Thirty-five days when essential government employees worked and did not get paid; 35 days when “non-essential” government employees did not work and did not get paid; 35 days when contract employees did not work and will never get paid.
All this because President Donald Trump promised a wall on the border for which Mexico would pay. Trump still doesn’t have his wall but it is already being paid for by federal employees and contractors through lost wages, late payment fees, lost opportunities and mental and physical stress. Taxpayers are paying employees for 35 days for which we will receive no services. Do I begrudge these employees for the pay they will now be receiving? Of course not!
What genius businessman/real estate mogul thinks it is smart to lay off employees for 35 days knowing he will be paying them anyway? And he was willing to keep doing this for months! And is willing to do this again in 21 days! Parks have been trashed, fishing openings are delayed or uncertain, new air traffic controllers are not being trained, national forests are not being secured against another fire season, and FBI investigations are on hold; yet these and many other vital services will be paid for as if we had had a fully functioning government for the last month.
Federal employees demonstrated, lined up for free bags of groceries, and told their stories ad nauseum. That was never going to bother President “Build the Wall” Trump or Wilbur “Get a Loan” Ross. Nor was it going to end the shutdown. What bothered Trump and ended the shutdown was a “sickness” that caused TSA employees and air traffic controllers to stay home and delay flights at New York metro airports on Friday. Important people started to be inconvenienced by the shutdown. During the next shutdown, I would encourage essential employees to get sick much more quickly. The rest of us may be inconvenienced but we should all be willing to share the pain when our public employees are treated so callously. I know what it’s like to live from one paycheck to the next and anyone who works hard should not carry the burden placed on them by egomaniacal billionaires who have never experienced financial insecurity.
Alaska is affected more than almost any other state because of the significant number of federal employees in our workforce. We can thank U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for speaking out against the shutdown and for voting to reopen the government even without wall funding. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said he was trying to get Coast Guard employees paid but did not vote to open the government without wall funding. Shame you, Sullivan, for trying to pit one set of your constituents against another. No thanks are due to you, Congressman Don Young, for saying and doing nothing to support your constituents during the 35 day shutdown.
The next time Trump threatens a shutdown, Alaskans should be able to expect our entire delegation to stand on our side and the side of all public employees. They work hard and deserve to be paid in full and on time. Why else are you there?
• Judy Crondahl is a Juneau resident. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.