Partisan Dysfunction Enters Dysfunctional Big League

What is most disappointing about the Trump-Pelosi-Schumer show is that these “leaders” are being rewarded for their leadership. They are still receiving paychecks. They still have credibility, although somewhat diminished. I recall a King Solomon story my Lola used to tell about two alleged mothers fighting over a baby. King Solomon proposed to cut the child in half. One mother agreed. The other gave up her claim to save the child’s life. King Solomon decided that the latter was the real mother. In the case of the government, neither side is the real mother. And we have 800,000 orphaned federal workers.

 

Partisan bickering, which does not help the general public, was a common complaint I heard throughout my campaign and here we are again, at the start of 2019, almost three weeks into a shutdown that POTUS says could last months or years. Once again, it is the partisan divide—this time over $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall—that is causing this pain. How many Americans feel that strongly for or against funding for a border wall? There are Democrats who are fierce believers in Open Borders. One Liberal, a very nice artistic lady, told me that borders shouldn’t exist at all. On the other side, there are Trump supporters who feel that unchecked immigration of low-skilled, non English-speaking people is presenting problems for the country. And then there is Trump who says that unsecured borders are causing crime. Most of us sit somewhere in the middle. And yet the government is partially shut down, 800 thousand federal employees are going unpaid, for a $5.7 billion appropriation that is largely a political statement more than anything else (there are underground tunnels).

 

And, yet, the government is now making it our problem. Because of this shutdown, our tax refund checks will come late and IRS audits will slow. I can’t say I lament the reduction in audits but the federal government is expected to return almost $250 billion in overpaid taxes to the population. Perspective: $250 billion in tax refunds held up for $5 billion for a border wall.

 

The real estate market will be affected in at least two ways: 1) the FHA will slow down loan processing and approvals (and perhaps halt new loan applications) and 2) obtaining income transcripts from the IRS will be suspended. If you are buying a home and need to provide proof of income from the IRS in the form of a 3506-T, you will have to wait until the standoff between Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Democrats, and Donald Trump comes to a close.

 

In addition to the effects this government dysfunction will have on 800,000 Federal workers and the supporting industries that depend on their business, I wonder if we have entered a new era of prolonged intra-government standoffs. If the President and Congress are willing to hold up our lives over $5.7 billion, how can we imagine their coming to terms over the next $1 trillion omnibus spending bill? Will they bicker over the military budget or over the next standoff over healthcare?

 

Brace yourself for more government shutdowns to come. Many of the newly elected Democrats ran on platforms that oppose Trump’s campaign promises. With a job market as robust as it is, perhaps we can expect some of the unpaid federal employees to find their way to the private sector. The staffs at the Department of Commerce, the IRS, and NASA are eminently employable elsewhere. This might be Trump’s way of accelerating the downsize of government.

 

Regardless of intent, this is the standstill government that we voted in. We have Trump for at least two more years, possibly six. Impeachment efforts are now underway. However, it is not likely to result in a removal from office, which is voted on by the Republican-controlled Senate. Nor are the Republicans likely to win back the House of Representatives any time soon. It will be a divided government for enough time for all of us to feel the pain one way or another.

 

One can only hope that this pain will ultimately weaken two-party thinking. Border wall or not, we’re all going to want our tax refunds.