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Government (-driven) shutdowns have human consequences
By Paul Driessen
Many observers praised President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union speech. Some said it was his best ever and even as one of the best SOTU speeches in history. It celebrated the nation’s progress, extolled its opportunities and sought bipartisan unity. A CBS poll found that 30% of Democrats, 82% of Independents and 97% of Republicans gave the speech positive reviews.
As has become customary, the President invited several guests to join him in the House gallery, including two elderly Jews: Herman Zeitchik, who landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, and Joshua Kaufman, whom Corporal Zeitchik helped liberate from the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945.
Members of Congress also invited guests. Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), invited an Environmental Protection Agency scientist who had been featured in a local newspaper article about Virginia leaders and organizations that tried to help federal workers during the recent shutdown.
Families like this “are committed to public service and just want to serve their country. They shouldn’t be held hostage by the President during a government shutdown,” Mr. Connolly said. “We all recognize the importance of border security, but I’m disappointed to see the suffering of federal employees and their families being used for political gain,” the EPA employee added.
These are understandable sentiments. Government shutdowns certainly have human consequences.
However, even though Mr. Trump “took ownership” of the recent 35-day federal shutdown, to suggest that intransigent Democrats had no responsibility for it or the consequences is disingenuous to the core. So is any suggestion that Dems and fed workers weren’t using the suffering for their own political gain.
In the same vein, community efforts to help federal workers and families were certainly commendable. But federal employees quickly receive back pay for their missed paychecks. Yet I saw no stories about similar efforts to assist families of outside contractors who were also laid off – or private sector businesses and employees affected during the shutdown – none of whom will ever get any back pay.
Moreover, Team Trump took many steps to minimize fallout from the shutdown. By contrast, many Obama agencies did all they could to maximize the fallout, pain and economic dislocations during the 16-day 2013 government shutdown. To cite just one of many examples, the Obama National Park Service closed its access road to Virginia’s privately owned Claude Moore Colonial Farm Park amid the farm’s normally busiest month, costing it tens of thousands in revenues and leaving employees to suffer.
Many citizens also take issue with assertions that federal employees are committed to public service. Our military men and women and their families certainly are. They leave their families behind for months on end, repeatedly put their lives on the line, and too often die or return with life-altering injuries.
By contrast, most other federal employees have comfortable, low-stress, high-pay jobs. Nearly 92,000 of them make more than the governor in states where they work, the watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com points out. Too many of them use their positions to devise, impose, enforce and justify heavy-handed policies and regulations that burden or even shut down private sector businesses, kill jobs, and hammer families and communities – to drive Deep State agendas, often for limited or no benefits.
Those government shutdowns and human consequences receive little “mainstream media” attention. They were especially egregious and far-reaching during the Obama years, and yet generated few or no efforts by VA-MD-DC area leaders and communities to help workers and families whose jobs were impacted or eliminated and lives upended by ill-conceived, incompetent or even deliberate Deep State actions.
Winnipeg, Canada’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy regularly quotes Lao Tzu, who said: “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.” Sadly, urged onward by liberal activists and politicians, today’s U.S. government is cooking the American fish into inedible leather.
Candidate Obama promised to “bankrupt” coal mining and coal-fired electricity generating companies, and thus the families, businesses and communities that depended on them. His EPA made good on that promise, by issuing a pseudo-scientific finding that the plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide we exhale somehow “endangers” human health and the future of our planet – then using that finding and equally dubious particulate (soot) rules to justify regulations that eliminated numerous jobs. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also promised to “put a lot of coal workers and coal companies out of business.”
Tens of thousands of jobs were eliminated in Kentucky, West Virginia and other coal-reliant states, because of the Obama EPA’s war on coal and a switch to natural gas that was driven by that war, abundant and inexpensive gas produced by fracking, and attacks on utility companies financed by Michael Bloomberg and others. Retraining programs helped a few Appalachian miners find new work raising bees and making candles, lip balm and other wax products, for much lower wages.
New “renewable” energy jobs were also created, though generally not in areas where coal jobs were lost. And the number of jobs required to generate expensive, intermittent electricity from wind and solar facilities – versus cheap, reliable power from coal and gas – is simply unsustainable. In fact, producing the same amount of electricity requires one coal worker, two natural gas workers … 12 wind industry employees or 79 solar workers. Major environmental impacts from wind and solar are also ignored.
These same Obama era policies and external factors combined to threaten the demise of the Kayenta Coal Mine and Navajo Generating Station in that impoverished, high-unemployment area. Some 750 people, mostly Native Americans, work there when the facilities are operating at full tilt. The tribe also receives lease rental payments, royalties and revenues from selling the electricity. The Navajo and Hopi tribes are now trying to keep the operations going on their own, because closure is “unacceptable.”
EPA officials were also in charge of the bungled operation that unleashed a toxic flashflood from Colorado’s Gold King Mine in 2015. EPA and its media allies quickly whitewashed the disaster.
In a dress rehearsal for Bob Mueller’s jackbooted arrest of Roger Stone, 30 heavily armed SWAT team agents from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stormed into the Gibson Guitars factory in 2011, held employees at gunpoint, intimidated and interrogated them, hauled off $500,000 worth of wood and guitars – and warned the company not to touch any guitars that were left behind.
All that for the “crime” of allegedly not having proper paperwork for an exotic endangered wood. Both incidents involved more armed federal agents than were sent to take out Osama Bin Laden!
And who can forget the Russia/Ukraine-instigated FISA warrants? Or the IRS targeting, harassing, stonewalling and effectively silencing conservative political groups that might have made reelection slightly more difficult for President Obama and congressional Democrats?
Not surprisingly, not an iota of accountability was ever exacted on any perpetrators of any of these or multiple other “public service” misdeeds or abuses of power.
Far too often, it seems that federal government employees and their congressional, media and activist allies don’t really care very much about people who live beyond the boundaries of that 39,000-acre plat of land along the Potomac River. That’s what sets Donald Trump apart from Washington politicians, and why he was elected. Unfortunately, many state and local officials are guilty of similar offenses.
Too many government workers across the board seek to control virtually every aspect of our lives: from our energy, lives and living standards … to the cars we can drive and straws we can use with our beverages.
It’s nice that Gerry Connolly cares deeply about Deep State workers whose votes keep him in office. But it would be better if all elected officials and unelected government employees cared more about the American workers, families, businesses and communities that their policies, laws, regulations and enforcement actions too often affect so negatively, too often for so little benefit. Lao Tzu would agree.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Some author of books and articles on energy, climate, environmental and human rights issues.