Politics

Shutting down the government isn’t just a stunt. It’s war.

We're sick just looking at this list. Call your senators NOW.

Don’t understand the urgency? Don’t think this affects you? Well, do I have a list for you! 

Here’s what isn’t happening, and the damage it’s already doing. This isn’t something that ‘just’ affects federal workers. The effects of this shut down are the equivalent of bombing our economy, our safety, and our ability to provide for the most vulnerable in this nation. It’s not ‘just’ a stunt. It’s an act of war.

SAFETY? WHAT SAFETY?

Air Traffic Controllers and TSA agents are working without pay, and are often working extra shifts due to understaffing. TSA agents, who are often hourly workers, are calling in sick so they can go to their second jobs where they are actually getting paid. Lines at airports are getting longer. How long before a mistake is made?

The Coast Guard is not getting paid. Many of the rank-and-file Guard get poverty wages as it is.

Remind me again, wasn’t this about border security, terrorism, and drug smuggling?  Because most terrorists come into the country through airports, and a lot of drug smuggling happens via…you guessed it…the coasts.

FBI agents aren’t getting paid. Nor is the Secret Service, nor Border Patrol.

The federal court system will be largely out of money by next week. Have you been watching all the civil suits in federal court against Trump and his family and the Trump Organization? All will grind to a halt shortly.

E-Verify is down– employers can’t process visas for workers, including seasonal workers who pick our crops.

FDA is not doing routine food inspections or approving new drugs.

Because the Interior Department is shut down, forest management programs and other maintenance of our national lands is on hold. We just had a record-breaking forest fire season in California– but the maintenance work needed to prevent another set of tragedies can’t happen while the agencies are shut.

The National Weather Service and NOAA are minimally staffed right in the middle of winter storm season.

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HUNGER & HOMELESSNESS AT THE DOORSTEP

SNAP benefits (food stamps) will be paid through February (with unpaid workers doing the work), but funds will likely run out after that.

People in low-income housing may get evicted because the Housing and Urban Development agency is shut, leaving HUD tenants and landlords alike out in the cold without rental payments and assistance. Already 1,000 people are at risk of eviction this month– and it’s only the second week of January.

The WIC program for low-income mothers and babies will soon run out of funds. That’s 7 million people who won’t have access to food.

The shutdown is taking a huge toll on the states, who are must backstop some of the federal services which are running out of money, but states won’t have the funds to keep that up for long. State economies are feeling the pinch from reduction in spending because of all the unpaid federal employees and the shuttering of vital economic development programs.  

Services for Native Americans are funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is within the Interior Department and, thus, shut down.That means many vital services– particularly health services– for Tribal Nations are either shut or operating with skeleton staffs.

People all over the country are unable to get mortgages. The government’s mortgage program for low- and middle-income Americans in rural areas, which is run by USDA, can’t issue new mortgages while they are shut down.

Buyers can’t get tax documents from the IRS and the National Flood Insurance Program that they need to complete home purchases. People in the middle of the process could end up homeless. Nearly 40,000 mortgages are caught up in the shutdown. Obviously this slows the real estate market and economic growth.  

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BUSINESS GRINDING TO A HALT

Because the IRS is shut, students can’t get the tax documents they need for processing their financial aid.

The Small Business Administration is shut, so small businesses (who we’re always told by Republicans are the backbone of our economy) can’t get loans and other services.

Farmers who have been impacted by the totally unnecessary tariffs are now also not getting their government support checks, because USDA is shut.  

The administration says they’ll bring back IRS workers– UNPAID– to process tax refunds. This is an attempt to remove public pressure from passing the required Appropriations laws by providing government services while forcing government employees to work for free. This eviscerates Congressional budget authority, and is both a violation of the Constitution and effective involuntary servitude, folks. Generally only workers who are needed for the “safety of life and property” are forced to work without pay during a shutdown. Tax refunds don’t meet that qualification. If they start forcing civil servants to work without pay for non-vital services, where will it end, do you think?

