The Wall the Wuss, and the Deal

EASTSIDER-If the President is going to shut down the entire government over a Wall, he faces two problems. First the wall isn’t big enough, and second, he is a provably incompetent negotiator. As for the Wuss part... 

The Wall 

Memo to President: if you want to build a super wall which will make you the envy of everyone, be prepared to spend a really, really long time doing it. And $5.7 billion dollars ain’t going to cut it. No sir, you would have to be a very important leader, like the Emperor of China, for example, to try to get that done, but if history is a guide, you’d be dead long before the Wall ever got built. Along with the countless Chinese who were conscripted and killed way back when during the undertaking. 

So, go ahead and think BIG. The Great Wall of China? Now there’s a Wall!  A manly wall. But the thing to remember about the Great Wall of China is that it wasn’t built in a Budget Cycle. As far back as the first Dynasty of China around 220 BC, pieces were being constructed. And the bulk of that Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty from 1368-1644.  

The whole shebang wound up being something like 4000 miles. For a Readers Digest of all this, check out the basics on ChinaHighlights.com

Oh, by the way, that Wall was built to protect China from outside barbarians. Sound familiar? Of course, history tells us that those nasty old Mongol hordes rolled across the Wall in the 1600s anyway, so I guess it didn’t ultimately work out for China too well. So maybe the President should reconsider holding the entire country hostage to deliver a promise he can’t even define. 

Not to mention the fact that these days, with technology, the cartels seem to build mostly very nice tunnels to go under the existing walls. Hmm... 

Keep Your Mitts Off the American Worker 

As readers of this column know, I very much try to stay away from demonizing Donald Trump, or for that matter talking about him, because it does little to help heal wounds between the people who voted for Trump vs. the people who voted for Clinton. I can partly do this because I didn’t vote for either one, although I did vote for a woman.  

However, when my fellow Americans get thrown out of their jobs, or even worse, have to go to work and not get paid, there are limits. This is Un-American in every sense of the phrase. Not only do these innocent employees get hosed by the shutdown, but so do their communities and businesses that their dollars help support. And since they can’t even take other employment, it constitutes involuntary servitude. 

U.S. government employees are public employees, and they do a good job of quietly keeping our government doing things for all of us, as we all discovered when they were involuntarily stripped of their pay over a political dispute over a wall that we in the West know is ineffectual BS. And where there is no detailed plan as to how the Administration would actually spend the money. These people are us, folks. 

If a labor union had the juice to do this and tried, the leaders would all be indicted and immediately thrown in the slammer on some pretext or other. The only beneficiaries of this mess are scumbags like Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. I’ll bet that they are both manipulating the financial markets based on their inside information and figuring out how to foreclose on furloughed or working-without-pay employees, just like they made zillions during the last financial meltdown in 2008. 

The Wuss 

The only reason I’m writing this piece is that I’ve spent most of my adult life negotiating agreements, be it as a union advocate, a management advocate, for government, or for the last 20+ years as a mediator and neutral. And this government shutdown which is really hurting so many Americans both in and out of government is the direct result of Donald Trump’s incompetence as a negotiator. 

Seems to me there’s a reality here that somehow gets lost in the incessant media coverage. It is not possible to negotiate anything with President Trump, in the sense that unions and management, corporations, and most ordinary people negotiate. Why? He had a deal and reneged on it. Full stop.  

You simply don’t do that because then everyone knows your word is worthless, and you can’t be trusted. Repeat: if your word is no good why should anyone believe what comes out of your mouth? 

So as a practical matter, the President of the United States is demonstrating that he is in fact a wuss.   

The word has various meanings, such as criticizing someone for being afraid. Or in U.S. slang, a feeble or ineffectual person. A wimp. I don’t personally know the President, but he’s the one that claimed to be a great negotiator. Ain’t so. Can’t trust him to keep his word even when he makes a deal. 

The Deal 

People forget there are three branches of Government -- the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. Here, for the moment, only two count, since litigation takes too long to be helpful. The Executive means the Administration, e.g. Donald Trump, and the Legislative means the House of Representatives and the Senate.  

So, assuming Congress still works like they taught us in Civics class (assuming you live somewhere they still have civics classes), in the ordinary course of events, the two houses of the legislature are supposed to get together just enough to pass a bill to put on the President’s desk. That’s what the Senate and the House get paid to do. If the President doesn’t like the result, he can veto it -- or let it go. 

But no. Having made a deal which both the House and the Senate voted to pass, multi-millionaire rabble rousers like Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh seem to count more than the American people or the political process of governing our country. So, the President rolls over, reneges on his agreement, and plans to let you and me die on the hill he made. Ratings aren’t people. 

What’s screwy here is that the Leader of the Senate has chosen to refuse to bring any bill to the floor for a vote. This is a breach of his duty. The idea that Mr. McConnell won’t do this unless he “knows” that the President will sign it is hogwash. The President cannot be trusted because his word is worthless -- he reneged on a deal and now close to a million government employees are paying the price.  

And that’s before we factor in all the subcontractors to the government, and all the businesses in all the communities where these federal employees live and work, companies that rely on them spending their paychecks. The ramifications of all this are unimaginable over any extended period of time. 

The news media and all the talking head commentators don’t help when they utter inanities like “both sides are to blame” and, “when will they compromise,” while the American people are being hurt badly.  

There are only two people directly responsible for this sorry mess. One is obviously the President. The other, who seems so far to have avoided responsibility as he abrogates his duty, is the Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. In an exercise of pure antidemocratic power and parliamentary manipulation, he has evidently decided that he is co-God with Trump and refuses to let the elected members of the Senate do what they get paid to do: vote. 

Remember, a simple vote on the deal was already passed by both the House and the Senate and sent to the President before he decided to roll over on himself because of couple of very rich TV/cable talking heads said he should. Now we all pay the price for the wuss. 

Many men and women, including a whole lot of Homeland Security employees, may never recover from this mess. Same for us and the economy. Get a grip, vote to send the bill everyone agreed on to Trump by writing, calling, emailing or whatever you can do.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.