Shutdown To Last Until Planes Crash Or Uninspected Meat Kills Us All. No Big.
As Donald Trump's Glorious Government Shutdown stretches into its fifth millennium, the administration is doing all it can to force unpaid federal workers to keep providing services so Americans maybe won't notice nothing works right. Trump ordered IRS employees back to work (with no pay) to process income tax returns, because if those are delayed, people might complain and Trump wouldn't want that. But in response, lots of IRS workers are requesting and getting permission not to return since it would be a financial hardship for them. In addition, record numbers of TSA security screeners -- about 10 percent of the workforce -- have called in sick, and even federal meat inspectors have begun doing so as well. Oh, yes, and while Republicans may be delighted to see food stamp payments imperiled (grocery store owners will suffer, but so what?), the shutdown is also screwing over nice red-state voters whose federal home loans have been held up.
You know, it's almost as if government does stuff people want -- and that they want a functioning government a hell of a lot more than they want WALL.
So how about those IRS folks? Last week, the administration ordered at least 30,000 workers to get back to the office and process tax returns, because not making the shutdown politically inconvenient for Donald Trump is now an essential government function. But many workers say nahh, not if we're not getting paid, because even if federal law says government employees can't strike, there's also a work rule allowing employees to miss unpaid work if it would create a hardship. The rule even stipulates managers must grant the exemptions. Let's hear it for good work rules negotiated by the IRS workers' union before anti-labor shitheads took over everything!
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, explains:
"They are definitely angry that they're not getting paid, and maybe some of them are angry enough to express their anger this way," said Reardon, whose union represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments. "But these employees live paycheck to paycheck, and they can't scrape up the dollars to get to work or pay for child care."
Not receiving pay for more than a month has taken a toll on employees across the government, but especially on those who are not in high-salary jobs. The employees summoned back from furlough to process tax refunds are paid between $25,800 and $51,000 a year, depending on their seniority. IRS employees will miss a second paycheck Monday if the government does not reopen this week.
WaPo didn't have any trouble at all finding IRS workers who simply can't afford to pay out of their own pockets to go to an unpaid job, like a Kansas woman who has to travel 98 miles round-trip to get to her job at an IRS service center. In Andover, Massachusetts, a union chapter president says the "majority of employees are calling out under hardship," too. The IRS won't release numbers of people getting exemptions, but the number of folks not coming in to do unpaid work seems to be affecting IRS centers all over the country. Good on them!
The Post also briefly notes some USDA meat inspectors are saying the hell with it, and are even pushing back against management attempts to make them work without pay:
USDA meat inspectors also have begun calling in sick — in numbers large enough to trigger an agency crackdown. The inspectors were told Jan. 11 to bring in a doctor's note, even if they were ill for a single day, records show.
Six days later, after protests from union leaders, agency officials reverted to existing policy, which calls for a doctor's note after three days.
TSA screeners are also engaged in a sick-out, and the absentee rate increased to 10 percent of the workforce over the holiday weekend, a new high. That's resulted in longer lines for security checks and a few airports closing checkpoints altogether, but since bad weather caused the cancellation of a lot of flights, there were also fewer passengers to be screened in many airports. As weather improves but screeners continue to say they're under it, look for pissed-off passengers to be calling their members of Congress.
The FBI agents' union is also piling on with a report warning the funding cuts are affecting high-profile criminal cases across the country. Look, the agents are steely-eyed missile men and women for justice, but without functioning crime labs, funds for travel, and grand juries to help with subpoenas and indictments, Keeping America Safe is getting very difficult, and bad guys will be getting away with stuff. Heck, they can't even pay snitches!
One agent, speaking anonymously, said his unit had "lost several sources who have worked for months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects" due to the inability to pay confidential sources. "These assets cannot be replaced," the agent said. "Serving my country has always been a privilege, but it has never been so hard or thankless." Another agent reported: "Not being able to pay Confidential Human Sources risks losing them and the information they provide FOREVER. It is not a switch that we can turn on and off."
That's some pretty good rhetorical jujitsu, FBI union: The shutdown is supposed to get WALL, which is supposed to block hypothetical bad guys (it wouldn't, of course), but the shutdown means the FBI can't go after very real bad guys in the here and now.
In addition to having to deal with troublesome meat inspectors, the Agriculture Department is trying to figure out how (or if) it can pay for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) past February. The program covers food assistance for some 40 million Americans, many of whom vote Republican because white poors in red states want to hurt The Blacks even if it fucks them up too. Unfortunately, this Trumpdown may last longer than the budgetary safeguard built in to SNAP funding:
SNAP has received funding through February thanks to a legal provision that allowed money to be allocated within 30 days of a government shutdown, but the government has not identified a mechanism to extend the program into March.
But wait! It's not just the lazy Republican food stamp takers being harmed! How about rural bootstrappers who are self-sufficient and building their own homes, with their own two hands, all on their own, plus, you know, some financing from government loans, like these sturdy all-American folks in GOP-voting Utah:
They're probably fine with the prospect of losing their partly built home, because eventually that big beautiful wall may get built and prevent future Messicans from robbing the tent they'll have to move into.
One might think the very real effects of the shutdown on red-state voters might change things, but honestly, who can tell? They might just as well sigh and believe Fox News when it inevitably blames scary Mexicans for hurting them once again.
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