By Don Kohn.
President Trump claims he has the power to declare a national emergency and order the construction of his wall and now is threatening to use already appropriated disaster relief money and the Army Corps of Engineers to get it done.
Last Thursday he went to the Texas border with Mexico and began laying the groundwork for his emergency declaration, an unnecessary and I believe illegal power grab by our would-be dictator president. If he follows through, that action is certain to result in strong Congressional opposition from Democrats, as well as those few Republicans who are beginning to jump ship. It also would most likely be challenged in court.
Notably, however, South Carolina’s own U.S. Senator, Lindsay Graham, is cheering Trump on, urging him to make the emergency declaration so the wall can be built and end the partial government shutdown that Trump initiated as he’s tried to pressure Democrats into giving him at least $5.7 billion for his wall.
Democrats, meanwhile, have done everything they can to bring an end to this Trump-caused disaster by passing bills to fund government agencies, separating the dispute from the shutdown. But Trump will have none of it and his lackey in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is committed to doing Trump’s bidding.
Now, Trump wants to divert to the wall project $13.9 billion allocated by Congress last year but not yet spent for civil works projects, such as flood control in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline and parts of Puerto Rico. The military construction budget is being eyed as a potential source, with perhaps billions available there.
Meanwhile, more than 800,000 government employees are directly affected, either furloughed or required to work without pay. Many have already taken to social media, trying to sell personal belongings to pay their bills or buy food for their families. According to the Washington Post, half of these workers do not have a college education and 14 percent make less than $50,000 per year. Moreover, at least 250,000 are veterans. Here’s a Post article outlining some of the ongoing impacts of the shutdown.
Realizing late in the game that the shutdown has broader implications than originally expected, the administration is trying to alleviate its most wide-ranging and politically important effects, such as calling back unpaid IRS workers to process tax refunds and shore up food stamps, at least for now.
It is entirely possible many of those 800,000 federal employees now out of work from the #TrumpShutdown will be forced to quit and find other jobs if this drags on much longer.
What would you do if you discovered that your job was so insecure that your paycheck depended upon somebody else satisfying the ego of your big boss to make him happy? How many ordinary people, especially those with families, can survive financially if their salaries are arbitrarily stopped for reasons unrelated to them and for who knows how long?
For example, hundreds of TSA officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the shutdown, have called out from work from several major airports.
“This (the shutdown) will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, said. TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the agency is “closely monitoring the situation” and that while “screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” that could change if the number of call-outs increases.
A union official told the network the problem will only get worse as employees miss their paychecks. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs,” he said.
What if that strategy of desperation spreads to other employees in other agencies? The Department of Homeland Security is now without funds and border agents are required to work without pay. What happens if they all “get the flu” so they can go earn money to feed their families?
Then, Trump will need more than a wall to protect our borders and keep immigrants from entering the U.S. because the current ports of entry will be like a sieve.
Trump has said the shutdown could last for months or even more than a year if he doesn’t get his great wall. He is creating his own national emergency, but it’s not the one he will use to justify his shutdown and build the wall. It’s a human emergency, and he created it.