A Suggestion for the President

Apparently, it isn’t true that federal agencies are able to terminate any or all of their presently furloughed nonessential employees because they have been out for thirty days – they can only do that in the case of administratively planned furloughs, not as a result of “emergency furloughs” based – as at present – on lapses in Congressionally-approved funding. Even so, the Administration could use its ability to engage in such administratively-planned-furloughs-leading to-terminations to dramatically turn up the heat on House Democrats to fund the president’s plans for a wall.  

In spite of the fact that I am broadly pro-immigration in cases where people want to come here to become Americans – i.e., to build new lives for themselves with a whole-hearted, law-abiding acceptance of our pluralistic values and democratic system – I support the president’s plans for a wall based on the simple perspective that borders define nations and that, as a nation of laws, our laws regarding immigration should be vigorously enforced. I also think that the dispute that we have been watching over the last month or so is not really about the paltry sum that the president is looking for, or even about having the partial wall that he is proposing – many Congressional Democrats favored a wall before Trump did – but, rather, a struggle for power in which the Democrats think that they can neuter a president they hate by humiliating him. By pursuing their anti-Trump vendetta, I think they’re making our country look foolish and ungovernable.

So my suggestion to the president would be that he give a speech to the effect that in the course of the shutdown we are learning that many of the furloughed nonessential employees are, in fact, not needed, so that if the present impasse drags on any longer or is concluded in an unsatisfactory manner (i.e., without his getting money for a partial wall), he will instruct all agencies to plan administrative furloughs to be instituted at the end of the “emergency shutdown”. Such administrative furloughs would be followed by fully legal terminations thirty days later.

President Trump could further request that such administrative furloughs be planned in various rounds over the next few weeks (ramping up pressure for a quick resolution to the faux crisis). The first and easiest of these would be of federal employees who would’ve long since been fired if they had worked in the private sector – those who spend their days looking at online porn, say, or the IRS managers who helped Lois Lerner harass conservatively-oriented nonprofits during the 2008 election. A second round might be planned for employees who administer programs that should’ve been phased out ages ago. Who knows, such an act might even disprove the premise of Ronald Reagan’s famous joke about federal programs proving that there is such a thing as everlasting life. I’m sure there’s a third round out there, too…

Such threats might sound callous or cruel, but let’s not forget that federal employees generally have job security that most of us taxpayers who fund their salaries can only dream of, and have compensation packages that far outstrip those of people who have similar qualifications and perform comparable tasks in the private sector. In most companies, cleaning out the deadwood is an ongoing – and profoundly necessary – process.

What’s more, I’m pretty sure that immediately after the president made such a threat, pressure on Congressional Democrats to fund the wall would increase exponentially. Government employees are one of their most important constituencies, and everybody who has been furloughed would begin to worry that his or her name would be about to be placed on the “wrong” list. After all, I often used to say to myself when I had conventional jobs that if they could do without me for a month, they could do without me.

In fact, I wonder if some of them aren’t thinking that already.

M.H. Johnston   

7 comments to A Suggestion for the President

  • Anonymous  says:

    Let’s start with the Education Department’s 4,400 employees and its $68 billion budget. That’s enough for 12 walls. Why do we need it when each state has its own Education Department?

  • Ron Davenport  says:

    Two thoughts come to mind. First, a quip from John Wanamaker: “Half of the money that I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” Second, a quip from Arthur Godfrey: “I’m proud to pay taxes in the US; the only thing is that I could be just as proud for half the money.” Leaving aside the humanitarian concerns and the contractual obligation, the wholesale elimination of jobs in this manner carries with it enormous peril (TSA, air traffic control, Coast Guard and FDA, just to name a few). Is there waste? Waste is inherent; after all, the goal is a “more perfect” Union, not a “perfect” Union. The idea is that there is no perfect, and that we’re going to get things wrong en route to the perfect. If there is to be a wall, then let’s debate the merits without hostages. While I am not in favor of a wall (I think Patton said that fixed fortifications are a tribute to the folly of man, and that if the heavens and the seas can be overcome by man, anything built by man can be overcome by man), I could be persuaded by facts and analysis, and my objections lessen considerably if Mexico is going to pay for it. To date, however, the evidence seems pretty clear that a wall wouldn’t have much of any impact in stemming the tide of asylum and refugee seekers let alone staunching the flow of illegal drugs into our country or otherwise addressing the alleged parade of horribles described by President Trump (which parade of horribles we’ve managed to survive these past 2 years with little if any apparent detriment to the country).

