The Washington Post:
President Trump said Tuesday that he intends to keep the federal government closed until he secures the desired funding from Congress for his promised border wall, and he cast doubt about the performance of Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell after a sharp downturn in U.S. stock markets.
In an Oval Office appearance on Christmas morning, Trump praised Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin despite the stock markets suffering their steepest Christmas Eve decline in decades but was more circumspect about his handpicked Fed chair.
“Well, we’ll see,” Trump said when a journalist asked whether he had confidence in Powell. “They’re raising interest rates too fast, that’s my opinion. But I certainly have confidence. But I think it’ll straighten. They’re raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good. But I think that they will get it pretty soon, I really do.”
As for whether he has confidence in Mnuchin, whose Sunday calls to reassure major bank executives rattled investors and may have exacerbated Monday’s sell-off, Trump told reporters: “Yes, I do. Very talented guy, very smart person.”
Trump made his comments during a Christmas photo op in the Oval Office, where he spoke by video teleconference with service members from all five branches of the armed forces who are stationed in Alaska, Bahrain, Guam and Qatar.
About 25 percent of the government is shut down for the fourth straight day, with Congress at a stalemate over Trump’s demand for $5 billion in wall construction money.
“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he said. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”
The president defended his plan to construct a wall along the border with Mexico that he insisted only an Olympic athlete would be able to scale. “If you don’t have that, then we’re just not opening,” Trump said.
All told, about 800,000 of 2.1 million federal workers nationwide — or more than a third — are estimated to be affected in some way by the shutdown. Trump claimed that many of them support the shutdown.
“Many of those workers have said to me, communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump said. “These federal workers want the wall.”
But his claim conflicts with the accounts of federal workers’ union leaders.
“Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies and departments. “This shutdown is a travesty. Congress and the White House have not done their fundamental jobs of keeping the government open.”
In a survey of 1,500 union members, about 85 percent said they have limited holiday season spending or are planning to do so because of uncertainty about income, Reardon said on Christmas Eve. He said they include one who said: “I have recently lost my wife and now . . . I have to put off buying her headstone. Breaks my heart.”
Another responded: “I can’t buy any Christmas presents and am considering returning those I already have. Mortgage companies and utility companies won’t wait to get paid,” according to Reardon.
Those who were unemployed during the Great Recession while government employees continued to get paid might lack compassion with Reardon’s unprovable claim. Even if true, the furloughed employees will get paid once the “shutdown” ends. (Which is not to say that I believe Trump’s claim either. Government employees are overwhelmingly liberals, who believe in government, whereas taxpayers should not.)
And as we all know the government is far too large. A mass firing of federal (and for that matter state) employees would make them seek private-sector jobs, which would be an overwhelmingly good thing.