One of the most distressing aspects of the ongoing government shutdown, besides the national embarrassment of having a dysfunctional political system, is that for as long as Donald Trump keeps up his tantrum over the wall, some 800,000 federal workers will go unpaid. For many who live paycheck to paycheck, the prospect of not being able to put food on the table or pay their mortgage or rent is a very real concern, with furloughed employees sharing their fears on Twitter using the hashtag #ShutdownStories. While the president is apparently unconcerned about hundreds of thousands of Americans going without a paycheck—many of them are Democrats!—the Office of Personnel Management has tried to help, sharing a series of sample letters it suggests using as “a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough.” Here’s an excerpt from one of them:
I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses...I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.
Emphasis ours because that’s the federal government actually telling workers to beg their landlord to let them unclog some toilets or perform other janitorial work to avoid being evicted. (When tweeting the sample letters, the O.P.M. also told people to consult their “personal attorney” over legal matters—advice we’re sure the average government employee currently working without pay much appreciated.)
Presumably even less comforting, though, was the wall rant Trump went on this morning, sandwiched between defending signing MAGA merch while visiting the troops in Iraq and thanking Pravda competitor Fox & Friends for some great press:
If your reaction to reading that is “WTF” or simply slack-jawed astonishment, you’re not alone. Here, the president is somehow conflating the alleged need for an (ineffective!) wall to keep out illegal immigrants with NAFTA—a trade agreement he crowed about renegotiating not long ago. Unsurprisingly, the former beauty pageant owner, for whom everything is transactional, can’t set aside his obsession with supposedly being screwed (“The United States looses [sic] soooo much money on Trade”) and focus on one thing for one minute. Now, somehow, the battle over wall funding also has to do with jobs being sent to Mexico, plus “Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador . . . doing nothing for the United States but taking our money,” and the solution for it all is some tasteful steel slats. Or, barring that, completely shutting down the southern border. For the furloughed workers currently being advised to barter with their landlords to make rent, it can’t be much comfort to know their fate is tied to the whims and logic of a confused child.
Follow to get the latest news and analysis about the players in your inbox.