    • Richard Lee  says:

      Hi, I think you meant “…stanching the flow…,” not “…staunching the flow…”
      Where is evidence for and against physical barriers like walls? Why wouldn’t they work? Surely not because of a quote from Patton. I find Secy Nielsen credible and will look up her opinion on a “wall.” Here’s what she said about the “caravan” and its makeup.

      She asserted “at this point we have confirmed that there are over 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan flow.”[57] An earlier “Fact Sheet” about the caravan, released by the DHS, had stated that “over 270 individuals along the caravan route have criminal histories” and that “Mexican officials have also publicly stated that criminal groups have infiltrated the caravan.” It also asserted that the caravan included individuals from more than 20 countries.[58]

      Here is the govt source for these comments: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/11/01/myth-vs-fact-caravan

      • Anonymous  says:

        Hello,
        Thanks for correcting my spelling error. My Patton quote was Patton’s reference to the Maginot Line which, as you know, didn’t work out so well for the French. I took a look at the cite and thanks for the reference. If I read the information and your quote correctly, there were “over 270 individuals along the caravan route… with criminal histories….” As I understand it, the caravan route extends from at least Guatemala to the US. I don’t read this to state that there were 270 individuals actually in the caravan with criminal histories: there could be more but there also could be less. I didn’t see the reference to 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan.
        That said, perhaps I’m viewing this too simplistically but it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay $5.7 billion for a portion of a wall that is going to keep out 270 or 600 or some multiple of these numbers. Between construction and maintenance of a physical wall, it would probably be a lot cheaper to build prisons in the countries of origin to hold the criminals.
        As far as Secretary Nielsen’s credibility, her credibility has been called into question regarding the child separation policy and the numbers of children actually separated.
        Last, in terms of facts, I was looking more for instances where physical walls along borders have prevented people and drugs from entering a country. I think that a technological virtual wall could be much more effective. And as far as Patton goes, there are reports already of asylum seekers tunneling under the existing walls so there doesn’t appear to be a practical physical wall solution to keep drugs and asylum seekers out of the country — at least not yet.

  • Anonymous  says:

    A practical and terrific idea. How about reduce government workers and don’t spend more money on a wall.

    • Anonymous  says:

      Mark you suggest a ploy to turn up the heat on the Democrats.

      I always thought our government worked on two houses passing legislation or budgets then sending it to the president for approval. The idea of the president using a shut down of the government then holding the country hostage to get a border wall is not what our founders had in mind.

      Your idea of upping the stakes by terminating government employees is a step in the wrong direction. This is not the first government shutdown and I don’t blame Trump for inventing it. Unfortunately your approach only adds fuel to a broken situation it does not improve the crisis.

      You might be wiser to think of ways to give the president more dictatorial powers like they have in China, Russia or Saudi Arabia then he wouldn’t need ploys to fire government employees or have the House pass on any emigration reform. Perhaps an emergency crisis.

      • M Johnston  says:

        I’m afraid that your suggestion that the president await a Congressional appropriation, then sign it no matter what’s in or not in it, to avoid a continuation of the shutdown, misreads the founders’ intent regarding the balance of powers, as it would make the president a passive participant in the budgeting process; both branches are coequal in appropriations unless Congress can muster a 2/3rds override of a president’s veto. Also, it’s no more fair to lay the present impasse at the president’s feet (and accuse him of behaving dictatorially if he takes my suggestion) than it is to accuse the Democrats in Congress – who refuse to negotiate – of doing the same. The system was designed to encourage negotiation, after all, and one side – not the president’s – is presently refusing to do that. All I propose in this post is a perfectly legal tactic that I think is likely to strengthen the president’s hand in the negotiations by illustrating that the Democrats have sacred cows that will be gored first if they persist in refusing to negotiate.

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