We were so poor when I was a boy it sometimes seemed unreal. Outhouses, well water drawn with a bucket and eating what you raised. None of this outweighed the good in our lives. What was good was that we were together – my mom and dad, my sister and brother and my grandmother. When we moved into the small three bedroom Jim Walter home in 1965 I thought we’d hit the jackpot. Before long I had a total of nine siblings. Still, nothing outweighed the good.
Looking at life through that prism, I see the current federal government shutdown as a clear indication that the bad outweighs the good. I spent more than three decades of my adult life in service to my country – military and civilian service. I served under both Democratic and Republican administrations enforcing federal law – including drugs, transnational gangs and immigration violations.
There was never a time when the leader in the White House was not my commander in chief. When the government was implicated in the wholesale importation of drugs into the country and the rise of the most deadly health crisis in the nation (something I still consider a national emergency); when the man some jokingly called “the first black president” made the Republican tough-on-crime platform a reality with the signing of the Omnibus Crime Bill (an act that laid the ground work for the mass incarceration of poor black people); when Americans were lied to about weapons of mass destruction; when white collar criminals on Wall Street were given a pass while average Americans lost everything; when Puerto Rico was ignored after Hurricane Maria; when kneeling athletes were labeled sons of bitches; I was still an American proud to serve and support my country. But what’s happening today has got to stop!
I have experienced, first hand, a few budgetary standoffs over the years but nothing like this. I was considered an essential employee so I reported to work whether a budget to pay me was approved or not. But never for TWENTY days. I was never used as a political pawn.
There was never a time when I thought it possible that my commander in chief would attack me . . . personally. I didn’t believe there was a possibility that I wouldn’t get paid at the end of the stalemate. We were always paid. With this administration, it’s possible furloughed employees could return to work in serious financial trouble just to be told that they wouldn’t get paid because, in reality, they didn’t work.
The bad outweighed the good when nearly 800,000 federal employees didn’t receive a paycheck yesterday. Some of those employees are my family and close friends. Their work is critical. They enforce immigration law, investigate human trafficking and stem drug smuggling. Each is committed to ensuring our national security. Not one of them has said that the infamous southern border wall is a tool necessary to successfully complete their mission. Not one has said losing pay is worth it if there’s no funding for the wall.
But, just for giggles and grins, if the southern border is a national emergency is it one the administration should sit back and wait to address? If an emergency existed, waiting twenty days to address the emergency is wreckless and irresponsible. And what happens if a national emergency is declared? Will the government shutdown immediately end? Will all employees get paid?
Look, there’s no national emergency. It’s a fabrication.
We’re not as poor as we were in the 1960s but we definitely have some “first world problems”. In a government shutdown, the bad definitely outweighs the good.