We hurtle ever-deeper into the longest government shutdown in our country’s history, far surpassing the shutdown so many of us remember from the ’90s between President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich. As acrimonious and intractable as that one felt at the time, this one seems far more bitter and personal, if that’s even possible.
With no end in sight now and news cycles filled with all kinds of other headlines, it might be easy to forget – or look away – from the federal employees and others who rely on government working for their livelihood. These women and men are paying the heaviest price. They are forced to make hard–sometimes very painful–decisions when resources are gone, bill collectors are knocking and families backs are up against the wall.
President Trump said at the beginning that he owns this shutdown. He and his allies insist that they do care about the livelihood, survival and humanity of those who serve the public good. It’s just that, in their public telling, what they call “a crisis” on the southern border and need for a wall seems a higher priority. One senses there is so much more to the story: bold political calculus, the whims of a mercurial president, and enough psychological overtones to overwhelm Freud. It also seems that public opinion is lining up against the president and his GOP allies. But Mr. Trump is determined to let his power-play prevail.
The immediate fallout and long-term effects of this shutdown will reverberate in various ways. Among the numerous concerns is the question of the future of the Civil Service. Civilian government service has been a hallmark of American stability, and one wonders whether the President’s playbook, to the degree that he has one, includes driving down the morale of government workers.
The oft-quoted line from President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address says, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” With what civil servants are now going through, perhaps we can be pardoned for asking the inverse of those words. For the good people continuing to work without pay, maybe we can say they have done enough.
(These thoughts were spurred in part by Huffington Post labor reporter Dave Jamieson’s article: “The Longest Government Shutdown Ever Is Making Civil Service Less Attractive”)
-with research and writing by Alex van Amson
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