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Remember Trump's pointless cruelty

Michael Knigge Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
Michael Knigge
January 26, 2019

The "deal" President Trump announced to temporarily end the longest government shutdown in US history was no deal at all. But given the suffering his shutdown continues to cause for so many, there are no winners here.

US President Donald Trump
Image: Getty Images/AFP/B. Smialowski

It took US President Donald Trump 35 days to sign off on a bill that he could have had before Christmas. Before the president walked away from negotiations in December, a similar agreement was on the table to temporarily fund the government, but not Trump's beloved boondoggle, a border wall. Back then, the dealmaker-in-chief boasted in an Oval Office meeting that he would be "proud to shut down the government" if he did not get funding for his wall.

Finally, more than a month into the shutdown, he has announced a deal that Democrats had been offering from the beginning: Decouple government and wall funding for a brief period while negotiating about border security. Trump had consistently balked at the idea — until he didn't, and suddenly caved on Friday.

For some of his detractors, it may be enticing to gloat about the self-declared "world's best negotiator" and his failure to get funding for his border wall. But doing so would be highly inappropriate in light of the unnecessary pain he has caused for so many people during the longest government shutdown in US history.

Trump's reckless triggering of the shutdown just before Christmas meant that 800,000 government workers and their families have had to make ends meet while going without pay for over a month. Not to mention the more than 1 million government contractors who went unpaid — and who, unlike the government workers, will not receive any back pay.

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Epic fail

To this day, Trump and billionaire Cabinet members like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still fail to grasp how devastating their frivolous exercise was for the many low-earning government employees and contractors and their families, many of whom have been forced to turn to food pantries and look for additional jobs to make ends meet — often while being forced to report for duty without pay.

The longer Trump's shutdown lasted, the more it endangered countless millions through numerous aspects of everyday life. To name but a few: food safety and security, customs inspections, air travel safety, and thus overall national security — the very thing Trump claimed to be boosting by his dogged insistence on the construction of a border wall.

Let's also remember that Trump's shutdown antics dealt another severe blow to the already shaky notion that a government position, while generally lower paying than a private sector job, provides at least a more reliable source of income.  

So the millions affected now find themselves with a temporary fix — with the next possible shutdown looming only three weeks away. But this is nothing new for Trump, a man who, throughout his career, has readily toyed with others' money and well-being if it furthered his own profits.

Read more: Trump Foundation shuttered under court supervision

Gambling with other people's lives

One could speculate now what caused Trump to cave — the canceled State of the Union address, the impending collapse of air travel in key US cities, or simply a move to deflect from the indictment of his buddy Roger Stone, his shrinking approval ratings, pressure from GOP lawmakers — or all of it combined. But it is an exercise in futility; no one really knows Trump's mind.        

Instead, let's take this short-term reprieve to thank all the government employees who have suffered through this shutdown for their dedication to keeping the country going, despite the president's antics.

Let's hope — if there could possibly be a positive long-term consequence of this shutdown — that Americans, especially those directly affected by it, remember who claimed he would be proud to shut the government down.

Let's hope that Americans remember the callous and cruel president who would readily gamble with other people's lives and livelihoods for a pointless border wall he ultimately didn't even get. Is there a more damning character indictment?