It’s no secret that for some Republicans if it wasn’t for the fact that the federal government was paying their salaries, they would prefer that it didn’t exist altogether.
GOP attempts at eliminating crucial federally-enacted environmental regulations and social services have demonstrated their contempt for the very idea that the federal government should play a role in ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our nation’s citizens since the Reagan-era, when his quote “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help” first started the defamation of federal workers.
It is not surprising then to see President Trump cavalierly disregard the welfare of government employees by forcing a partial shutdown of many government agencies over his bratty demands to get his border wall funded — despite the objections of the elected representatives of a nation that knows better than to support such a wasteful and ineffective solution.
While Trump’s contempt for the thousands of federal workers who are risking financial peril by being suddenly and arbitrarily cut off from their paychecks may not be unexpected, the additional cruelty and hypocrisy inherent in his executive order yesterday to freeze the pay of up to two million federal workers for 2019 has representatives of the affected employees accusing the president of “pouring salt in the wound” he has already inflicted upon the dedicated public employees.
Tony Reardon, president of the 100,000 worker-strong National Treasury Employees Union, used just that phrase to describe the president’s order to prevent any wage increases coming in such rapid succession after the petulant shutdown and the massive tax giveaway to the nation’s tiny populace of billionaire inheritors of unearned wealth.
“It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase,” Reardon declared.
The union leader’s sentiments were echoed by Chris Lu, the former Deputy Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration, who posted a checklist of Trump’s assaults on government employees in a devastating tweet,
✔️Furlough 400,000 federal workers
✔️Require another 400,000 to work without pay
✔️Freeze pay for entire federal civilian workforce
✔️Justify pay freeze on “our nation’s fiscal situation” (which was caused by massive tax cuts)
✔️Lie to troops about the military pay raise https://t.co/k9Htx7auO0
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) December 29, 2018
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) described Trump’s order as the equivalent to a ransom note being used as leverage to get money from Congress for his ludicrous and futile border wall.
First the shutdown, now this. Adding insult to injury for a federal workforce that is already being held hostage by this President. https://t.co/jBnpTI0NuZ
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) December 29, 2018
Trump’s executive order officially cancels a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise for 1.8 million non-military federal workers with the excuse that the elimination of these raises — at a percentage that is still below the current rate of inflation for the year — would “put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.”
Somehow, the idea that the tax cuts for billionaire oligarchs and rapacious corporations would prevent America from achieving a “fiscally sustainable course” without adversely affecting millions of ordinary American citizens never entered the president’s or Republican leadership’s minds at the time it was enacted last year, despite the desperate pleas of anyone with a mathematical education that went beyond the third grade.
“President Trump pushed through a tax scam that gave unprecedented handouts to billionaires and corporations—but believes it’s too expensive to pay hardworking federal workers a reasonable wage,” wrote Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) after Trump first suggested the elimination of the 2018 raise in August.
Now that the president’s executive order makes the pay cuts official, it compounds the extensive economic damage that Trump’s government shutdown has already been causing federal employees who have no ability to affect the outcome of the impasse over the funding of federal operations short of rioting in the streets like France’s “yellow vest” protestors.
Dena Ivey, a furloughed probate specialist in the Anchorage office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told The New York Times on Friday:
“We’re sort of being held hostage in the middle, and we have families and obligations. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make rent. I’m basically living on credit now.”
While actual direct federal employees like Ivey may eventually collect back pay for their time on furlough, if Congres passes and Trump signs a bill authorizing it, thousands of workers who are employed by government contractors will never see a cent for their involuntary layoffs, according to Vox.
“As many as 2,000 subcontractors in federal buildings including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria servers are not only experiencing a sharp break in their work schedules, they also won’t be compensated for this pause,” Vox reported.
“Government employees typically receive back pay after the shutdown is over, but contractors are paid directly by companies that can’t bill the government for services when it’s shut down. Because these companies won’t get paid, they, in turn, aren’t able to pay their workers.”
Trump’s actions are worse than pouring salt in a wound. They are more like taking an ax and amputating a limb. The result can be helped by a prosthetic, but the injury will never be forgotten.
The perpetrator will not deserve forgiveness, only swift justice with the same savage lack of empathy that Trump himself has displayed by issuing his despicable and hypocritical assault on federal employees.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Jake Johnson at Common Dreams.