Trump’s business failings foretold the shutdown

On Dec. 11, President Donald Trump stated that he “would be proud” to shutdown the government in the name of border security, namely over funding for a border wall. One month later, Trump seems to have accomplished yet another feat in which he can be proud: forcing hard-working federal employees to work without pay, or not work at all, for 23 days, the longest in history.

“I think [Trump] has no idea what it’s like to be like us, a whole swath of people who don’t know how we’re going to put food on the plate, provide childcare for our kids or how we’ll make tuition payments,” said Nicole Cantello, a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency who brings cases against polluters.

At Federal Plaza on Thursday, over 100 federal employees showed up to protest the shutdown and demand a return to work. With no end in sight, the organizers of the rally promised that until the shutdown is over they will return to the Plaza every Thursday.

There, workers expressed the severe financial strain the shutdown is placing on them. For many who were already living to paycheck to paycheck, nearly a month without pay is catastrophic.

Lacey Latch | The DePaulia

But in quintessentially Trump fashion, the president has strayed far from the path of the leaders that navigated shutdowns before him. Instead, the American people are now at the will of someone who refuses to negotiate with Democratic leadership but who also wrote a book titled “The Art of the Deal.” I didn’t read it but something tells me that hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work isn’t “the deal” the rest of the country had in mind.

As a New Jersey native, I’ve been able to witness Trump’s ineptitude as a businessman first hand over the last two decades. On a short walk through Atlantic City, with needles littering the streets of a gambling ghost town, Trump’s “magic touch” is undeniable. Almost every entity with his name on it in the state has gone bankrupt and been abandoned long before he pledged to “run the country like a business.” Those business failings also demonstrated his blatant disregard for anyone working below him. By closing his businesses abruptly without any warning, Trump then left thousands of vulnerable workers out of a job. Sound familiar?

Malcolm Alexander-Neal is a risk analyst for the Commodity Future Trading Commission. At the start of the shutdown, Alexander-Neal was deemed an inessential worker meaning he is furloughed until the government reopens.

“How is [what I do] worth any work at all if I’m not essential? I feel like every government employee is essential in the work that we do,” he said. “We serve the public, and in my particular agency, we’re safeguarding the financial market, and I don’t consider that non-essential work.”

To make matters worse, as the Coast Guard struggles under the weight of the shutdown with nearly 6,400 people on furlough and about 2,100 working without pay, a tipsheet that has since been taken down was released to guide Coast Guardsman during this time of financial insecurity. The suggestions for our military and other federal employees included becoming a dog walker, driving Uber or holding garage sales among others.

Aside from being mildly patronizing, these suggestions are perhaps the most telling of just how out of touch our lawmakers are with the public. In short, a salary cannot be replaced by a few rideshare trips to O’Hare. Anyone who has worked a decent-paying job knows that. Fittingly, the suggestions were more insulting than helpful.

Lorie McCann is a program analyst for the Treasury Department and the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 10. McCann expressed frustration over the suggestions.

Lacey Latch | The DePaulia

“Don’t even get me started with that list,” she said. “Look, we’re all going to do what we have to do in order to take care of our families but it’s just too much right now.”

And as a matter of survival in their standoff with the President and his precious wall, federal workers are doing just that: whatever it takes. As the Washington Post reports, over 1,000 federal workers have set up GoFundMe campaigns to help with their mounting bills while others have turned to Craigslist to sell their personal belongings.

We’ve become a country wherein fundraising campaigns to pay for things like basic healthcare have become commonplace because much like many federal employees, healthcare isn’t deemed essential either. Now, Americans being forced to ask the public for help with their bills because the President doesn’t have their best interest at heart is just the obvious next step.

“The difference in every other shutdown, whether it was under Obama or a republican, is that there was a divide in Congress,” Alexander-Neal said. “Those presidents had to work with Congress to try to come up with a solution—they were willing to work. But this president is shutting down bipartisan bills that are trying to be passed. So it’s very different and he has the power to stop it, and he doesn’t want to.”