Opinion: When Will Trump Stop His Collateral Damage?

President Trump has spent the last two months – the past two years really – failing to convince Congress to pay for and build his beloved border wall. His selfish pursuit of the wall has caused an incalculable amount of collateral damage on our country and its people. When will this ludicrous charade of his pouting demands end before greater consequences and costs are incurred?

The recent United States federal government shutdown lasted thirty-five days, from Dec 22nd 2018 to January 25, 2019. It was the longest U.S. government shutdown in the history of our country. As a result, nine government departments with almost 800,000 employees had to stop working partially or in full, affecting about 25% of all government activities. It is estimated that the shutdown cost the American economy at least $11 billion directly, and who knows how much more indirect costs were incurred? Trump was pursuing $18 billion to build his precious wall, so with $11B in direct costs and an incalculable amount of indirect costs, he’s probably lost our country that much money already. When will it end?  Let’s quickly review, just of some of the impact and misery of the Trump’s political gridlock.

Our nation’s security was placed at risk.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement “the resources available to support the work of FBI agents are currently stretched to the breaking point and are dwindling day by day.”  In addition, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers also made a statement addressing their concerns, “we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”  Moreover, nearly 80 government website security certificates used by the .gov websites expired, leaving these sites exposed to cyberattacks.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) suspended a variety of activities during the government shutdown, placing at high risk about one-third of the FDA’s food inspection, like cheese, food produce and seafood.  Along with these food safety fears, many government employees going without paychecks carried real concerns about having enough money for food.  The head of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, said it was “unacceptable that the USCG members must rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”

Perhaps less significant than national security and food safety, many of our national parks struggled to stay open during the shutdown, facing deteriorating and increasingly hazardous conditions including waste buildup and unsafe roads.  The Washington Post reported that at least seven people died in parks since the shutdown because of staff shortages unable to quickly respond to emergencies.   Many cities, like New York City, has to invest in their own staff to help keep national landmarks clean, while federal employees were out on furlough.  Governor Andrew Cuomo committed New York state funds toward paying $65,000 a day to ensure the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island stay reasonably clean and open for tourists.  This was a blatant waste.

Now that the government shutdown is over with virtually nothing to show for it except the collateral damage outlined above, President Trump still won’t stop his pouting demands for his wall.  He has now declared a national state of emergency to secure funding. His plan is to seize money away from mostly military appropriations and “backfill’ the money he’s planning to take from the Pentagon in future budgets.

Trump asserts that emergency declarations are not unusual and that other presidents have used them “many, many times.”  Since 1976, there have been 59 presidential emergency declarations.  But nearly all of these have been about foreign policy and without controversy or push back from Congress or the American people.  Again, like the shutdown, this has been an unprecedented event in our national history.  Trump declaring an emergency because people refuse to pay for his border wall is like a child crying foul when they don’t get their cookie.  This is another way Trump wants to camouflage his failure.  What monetary and broader ramifications will this call for a national emergency have on our country and its economy?

House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on February 15th, “This issue transcends partisan politics and goes to the core of the Founders’ conception for America, which commands Congress to limit an overreaching executive.  The president’s emergency declaration, if unchecked, would fundamentally alter the balance of powers, inconsistent with our Founders’ vision.”

Trump shows no compassion or interest in the collateral damage caused by the shutdown or now this ‘national emergency’.  When will he stop crying for his 2,000+ mile long cookie?  Or can we finally stop his tantrums by 2020?

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