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IRREPARABLE DAMAGE TO NATIONAL PARKS AND ECONOMIES

As most people know by now, our National Parks are getting trashed because they have been left open but with minimal staffing.  The damage to some parks may take years to restore. The National Mall is overflowing with trash. The acting Interior secretary directed the National Park Service to drain the funds collected from park fees to do routine maintenance– but these are the funds usually used for repairs, and there’s already a repair backlog of $12 BILLION. Also, it’s not clear if it’s legal for the Interior secretary to unilaterally repurpose these funds– that should be a function of Congress through the Appropriations bills.  

The Smithsonian Museums in DC are all shut.

Remember that all the local businesses that depend on tourism dollars around the National Parks and DC are also taking a huge hit. As are all local businesses (restaurants, shops) around federal installations in towns across America which have been shuttered– furloughed employees don’t eat out.

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SCIENCE LOSES

Vast amounts of science research is being delayed because many federal scientists can’t work and research grants (e.g. to university researchers) can neither be evaluated or awarded.  In some cases that means we as a country lose a year or more of research, particularly in seasonally-dependent work on the environment, ecology, and in difficult environments like Antarctica.  Most people hear about the “big nine” agencies that are shut down but that doesn’t include the science agencies NASA, NSF, NOAA, NIST and the EPA, all of which are shut.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE AREN’T PAID

800,000 non-partisan federal employees plus untold number of contractors are not receiving paychecks, and half of those federal employees are forced to work without pay for the duration.  Some of these employees are already facing homelessness, using food banks, accruing interest on loans they are forced to take out to cover expenses, and taking hits to their credit.

The top places outside the D.C. area where people are most affected by the shutdown are Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia and Idaho. Note how many RED STATES, people.

The total in salaries for the unpaid workers is over $1.4 BILLION PER WEEK. What do you think happens when all that money is taken out of the economy, because those folks are neither receiving their pay nor spending it, generating economic activity?

Furloughed employees are being forced to pull their children out of day care to save money, but in many cases it takes 1-2 years to get a day care slot for their children, so what will they do when the government reopens?

Federal employees who are forced to work had all their leave cancelled over the holiday– meaning they cancelled family trips, loss of tourism revenue.

While federal employees will likely get back pay (though this is not guaranteed because the Congress has to pass a bill authorizing back pay), contractors will NEVER get back pay for the shutdown period. Imagine what that would do to your finances.

What’s worse? Many contractors are amongst the lowest-paid employees: janitorial staff, cafeteria staff, security guards, etc. The little guys are taking the biggest hit, and can least afford it.

Contractors who wanted to have some pay during the shutdown were forced to use all their paid time off to do so– so many had to spend their hard-earned time off for this rather than for family emergencies or holidays. Which might not sound like a big deal to you– until you have to suddenly care for an ailing family member.

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Do any of these things sound important to you? Do you use any of these services– or know anyone who does? Do any of these things sound like they should be collateral damage in a fight over a border wall that security and immigration experts describe as anywhere between “low priority” and “useless”?

If so, get to the phones. Melt the Senate lines down.

This self-inflicted damage to our citizens, our current and future economic growth, and our natural treasures is stupid and unnecessary.  Tell your Senators and your Representatives to act like the co-equal branch that they are, and reopen the government. There is no time to waste.

Call your Senators now

Call YOUR SENATORS (on the PHONE, not email or text or fax). Public pressure must be drastically increased. It’s no hyperbole to say that lives are at stake. Remind them ALL: they don’t need the White House – they can reopen the government on their own.  

  • For Republican Senators: Demand they put the Appropriations bills on the floor and vote to reopen the government, and override a veto if necessary. These bipartisan bills were unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and then passed on the floor with 90+ votes in December. Remind them!
  • For Democratic Senators: Demand they block consideration of all other bills and floor activity until all the Appropriations bills are passed and the government is reopened.  

Call your Senators now