressure McConnell, and an opinion writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal penned a column titled: ‘McConnell, stop sitting on your hands. End this government shutdown.’

Meanwhile, back at the Furlough Corral, Andrea Caviedes “a furloughed bilingual loan processor in the Agriculture Department’s rural development program, spent the week visiting her church’s food pantry, applying for unemployment insurance and job hunting at Walmart and Walgreens,” The New York Times reports (Jan. 12).

“…farmers affected by the tariffs are unable to apply for emergency aid; tenants who depend on federal housing subsidies to cover their rent are facing eviction; private contractors working for the federal government are not getting paid, and rural homeowners and businesses who need a mortgage extension or guarantee cannot get one.”

The longer the shutdown continues, the greater the risk of a more serious crisis.

We have now entered the longest shutdown in U.S. history with a Senate leader who chooses not to do his job and a White House that has lost two generals whose experience and service was unable to bring rational order to an irrational president.

“I just watched a Fake reporter,” Trump tweeted, “from the Amazon Washington Post say the White House is ‘chaotic, there does not seem to be a strategy for this Shutdown. There is no plan.’ The Fakes always like talking Chaos, there is NONE. In fact, there’s almost nobody in the W.H. but me…”

How many more federal workers will face more serious hardship? When will Trump’s base realize that this man acts in his own interest, not the country’s?

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