Government Shutdown? What Government Shutdown?

Dec. 26, 2018
by Bob Adelmann

The three Washington Post writers lamenting on Saturday the Trump government shutdown complained that it is forcing 400,000 federal employees to keep working without pay. While they were at it, they griped that Trump had the audacity to pull a few thousand American troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, resulting in the resignation of his Secretary of State, Jim Mattis. They grumbled that the decline of stocks on Wall Street presaged an economic recession in 2019. They moaned that dozens of federal agencies were going to be losing their funding. And all because President Trump got grumpy over not getting from Congress a paltry one-fifth of the money he needs to build his wall.

O, woe is me.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson said that “a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies,” so let’s review the Post’s half-truths. Those 400,000 government workers freely giving themselves to their jobs without pay ignores the historical fact that in previous government shutdowns they invariably received back pay for their time. Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria involves about 2,000 personnel, while the Afghanistan cutbacks affect about 7,000 military personnel. These withdrawals are another of Trump’s campaign promises kept, belatedly but kept nevertheless.

The decline in stocks on Wall Street has little to do with underlying economic weakness, but everything to do with the Fed’s deliberate intention to slow the Trump economic juggernaut. As Jonathon Trugman noted, writing for the New York Post, “this correction is all on the Fed … with good growth, good employment, and no inflation to speak of, [its latest hike in interest rates has] sent the market spinning into a state of disbelief.”  

As far as Trump’s firing of his Defense Secretary James Mattis, the general should never have held the job in the first place. As Shannon Pettypiece noted in Bloomberg, quoting those on the inside, “[Trump] now regrets going against his instincts last year when he approved a plan to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan at the urging of his foreign policy advisors.”

The tepid government slowdown leaves most essential agencies and services unaffected. The Post Office will still strive to deliver the mail on time; food safety inspectors will remain at their posts; TSA employees will still be invading people’s personal space in their never-ending search for bombs and other explosive devices; the military services will remain on duty; and welfare agencies like Social Security, Medicare, SNAP and the myriad other government welfare programs will continue spitting out checks to their beneficiaries. Even museums have remained open while national parks, of course, have posted “government shutdown” notices on their premises.

Meanwhile shoppers apparently couldn’t care less about the tepid, scarcely noticeable government slowdown: U.S. retailers notched one of the busiest holiday seasons in years, meeting and in some cases exceeding forecasters’ already rosy outlooks.

Total retail sales, according to Mastercard’s SpendingPulse indicator, rose 5.2 percent from November 1 through December 19 compared to last year, with five more shopping days left before Christmas. And ever-lower gas prices are adding nearly five billion dollars to families’ budgets every month, which bodes well for the economy into next year.

Trump is continuing to be Trump, while shoppers continue to astonish forecasters by ignoring the slowdown and spending more and more time shopping at the mall or online. As Marc Lotter, a member of President Trump’s 2020 advisory committee, said: “President Trump believes one of his strengths is [that] he is actually doing the things he told people he would do. One of the reasons why the president was elected was because we have had politicians of both parties for many, many years saying one thing on the [campaign] trail … and then [once in office] doing another.”

Perhaps that’s why those three writers at the Post spent so much time agonizing over the shutdown that barely qualifies as a slowdown: Trump is unfazed over the media’s continuing attacks on him and his administration, and, like U.S. shoppers, he couldn’t care less what they think. He has a job to do and he is doing it.



The Washington Post: Amid shutdown, bigger worries are brewing

Bloomberg: Trump Sees Winning Hand as Critics See Presidency Spiraling

The Wall Street Journal: Stores Finishing the Holidays on a High Note

NY Post: Blame the Federal Reserve for the tanking stock market Lower Gas, Oil Prices Could Boost Holiday Spending, Economy

Background on James Mattis

Tennyson quote

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