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White House Digs In For A Shutdown Into Spring

Trump admin planning for even longer shutdown. WaPo: "White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has pressed agency leaders to provide him with a list of the highest-impact programs that will be jeopardized if the shutdown continues into March and April, people familiar with the directive said. Mulvaney wants the list no later than Friday, these people said, and it’s the firmest evidence to date that the White House is preparing for a lengthy funding lapse that could have snowballing consequences for the economy and government services. The request is the first known request from a top White House official for a broad accounting of the spreading impact of the shutdown, which has entered its fifth week and is the longest in U.S. history. So far, top White House officials have been particularly focused on lengthening wait times at airport security, but not the sprawling interruption of programs elsewhere in the government. And the request startled some agency officials, who had been struggling to manage the fallout from the shutdown so far. Many of them are simply trying to determine how to keep some agency functions operating at a time when a growing number of workers are refusing to show up because they aren’t getting paid. Now, in addition to dealing with the daily problems caused by the shutdowns, Mulvaney is forcing them to comprehend how to run parts of their bureaucracies without money for an extended period of time. The impact is expected to spread to at least tens of millions of people, who rely on government services that are impacted."

Forcing People To Work Is Servitude

There's a word for forcing people to work for untold weeks without paying them. LA Times: "The longest government shutdown in history is almost certain to extend into its 35th day Friday, denying some 800,000 full-time federal workers their second consecutive paycheck. It’s just a partial shutdown — nine out of 15 government departments and dozens of agencies are affected, representing about 44% of the federal workforce — but these employees will have endured nearly a month without their main source of income. That’s not counting half a million or more federal contractors whose work has also been cut off by the shutdown. It’s shameful enough that hundreds of federal workers are reduced to lining up for free meals and other handouts, seeking temporary relief on their mortgages and asking for more time to pay their bills. What’s worse is that about 420,000 of them have been required to keep working throughout the shutdown, even though they’re not being paid, because their jobs are deemed 'essential.' These include Border Patrol, Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration employees who are defending the United States from the very threats that prompted President Trump to shut down the government in the first place. Forcing 'essential' workers to stay on the job makes a shutdown considerably less painful — and dangerous — for the general public, removing much of the urgency to strike a deal. Yes, Congress has assured all these workers that they will eventually be paid the wages they didn’t collect during the shutdown. But in the meantime, forcing people to work without pay week after week becomes hard to distinguish from slavery. And the money they’re not collecting is money they’re not spending, either, which is dragging down the overall economy. (And we’re not even focusing here on how the shutdown is affecting the general public, including diminished or canceled federal services, closed federal parks, museums and other facilities, cutbacks in environmental enforcement efforts and some food inspections, and potentially an interruption in food stamp benefits.)"

Trump Cancels SOTU Speech

Trump concedes to Pelosi's disinvitation. LA Times: "The U.S. Constitution says the president 'shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.' It doesn’t say where, when or how. So after Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested last week that President Trump delay his State of the Union address in the House until a partial government shutdown is over — and Trump said he would do so anyway — Pelosi turned her suggestion into a refusal. After a brief figurative stare-down, Trump blinked and said he would find some 'alternative.' But then, several hours later, the president conceded in a tweet that 'there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber' and said he would postpone the address until after the government reopens. Meanwhile, the shutdown has gone on for more than a month. The Senate has a chance today to vote on competing bills to end the impasse, but the hopes of doing so appear slim."

Provoked By Trump, Religious Left Finds Its Voice

Provoked by Trump, the religious Left is finding its voice. NPR: "Religious conservatives have rarely faced much competition in the political realm from faith-based groups on the left. The provocations of Donald Trump may finally be changing that. Nearly 40 years after some prominent evangelical Christians organized a Moral Majority movement to promote a conservative political agenda, a comparable effort by liberal religious leaders is coalescing in support of immigrant rights, universal health care, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice. 'We believe that faith has a critical role to play in shaping public policies and influencing decision makers,' says the Rev. Jennifer Butler, an ordained Presbyterian minister and founder of the group Faith in Public Life. 'Our moral values speak to the kinds of just laws that we ought to have.' Her group, part of what could be considered a religious left, claims to have mobilized nearly 50,000 local clergy and faith leaders, with on-the-ground operations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Ohio. Butler herself founded the organization in 2005, with a precedent in mind: It was religious leaders who drove the abolitionist movement in the nineteenth century and the civil rights movement in the twentieth century. 'I think religion helps people understand who they should be,' Butler says."

Undermining Democracy, One Brick At A Time

For two years, Trump has been undermining American democracy. Here’s a damage report. WaPo: "Can U.S. democracy survive when between 35 and 45 percent of the population cheers a president who behaves like an autocrat? When Donald Trump took office two years ago, I and many others began sounding the alarm — not out of partisan worry but out of concern for democracy. Trump, we argued, was an existential threat to the republic. For the first time in American history, the president of the United States was an authoritarian-minded demagogue who viewed checks and balances as outdated nuisances rather than sacred principles. Now, two years later, should we still be alarmed? Or was I an alarmist? First, Trump has chipped away at the institutional pillars of democracy. On a near-daily basis, Trump tries to undercut rule of law to advance political goals or to save his own skin. Second, Trump has taken a buzz saw to democratic norms, the soft guardrails of democracy. Democratic norms — the unwritten guidelines of political behavior — give meaning to democratic institutions. Without the norms, the institutions might as well just be ink on parchment. Third, and most important, Trump has injected authoritarianism into the bloodstream of the Republican Party. Polls have shown that a majority of Republicans now agree that the press is an “enemy of the people” rather than 'an important part of democracy.' That’s why the most chilling part of the president explicitly praising a congressman for violently assaulting a reporter wasn’t the depraved comment — it was the crowd. The thought of violence against journalists — who they saw as the 'enemy' — sent the red-hat-wearing mob into a frenzy. As someone who has studied how democracy dies across the globe, I remain deeply worried about Trump’s America."

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