Nel's New Day

January 20, 2019

The U.S. Has a Concierge Government

Day 30 of government shutdown: People said that they voted for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) because he could run the government like a business. After shutting down the government a month ago, he demonstrates how he frequently ran his own businesses—by putting more people to work without pay. In the past, DDT has refused to pay hundreds of contractors for their work; some of these cases re still in court. Many times, he also illegally refused to pay overtime or minimum wages. DDT also brags about his cheating his workers. The result was at least six bankruptcies.

Trying to not alienate his base and draw less attention to the problems of a shutdown government, DDT has ordered people back to work, loosely categorizing them as “essential” without rationale, but still not paying them for their work. Private businesses are especially benefitting from his largess, as he runs a concierge government for only the favored. These are not the employees deemed “essential” because of the public safety or health concerns of their jobs. DDT is operating on the theory that if only the federal employees are suffering that he can continue the shutdown indefinitely without protest.

Concierge advantages performed by employees ordered back without pay from “furlough”:

Finalize land deals for oil and gas drilling to maintain profit opportunities for wealthy conservative businessmen.

Process existing farm loans and give 1009 tax documents to farmers/ranchers.

Submit tax refunds.

Inspect food and drugs.

Issue flood insurance certificates to allow banks to continue collecting revenue by providing mortgages to prospective homeowners. (The action is illegal because the law prevents government agencies from participating in contracts or spending money without funded projects.)

Ensure safety of airplanes and national airspace.

The diplomats ordered back will be paid from when they return but will not receive back pay until the end of the shutdown. Judges will continue to be paid through the end of this week, but some judiciary employees would be furloughed.

Reasons to take notice of the concierge government:

IRS is seizing property without recourse because the IRS has no one to respond to the seizures or resolve the government mistakes. This travesty causes the greatest pain to small businesses.

Airline safety is “eroding,” and TSA workers are on the verge of quitting if they don’t receive paychecks.

Native Americans are losing basic services in obtaining food and health care.

Women cannot find respite from domestic violence.

Unwelcome visitors to parks are permanently defacing parts and national monuments.

People are dying without health services that cannot be resolved by a government that is shutdown.

Low-wage contract workers performing janitorial, security, and food services at public buildings will not be getting back pay while they are “furloughed.”

Many people—including DDT—associate federal employees with Washington, D.C., but of the over 2 million civilian workers, only 350,000 are in the larger D.C. area. Forty percent of the 2 million, 800,000, are scattered across the United States. The largest number of federal employees affected by the lack of paychecks per resident are in the mostly red states of Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Unpaid federal workers owe $438 million in mortgage and rent for just this month, and over 110,000 unpaid employees earn under $50,000 a year. Only 40 percent can afford to pay for a $1,000 unexpected expense.

No money is going to the Indian Health Service with its 730 doctors, 2,300 nurses, 750 pharmacists, and 40+ hospitals in 37 states, many of the personnel and facilities in remote areas with no alternative providers. Federal contractors are losing $200 million each day from lost or delayed revenue, $25 million alone to Delta Airlines for lost government flights. Standard and Poor estimates that the U.S. economy will lose $7.1 billion in one more week of the shutdown. That’s almost 20 percent more than DDT’s $5.6 billion wall.

Corrupt administrative officials can take advantage of the shutdown to continue their fraudulent practices:

The Inspectors General who audit financials and investigate waste, fraud, and abuse are largely gone from the many federal agencies. During six months last year in ten of the shutdown agencies, OIGs secured 620 indictments, 507 convictions, and $411 million in criminal restitution, fines, civil recoveries, and forfeited assets. Every day means less recovered money and more wrongdoing.

The rights of whistleblowers aren’t protected because offices assigned to doing this are shut down.

Any transparency and accountability are disappearing with websites going offline. When (if?) hey reopen, the information will be out of date, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission that posts recall.

People cannot make requests per the Freedom of Information Act.

Work on the American Community Survey, which goes out to 3.5 million Americans each year and determines government, has stopped during the lapse.

Monthly economic indicators on everything from trade, construction and retail business have stopped, preventing planning and knowledge about the state of the country.

Announcement of comment periods for changes in regulations have disappeared although the comment time may not be delayed, leaving the public with even less involvement than before to give their opinions.

Over 80 government websites are “insecure or inaccessible” because of expiring security certificates, including that for the Department of Commerce.

Every agency was required to have a shutdown plan that was approved by the OMB listing essential and furloughed employees, but half the 130 agencies failed to carry through submitting these contingency plans. In the middle of the flu season, almost 80 percent of the employees at the National Institutes of Health were furloughed as were two-thirds of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers.

The problems of the shutdown won’t end when it’s over:

Disaster Preparedness and Response: FEMA ordered its contractors to stop working on projects five days after the shutdown started. States suffering disasters in the last two years will be left waiting for help to recover. Lack of knowledge from the shutdown impedes the government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to upcoming natural disasters—worsening from climate change. For example, NOAA’s hurricane modelers are furloughed. Forests are not being managed, leading to greater wildfires. First responders and emergency experts cannot take this time to prepare for the next disaster season. The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was not renewed, meaning no funding for the development of emergency and new medicine for future outbreaks.

Losing Dedicated Public Servants in Public Health: Much of the staff may no longer work for the government after their treatment during a lengthy shutdown, and the government may be unable to replace them. Even worse, federal salaries will be cut for 2019.

In one example of economic loss, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) loses $400,000 in fares and parking revenue for every weekday—about $20 million thus far. In addition, the government shutdown stiffed WMATA $33 million in unreimbursed expenses. Transit companies are just one small part of businesses negatively impacted by the loss of $1 billion missing from the economy each week with unpaid federal employees. Hotels, restaurants, renters, and small businesses are losing billions of dollars, while charities to give unpaid federal works, including food pantries, are being stretched beyond their capabilities. Travel and tourism, responsible for $1.6 trillion annually, are losing income. Employers will eventually be further stressed through unemployment claims.

DDT is breaking the law in his effort to keep himself from political pain by running a concierge government. According to the U.S. Constitution, government can spend only money appropriated by Congress. Activities during a shutdown are limited to protect life or property, carry out the president’s core constitutional responsibilities, and operate programs permitted by Congress in the absence of funding.

Leaving the parks open with skeleton staffing results in safety risks so the Interior Department decided to provide some park services from fees. But no one is charging fees during the shutdown, and the fees already collected were designated for long-term maintenance. DDT is using the same short-term solutions for long-term consequences outside the law.

Congress has declared that Social Security payments must be made during a shutdown in its requirement that these are on a regular basis, but it has no requirement for paying IR refunds. Therefore, DDT’s order that IRS refunds be sent out during the shutdown is illegal. Most of DDT’s other actions to please his constituents despite the shutdown are equally illegal. The danger of allowing DDT to break the law with impunity will see that his politicized approach toward government will only increase as he permits only those programs that align with powerful interests or gain positive media coverage. DDT’s real purpose of a concierge government is to prolong the shutdown.

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