The U.S. Senate voted late Thursday to grant back pay for furloughed federal workers, which is usually what happens when the government shuts down. It’s a benevolent and fair thing to do — 800,000 employees forced off the job or having to work without pay because of a political fray shouldn’t go without income through no fault of their own.
It’s sad that granting back pay for lost hours is so routine for federal workers that it has become a custom. But that tradition should frost taxpayers who foot the bill for tens of millions of work hours in which no work was done.
President Trump reportedly has promised legislators he’d sign the measure, though it has yet to come to a vote in the House. So if it does come to pass as expected, at least federal workers victim to the shutdown won’t suffer so much financially.
President Trump’s relatively subdued Oval Office speech on border security included one combative note: a challenge to the suggestion by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico was immoral.
“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral,” the president said. “Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”
Even though Trump didn’t mention Pelosi by name, it seemed obvious that he was referring to her. Last week she said that “a wall is an immorality between countries,” adding: “It’s an old way of thinking. It isn’t cost-effective.” This isn’t a new position for her. In a “Meet the Press” interview in April 2017, she said: “The wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise.”
It sure didn’t take long for Gov. Gavin Newsom to get under President Trump’s skin.
On Tuesday — his second day in office — California’s new governor traveled to Placer County to propose spending an additional $105 million on wildfire safety, including more money to thin dry forests and improve emergency alert systems. That would be on top of the $200 million that lawmakers approved last year.
Newsom also called on President Trump to boost federal funding for forest management, which is vital, given that about 60% of California’s forests are on federal land. Newsom co-signed a letter to Trump, along with fellow Democratic Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon, calling for the Trump administration to “double the investment” in managing federal forests in the West to help supplement state efforts.
President Trump’s speech Tuesday night, and the congressional Democratic leaders’ response, offered nothing to the nation that it didn’t already know – that our government is broken, and there’s not much reason to have faith that it’s going to get any better.
The current manifestation is that the nation elected as president someone who has no idea how to do the job, and who is not predisposed to grow into it. Any stray thought that comes to mind gets trotted out as fact or edict, forcing the few people on Trump’s skeleton staff who have an inkling of how governing works to scramble to corral him, persuade him that he can’t do what he wants to do, or find some loophole through which they can drive whatever bugbear Trump is obsessed with at the moment.
We do not, as the president would have us believe, face a national security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. But we do face a crisis in competence. This administration – as did the Obama administration before it – has been unable to come up with a solution for the number of people arriving at the border to seek asylum.
Not just ducks and geese prevailed when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the California law banning the sale of foie gras and force-feeding birds to get it.
On Monday, the high court also rebuffed a group of state attorneys general who brought suit against the California law requiring that all eggs sold in the state come from hens kept in cages big enough for them to turn around and spread their wings. And the court said no to a similar group of states, led by the Indiana attorney general, challenging a new Massachusetts law that will prohibit the confinement of pigs, calves and hens in cramped quarters and ban the sale of meat and eggs from animals kept under those conditions.
Interestingly, Justice Clarence Thomas voted to hear those two cases, according to the court’s announcement of its decision. No further explanation was given.
Americans seem to be stuck in one of those “do as we say, not as we do” conundrums when it comes to recognizing the connection between climate-altering carbon emissions and how we conduct our lives.
New findings published Tuesday estimate that U.S. carbon emissions increased 3.4% last year, driven primarily by a booming economy, which consumed more electricity, and people buying less-efficient vehicles and driving more miles, including shippers. Despite recent gains in adding renewable resources, coal and natural gas still account for 62% of domestic electricity production, which means increased demand causes increased emissions.
The findings track with preliminary estimates released last month and with reports at the international climate forum in Katowice, Poland, that humankind is failing to take sufficient steps to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning,” then-candidate Donald Trump declared at a campaign event in September 2015.
It was a line that Trump would repeat many times in one form or another, and since the election it has encapsulated the uniquely binary approach he’s taken to the presidency. He appears to view much of governing as a contest in which one side, and only one side, emerges victorious.
Which is odd, given that someone who claims to be a master deal maker would understand how important it is to avoid zero-sum situations. That’s where we appear to be today, with no end in sight to a partial government shutdown that’s beginning its third unhappy week.
How’s this for bad optics: As the partial government shutdown enters its third week and some 800,000 federal employees remain off the job (or are working without pay), top political appointees and Vice President Mike Pence are about to get huge raises.
According to the Washington Post, pay levels that had been frozen since 2013 will increase Saturday unless Congress votes yet again to freeze them. That’s not likely to happen.
The bumps could amount to $10,000 a year or more, depending on the position, with cabinet secretaries going from $199,700 a year to $210,700 a year. The increases are so high because they encompass several years’ worth of delayed raises that now will go into effect all at once.