Reading time – 3:40; Viewing time – 4:51 . . .
When we’re presented with a large number it’s easy to fail to fully appreciate what it means, Indeed Josef Stalin said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Sadly, Stalin was right.
There are about 800,000 federal employees who haven’t been paid since the government shutdown began. About 380,000 have been furloughed, meaning they aren’t working at all and aren’t being paid; 420,000 are being forced to work without pay. 420,000 can sound like an impersonal statistic, so let’s consider just one person, Mike, a letter carrier for the Post Office. You know, the guy who delivers your mail.
Oddly enough, Mike has a life separate from dropping into your mail box envelopes and the flyers you immediately toss into the recycle bin. He has a car and a modest house and his bank insists that he make payments on both every month. His growing kids are like yours, in that they eat a lot and seem to always need new shoes. Their school requires them to have a laptop and every activity requires that his kids show up with a check at the first meeting.
Mike has to drive to work, so he has to buy gas for his car. The cashier at the gas station feels bad for Mike’s circumstances but still needs him to cough up that $53.70 that Mike rang up at the pump.
Mike’s problem is that he’s like most Americans, always about two weeks away from serious financial hardship. That, in part, helps to explain why roughly 50% of American personal bankruptcies are due to a serious medical issue. Most of us just don’t have much squirreled away for that rainy day.
That means that Mike’s resources are shallow and he can’t endure this no-pay shutdown for long before it starts to hurt. Neither can the rest of the hundreds of thousands of our federal workers. And if you include the families of workers, you can extrapolate to millions of Americans who are directly financially impacted by this self-inflicted government shutdown.
To shift focus not quite as much as it might seem at first, Trump rescinded the Obama executive order that created DACA using the excuse that Congress should legislate a solution. While that may be a sensible course for resolution of the problem, our Republican Senate and House have had no appetite for dealing with the situation and has sat on its hands ever since Trump wiped out DACA protections.
It was clear from the beginning that Trump intended to use the DACA young people as pawns to get his wall. That’s obscene on many levels, including the humanitarian perversion of making these people political pawns. Plus there’s the complete uselessness of a border wall itself.
The wall is only practical if all potential immigrants from Central America are ignorant of the existence and use of tunnels and ladders. That didn’t even work as well as planned for the Chinese in the 7th century BC when much of the Great Wall was originally built. It’s not clear how the technology of a wall will help us in 21st century America. Back to Mike.
It remains true that when you’re well fed it’s impossible to understand a hungry person on the sidewalk. So, too, it may be impossible for wealthy President Trump to understand all the Mikes and their families who are about to suffer, even if he actually had the capacity for empathy.
Mike is being used as a political pawn, just as the DACA kids are and Mike and his kids are at the edge of harmful impact right now. So, do a couple of things.
Offer a note to Mike with your thanks and concern for him and his family as he soldiers on without pay. Do the same for the TSA lady at the airport screening machine, because she’s another Mike. If you plan to go to Mexico or Canada, tell the Customs and Border Patrol folks you meet thanks for protecting you without their being paid. Keep the federal law enforcement and correctional officers in your heart because they’re Mikes, too. So are 5,000 forest service firefighters – you know, the folks who battled gigantic fires in California in December. Maybe you can do something to help these hard working folks. Just ask.
Then send a postcard – not an email or phone call – to your senators and representative telling them to stand strong for all the Mikes and for our DACA folks. They’re way too important than to be kicked around just to satisfy the ego needs of a narcissist.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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