Good Morning Sky Dancers!
It’s a sunny,crisp, cold morning here in New Orleans. I start this day like most others. Temple has had her morning walk. I have been blessed by the gifts bestowed by the morning’s first cup of coffee. Now I do what my parents and grandparents did before me. I reach for the morning news before starting my work of grading student homework. I think about the the headlines that have greeted the last four or five generations of my family. I still marvel thinking about waking up to the Dust Bowl like my father’s family did or waking up to the start and end of two world wars like both sets of grandparents.
I was already settled into this family pattern in high school when all the Watergate goings on and the Vietnam war news filled the pages. It has been a couple of bombastic modern centuries but some of the worst of it was never quite in everyone’s backyard here. This is when we always would find the gumption–eventually–to be neighborly and come to the support of a neighbor in need. We frequently stumbled on the path to right our country’s wrongs. But,we eventually muster the righteousness to move–eventually and frequently with Judicial encouragement–in that direction.
Today’s art is “Public Art” that was commissioned during The New Deal. It is something with no future in Trump’s America. I don’t mean the angst of the artists living through the Great Depression but the relief they must’ve felt when they were paid to produce these great works in public spaces. Reading through today’s headlines I feel the chill of the season and of the times. Ours is a country that no longer helps its neighbors at all. We’re a country that turns its backs on every one but the extremely wealthy who pass laws to take and keep what they want. The topmost government political officials are nothing more than grifters.
This makes me profoundly sad.
Here’s a WAPO headline for you to think about. “Now on Craigslist, Facebook: Household items from furloughed workers trying to make ends meet.” These are members of the US coast Guard tasked with protecting our shores and water. They are officials that look for contraband and bad people at ports like the TSO and the customs folks. They are our park rangers who protect everything in the borders of our national parks. We are failing them as they do our work.
A federal worker in Morgantown, W.Va., took to Facebook this week to sell welding tools, left behind by his deceased father-in-law. Another, a die-hard Star Wars fan in Woodbridge, Va., did the same with a life-size replica of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. A single father in Indiana hosted a sale on eBay with five pages of things found around the house, including Bibles, Nintendo bedsheets and Dr. Seuss neckties.
“Sells for $93.88 at Walmart. Asking $10,” a government worker wrote on a Craigslist ad for a Lulu Ladybug rocking chair. “We need money to pay bills.”
As hundreds of thousands of federal workers brace for their first missed paychecks of the government shutdown this week, some have become immersed in the frantic financial calculus of choosing what they can live without.
In the United States, living paycheck to paycheck is disturbingly common, regardless of profession or location. A recent report from the Federal Reserve revealed how little cushion most Americans have in their budgets: Four in 10 adults say they couldn’t produce $400 in an emergency without sliding into debt or selling something, according to the figures that surveyed households in 2017, a relatively prosperous year for the American economy.
But the shutdown, which began just before Christmas, took many federal workers by surprise and is lasting longer than most expected. That has left furloughed employees stuck at home, sifting through garages and closets, basements and bookshelves to find possessions and personal treasures to sell.
“You have to take a kind of coldhearted look at things around you and decide what would be marketable to someone else,” said Jay Elhard, on furlough from his job as a media specialist at Acadia National Park in Maine.
This is behavior deemed appropriate and necessary by a President of the United States so he can get his way on something that all evidence says is a complete waste of treasure. Today, millions of Federal Workers have missed a paycheck. Many are working. A lawsuit has been filed by a Federal Worker’s union. There was a protest this week by workers. The Senate passed a law to guarantee backpay but for many that could be too little and too late. I’ve watched my pay erode and my work load increase over the last 7 years at this teaching job. I’m beyond pay check to pay check because I never know when the terms of my pay will change and they definitely have and so have benefits and it’s never been for the better.
These workers will return to a pay freeze this year when they do get starting getting paid. However, the accumulating interest and late fees on loans and other payments will not freeze and I’ve yet to go a year when life’s little essentials like electricity, water, and access to the internet or tv hasn’t gone up way more than any one’s salary. I’m not sure how much longer these things can continue before a recession really takes hold. Main Street does not depend on the Trump family’s buying whims. It depends on every day people. (Via VOX)
As an official for the American Federation of Government Employees union recently laid out, it takes at least two to three days for the government to process payroll, so workers would likely receive their back pay after at least that much time elapsed.
While Trump has refused to sign a package of seven appropriations bills, forcing about a quarter of the federalgovernment into a lengthy shutdown over this fight, he’s already agreed to sign this back pay legislation, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Kaine, who was one of more than 20 sponsors for the unanimously passed bill, is optimistic the House will take it up soon, the spokesperson added.
The bill aims to address one of the chief pain points of the shutdown, which has left federal workers scrambling to cover day-to-day costs like rent, utilities, and medication while they wait for their next paycheck to come in. Its benefits, however, won’t be felt for some time since workers won’t receive the back pay until the shutdown has been resolved.
