FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trump Can Relate, But Not to Us

No memory of having starred,
Atones for later disregard. . . .

– Robert Frost, “Two Tramps in Mud Time”

It’s not all taxpayers he doesn’t care about.  Only the 800,000 federal employees who are not getting paid.  As far as the rest of us are concerned, he wants to limit the impact as much as he can.  As Russell Voigt, the acting director of the office of Management and Budget said: “The administration is trying to make the shutdown as painless as possible consistent with the law.”  The effort is not, however, directed at federal employees.  Just the rest of us.

In late December, IRS employees received an undated e mail entitled “IRS Employee Emergency News.”  It advised employees that “due to the lapse in appropriations most IRS operations are closed. An IRS-wide furlough began on December 22, 2018 for everyone except already identified excepted employees.  Non-excepted employees are furloughed and placed in a non-pay and non-duty status until further notice. . . .  Employees will be given four hours to close out work requirements and receive formal furlough notification.” That was followed by the good news that they would receive their December 31 pay checks.

The notice concludes saying that: “As an IRS employee affected by the government shutdown, there can be temporary hardships in meeting your financial obligations.  This may occur regardless of when pay resumes for you as a furloughed or excepted employee.”  The message provides information the employees may wish to share with creditors in trying to figure out how to deal with their inability to make payments.  It further provides two phone numbers the employee can call for updates. The recorded message on one of the numbers advises the caller that the shutdown began December 22 and advises the caller that the caller has been placed in “nonpaid and non-duty status.”  The other number rings with no response.

The 79,000 IRS employees are not, of course, the only federal employees who received the kind of messages IRS employees were given.  IRS employees were joined by some 720,000 other employees of the federal government who were told they would not be receiving pay checks during the shutdown.

When proudly saying he would take credit for the shutdown a few days before it actually occurred, the Trump was unaware of one effect the shutdown had on non-federal employees.  He did not realize that the shutdown did not merely impact federal employees and those with whom the unpaid employees had business dealings.  It affected hundreds of millions of people not employed by the federal government. Here’s one of the reasons.

At the beginning of every calendar year, millions of taxpayers file tax returns as quickly as possible in order to receive refunds for taxes they overpaid the preceding year. Those refunds are frequently in the thousands of dollars. Recipients count on those refunds to meet other obligations they have.  The funds come as delayed Christmas presents for the recipients.  How important the refunds are is demonstrated by the statistics.

Between the first of January and the second of March 2018, the IRS paid tax refunds to 48.5 million households.  Those refunds were in excess of $147 billion.  In 2019 it is estimated that the total amount to be refunded will be in excess of $140 billion.

During past shutdowns, processing and payment of refunds was held up until the shutdown was over.  Postponing the infusion of $140 billion into the economy has a profound impact not only on the taxpayer who does not receive the refund, but on those with whom the taxpayer has financial dealings such as merchants, creditors, landlords and the like. Here is one thing the Trump knew when he imposed the shutdown for which he was so pleased to take credit.  He knew that federal workers would go without pay so long as the shutdown was in place.  Here is something he did not know.

He did not know that during past shutdowns when the IRS employees were furloughed, tax refunds were not being processed and the $140 billion to which taxpayers were entitled were not processed.  When someone pointed out to him that that was a lot of money to withhold from the citizens entitled to it, he immediately ordered the IRS to immediately bring back on staff, a sufficient number of employees to begin processing claims for refunds even though that had never been done in earlier shutdowns. Ordering IRS workers to begin processing refund claims, albeit without being paid for their work, showed how much the Trump cares about taxpayers who need the refunds to take care of their obligations.

Ordering the IRS to begin processing claims was not the only way the Trump proved his concern for his subjects.  On January 6, 2019, while standing outside the White House, a reporter asked him if he could “relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?”  He responded: “I can relate.  And I’m sure that the people that are toward the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do.” He was probably thinking of his own experiences.  Companies he controlled went into bankruptcy six times before he became president. As he told the reporter, he made adjustments.  That’s how he got to where he is now. The rest of us are the poorer for it.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail