The Shutdown’s Long-Term Costs
Not only is this the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, it is also the dumbest.
Incredibly, it is already the third shutdown during the relatively short but seemingly interminable Trump tenure.
With the first round of missed paychecks, hardship is visited on many of the 800,000 affected families and a wider circle of federal contractors who have no prospects of being reimbursed or getting back pay. In addition, the public is put at risk by, among other things –
- Suspended FDA food inspections for E.coli and salmonella;
- Reduced monitoring of drinking water and cancelled Superfund work; and
- Stressed air traffic control and impaired passenger security.
Less immediate but no less severe are hundreds of other delays and disruptions; some are temporary but some, such as adverse effects on federal science and scientific recruitment, endure.
At the same, the Trump White House has declared activities involving favored groups as essential that will continue. So, we see –
- Wildlife refuges staffed to accommodate hunters;
- BLM processing oil and gas permits, while public hearings on Alaska oil drilling keep on schedule; and
- Several national park units closed but not the one in Trump International Hotel.
Treating federal service as if it is part of the Trump Organization only adds to the demoralization.
But it is the normalization of shutdowns as an acceptable tactic – as opposed to a calamity to be avoided at all costs – that poses an insidious threat to public service. “Who wants to grow up to be a hostage?” is a question young people thinking about a career in government now must ask.
One thin silver lining of this fiasco is seeing how Trump, displaying his special reverse-Midas touch, has boxed himself in, while galvanizing growing opposition and putting new strains on GOP unity.
And, as the sands of time drain from the hourglass, the impasse eats up dwindling time as the Trump term enters its last non-election year.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, PEER is dedicated to using this debacle as a lever to strengthen a growing national sentiment of Never Again!
Even before the shutdown, EPA’s enforcement of anti-pollution laws had evaporated. Latest figures assembled by PEER show eco-enforcement at EPA is now at a 30-year low. Today, Andy Wheeler goes before a Senate committee considering whether he should continue piloting this poor agency into the ground. PEER is developing an enforcement web-center because we want people to realize that laws are only as effective as they are enforced.
Government Not the Only Thing Shut Down
The oil industry got a new year’s cent per tax break when Congress failed to extend the 9-cents per barrel excise tax on all oil at U.S. refineries. The money is the principal source of revenue for the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, thus compromising America’s ability to help avert and contain a major oil spill. PEER is pushing for Congress to reauthorize a higher excise and extend it to oil sands, which have been tax-free.
Death By Carbon Monoxide
As the first big snows of the season pile up, scores of Americans will die by carbon monoxide poisoning in their own cars. Rising dangers from keyless ignitions and CO venting into SUVs are also on the rise. PEER is in court asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration why it has not acted.
Alaska’s new Governor, Mike Dunleavy, has turned back the clock by making the state game agency into a subsidiary of the Safari Club International, demanding an end to every restriction on hunting and trapping on federal lands – no matter how barbaric. Prodded by PEER and other groups Alaska had begun to emerge from the dark days of the Palin-Parnell era but it looks like we will have to start all over again.