In the interim,Democrats have also proposed other measures to protect workers from the fallout of what will soon be the longest shutdown in US history. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced legislation, according to HuffPost, that would “prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the shutdown and cannot pay rent or repay loans.” And Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) is drafting a bill that would cover back pay for federal contractors as well.
The shutdown is now in its 20th day and there still isn’t a clear end in sight. At the very least, the Senate’s latest action helps ensure that hundreds of thousands of federal workers will get the pay they missed once it’s over.
Now, Trump is threatening to take Federal Disaster Relief funds for his misadventure along the Southern Border. How many lives and livelihoods will this mean? (Via NBC)
President Donald Trump has been briefed on a plan that would use the Army Corps of Engineers and a portion of $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the briefing.
The money was set aside to fund projects all over the country including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020, but the checks have not been written yet and, under an emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, said officials familiar with the briefing and two congressional sources.
The plan could be implemented if Trump declares a national emergency in order to build the wall and would use more money and build more miles than the administration has requested from Congress. The president had requested $5.7 billion for a wall stretching 234 miles.
Under the proposal, the officials said, Trump could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated to projects in California, including flood prevention and protection projects along the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam, as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Pueto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
There are other headlines I find deeply disturbing today. Here are a few.
Matt Lewis / The Daily Beast:
The Pompeo Speech at American University in Cairo is particularly offensive and disturbing. I don’t think it does much use to place a xenophobic religious nutter as the face of American outreach to the world.
It’s really difficult not to be embarrassed by the realization that your country’s chief diplomat is a shining example of the “ugly American”.
Pompeo’s speech “was a regurgitation of what they have been saying for two years. There was nothing new, and it was offensive,” former career US diplomat and ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein told Al-Monitor. “That they think that anyone still wants to hear about Barack Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech — get over it.”
“You own the issue now, you own the policy,” Feierstein continued. “People want to know what you are going to do, not what you think Barack Obama did wrong. And on that score, there was nothing there, Just a lot of empty rhetoric of all things they are going to do and how wonderful the United States is and it never occupied anybody. So what.”
Pompeo’s speech is unlikely to reassure American allies and partners frustrated by constantly shifting Donald Trump administration positions on the region that they are not properly consulted about, said former FBI and Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt.
“I do not think they [the Trump administration] fully appreciate the level of anxiety among our allies and potential allies in the region and beyond in Europe in terms of how reliable we are as a partner,” Levitt, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor.
“It is not just the decision to withdraw US forces in Syria,” Levitt continued. “Much more than that, it is the way the decision was arrived at and announced. [US Syria envoy Jim] Jeffrey said one thing one day, Trump says the opposite the next day. … People can’t keep up with the pace of the back and forth, ping pong. The lack of clarity, the lack of procedure in the policy making process — the allies see that.”
“While it is great to go to the region in a time of anxiety to reassure people you mean to have a reinvigorated role in the Middle East, it is not enough to say it,” Levitt said.
The extensive swipes in the speech at the previous administration were also discomfiting, Levitt said.
Whether it is done by Republicans or Democrats, “I always felt uncomfortable when Americans travel abroad and hang out dirty laundry,” he said.
“Embarrassing and shameful speech by the small, hyper-partisan Trump suck-up Pompeo,” Ellen Tauscher, a former undersecretary of state for arms control in the Obama administration and a former member of Congress, wrote on Twitter. “There’s not a ‘non-partisan statesman’ pore in his body.”
While I don’t think our country has to send our soldiers to every corner of the globe, I don’t think our country has ever been so small and headed towards insignificance. If the goal was to get us off the international stage, that’s been done. But how is ruining day to day life for ordinary Americans making us ‘great again’? The regime of Tariffs is killing many US businesses. The combination of tariffs and shutdowns is probably hitting US farmers worse than any industry. I’m pretty sure they aren’t getting what they voted for.
In Georgia, a pecan farmer lost out on his chance to buy his first orchard. The local Farm Service Agency office that would have processed his loan application was shut down.
In Wisconsin’s dairy country, a 55-year-old woman sat inside her new dream home, worried she would not be able to pay her mortgage. Her loan had come from an Agriculture Department program for low-income residents in rural areas, but all of the account information she needed to make her first payment was locked away in an empty government office.
And in upstate New York, Pam Moore was feeding hay to her black-and-white cows at a small dairy that tottered on the brink of ruin. She and her husband had run up $350,000 in debt to keep the dairy running after 31 of their cows died of pneumonia, and their last lifeline was an emergency federal farm loan. But the money had been derailed by the government shutdown.
“It has just been one thing after another, after another, after another,” Ms. Moore, 57, said.
Farm country has stood by President Trump, even as farmers have strained under two years of slumping incomes and billions in losses from his trade wars. But as the government shutdown now drags into a third week, some farmers say the loss of crucial loans, payments and other services has pushed them — and their support — to a breaking point.
They thing Trump country never really understood is they’re the ones that need their neighboring states and their beneficence more than any one. I assume they’re learning that painful lesson with the rest of us whose livelihood is running the stuff of the country instead of selling it stuff it really doesn’t need.
What’s on you reading and blogging list today?