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New Year’s Eve at our house was quiet, with no plans to do anything but to go to bed and wake up in a new year. Unfortunately, it looks like 2019 is going to be anything but quiet, if 2018 was any indication.
The year has started with a bang, right in the middle of a partial shutdown of the federal government caused by President Trump’s refusal before Christmas to accept any budget bill to fund the final third of government not already funded that does not include $5 billion for a border wall with Mexico. Heading toward three weeks without a resolution, the shutdown has affected more than 800,000 federal employees, either furloughing them or forcing them to work without pay.
Trump is treating government employees like poker chips, with many already feeling the pain, betting that Congress will cave in to his fantasy version of border security, a nice big wall that a majority of Americans do not want and most security experts say will not work to stem illegal traffic across the border. It’s a bad bet.
Adding insult to injury, the president last week imposed a freeze on federal salaries, preventing government workers from receiving the modest increases previously planned when paychecks resume.
Congress, for its part, didn’t let a shutdown get in the way of going home for the holidays. The Democrats have made it clear they will not go along with the president’s demand and Trump, for his part, has spent his time alone in the White House tweeting and watching Fox News without making any effort to find a workable compromise.
What is expected to happen, now that a new Congress began Jan. 3, is that the newly controlled Democratic House will produce some form of spending bill to fund the government at its current levels of border security, but no wall, leaving it to the Republican-controlled Senate and Trump to respond, continuing the shutdown the president said he would be “proud” to cause. And childish commentators like Rush Limbaugh are fanning the flames of disagreement with their brand of nonsense.
Conservatives say the issue is border “security,” but that’s not true. Democrats have backed $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion in funding for border security that even repairs part of existing barriers. They point, rightly, that most areas that need a wall already have fences and other barriers that serve the purpose. Other areas along the border have geography that makes walls impossible or useless. Experts also point out that the smuggling of drugs and other contraband across the border happens by air or through existing border points, bypassing any walls. And the latest statistics show that net migration from Mexico into the United States is zero.
Mexico is not a threat to the United States. Fear, irrational fear fanned by Trump and the right wing, is the real threat. It’s caused an immigration crackdown that has broken up families, harassed and deported law-abiding and productive residents, locked up children away from their parents and tear-gassed innocent people seeking asylum. The biggest loser in Trump’s war against immigration is the American economy as well as the individuals affected. The millions of hardworking “undocumented workers” who are paying taxes are helping to keep Social Security and other tax-supported programs afloat as the numbers of native American workers drop. A continuing government shutdown will also cost our economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
In this state, we have our own problems as the year begins. The legal status of the elections board due to Republican restructuring has left the outcome of the 9th District congressional race in limbo. Despite evidence of election fraud by Republican operatives that could affect the narrow 905-vote margin, evidence strong enough the elections board refused to certify the election results, the court-ordered dissolution of the current elections board has left the state without a means to resolve the issue. What a mess, and voters had nothing to do with it.
State politics are likely to remain at fighting pitch, even though the midterm elections did bring a significant ray of relief by denying the Republican-led legislature the veto-proof majority it has enjoyed for several years. When the legislature passes another bill the governor ought to veto, now legislative leaders will have to involve the Democrats in finding solutions to their differences. That’s at least a start to restoring political balance.
Expect partisan political wars to rage on during the coming year, especially on the national level. In the meantime, life will go on for the rest of us.
Let’s hope that 2019 brings prosperity and good fortune to our southern end of Nash County while the politicians fight it out.
Ken Ripley is a resident of Spring Hope and The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.