“I’M SURE that people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do.” That was the let-them-eat-cake response from President Trump about the plight of the 800,000 federal workers impacted by his shutdown of the government. Here is what that means:
For Daniel Lickey, a 32-year-old Internal Revenue Service worker in Utah, it’s not being able to send money to his parents, who are raising his special-needs niece and nephew. For Joseph Simeone, a 53-year-old safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration in Virginia, it means applying for unemployment and selling some of his belongings on Craigslist. For Theodore Atkinson, a trial lawyer for the Justice Department’s civil division, it means taking out personal loans to cover the mortgage on his Baltimore home and to meet his child support and alimony payments. And for 19-year-old IRS worker Tailor Gutierrez, it means eating ramen or white rice instead of meat.
The partial government shutdown, which affects about one-third of the federal workforce, is now the longest in history, having passed the previous record at midnight on Friday. Sunday will be its 23rd day, and there is no end in sight. Roughly 420,000 employees have been deemed essential and have been working unpaid since Dec. 22 (as was insultingly illustrated by Friday’s issuance of $0.00 paystubs); an additional 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed without pay.
But the pain of the shutdown extends beyond federal workers. There are the tens of thousands of contractors who rely on the federal government but are not full-time employees and are not likely to receive back pay. There are the stores, restaurants and other businesses that are hurting in cities and towns across the country, with workforces dependent on patronage by the government and its employees. The national economy is taking a hit, too, with estimates putting losses so far at $3.6 billion. And U.S. taxpayers are not receiving the government services they pay for, such as food inspections or museum exhibits or care for precious national parklands.
The longer the shutdown persists — and Mr. Trump has blithely talked about months or even years — the more the damage will compound. It shouldn’t come to that. Republicans in Congress who see the harm that is being done to their constituents need to work with Democrats to end this intolerable situation by reopening the government.