Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Phil McCausland
Jeff Estes has worked as a federal contractor for 35 years in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Now he and his colleagues are out of work because of a partial government shutdown that as of Saturday became the longest in American history.
For Estes, a union official and electrician, the shutdown is becoming particularly burdensome because he’s paying for his two kids to attend college, and the government’s recent decision to change contractors forced him and his coworkers to reapply for their jobs.
With much of the government at a standstill, Estes and his colleagues aren’t sure whether they will still have a job when it’s over, he said. Those in a position to know are furloughed, leaving Estes and many others more than frustrated as the government shutdown enters its 22nd day on Saturday.
“It’s not a D problem. It’s not an R problem. It’s Washington, D.C., the Beltway,” Estes told NBC News. “People in America and the workforce should not be used as pawns. Deal with your business without putting me out of the job. Do your job, and I’ll keep doing mine.”
Approximately 800,000 federal employees are estimated to be furloughed or working without pay because President Donald Trump and Congress cannot reach a deal to reopen the government. They are at an impasse over $5.7 billion for construction of a wall along the southern border.
The number of furloughed employees does not include federal contractors like Estes. It’s unclear how many contract or grant employees are affected by the shutdown — or even how many there are in total — but a Volcker Alliance report estimated that nearly 5.3 million worked as contractors in 2015.
Unlike furloughed federal employees, who have received assurances that they will be paid once the shutdown ends, contractors are not owed back pay. That has left them in an even murkier economic position.
Most Americans cannot afford to miss a paycheck, said Joseph Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University whose work relating to inequality earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.
While everyone tends to have a house, car, health insurance and car payment to make, the person they owe money to aren’t inclined to be particularly forgiving or account for a government shutdown, Stiglitz said.
“It’s an inequality issue in that it affects people at the bottom,” Stiglitz said. “And it hits them really strongly because in America, so many have experienced such high levels of inequality that a large fraction of Americans have no substantial cash reserves. They depend on that paycheck coming in every month.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she knows the shutdown is having a significant impact on her state, telling NBC News that she has spoken to a number of constituents since the shutdown took effect.
Her state is feeling the economic pain from the ongoing political fight more than most. Alaska has the most federal workers affected per capita than any other state, and nearly half the federal workers there work for agencies without appropriations.
“They’re the ones who are trying to knit this all together, that are trying to figure out, ‘OK, we’ve got earthquake damage that we’re dealing with and it’s costing us more than we thought it was going to,” Murkowski said. “It’s cold. It’s four below in Fairbanks, where I went to high school, this morning. You don’t think that jacks up people’s home heating like sky high?”
That could be a reason for economic concern beyond just the individual household, particularly in small communities where businesses are dependent on those individuals spending their paychecks.
“When individuals are living as close to the edge as such a large fraction of Americans are living, these are the kinds of events that can precipitate a downward spiral,” Stiglitz said.
The shutdown isn’t affecting only labor, either.
And as the shutdown continues further without a clear potential conclusion after the president threatened to keep the government closed for months or even years, experts say the economic ripple effects could heavily impact the entire nation.
Jason Furman, professor of the practice of economic policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the most recent chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, said the nation is “entering increasingly uncharted territory.”
“The impact really depends heavily on how the highly ambiguous rules are interpreted and implemented by the administration, for example the decisions around SNAP and refund checks matter a lot,” Furman said in an email. “Overall, however, we know that the costs of the shutdown grow non-linearly with time as agencies run out of ways to get around it. So expect them [agency costs] to grow.”
It’s the uncertainty that leaves a lot of experts worried about the economic impact that a prolonged shutdown could have, especially during a period of global market uncertainty.
Currently the country faces a trade war, stock market uncertainty, an economic slowdown in China and an economic slowdown in Europe — two key trading partners.
“No time is a good time, but this is a particularly bad time because the nature of uncertainty is that it compounds exponentially,” Stiglitz said.
“We’re talking about $5.7 billion for a wall,” the economist added, “but the costs that are inflicted on the economy are orders of magnitude beyond that $5.7 billion.”
Labour betrayal: Fawning Tom Watson begs EU for forgiveness, says Labour is REMAIN party
Press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving the White House
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving her post at the end of June, President Donald Trump said Thursday.
“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump tweeted, including the time Sanders worked on his campaign in addition to her service during his first two-plus years in office.
“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas — she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”
At a White House event minutes later, Sanders said she would “try not to get emotional, because I know crying can make us look weak sometimes.”
“[Trump] has accomplished so much in these two-and-a-half years, and it has truly been something I will treasure forever … ” she said, her voice cracking. “I have loved every minute, including the hard minutes.”
Sanders’ tenure at the White House was marked by contentious public confrontations with the media over the president’s agenda and her own misstatements, as well as a diminishing number of official briefings for the press. She has not briefed the media for 94 days — since March 11 — more than double the previous longest dry stint of the Trump administration.
In May 2017, she told reporters that “countless” FBI officials had told her that they had lost confidence in then-FBI Director Jim Comey — a comment that suggested the president had good reason to fire him other than the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller later reported that Sanders acknowledged she had no evidence for the claim.
It was one of many occasions on which journalists questioned the credibility of Sanders’ assertions from the White House podium.
But Sanders could also act as a ready and reliable conduit for information behind the scenes with some of the same outlets she clashed with in front of television cameras.
A daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders, 36, became a surrogate for Trump on television during his 2016 campaign for the presidency and joined his White House team in January 2017 as a deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary. She was promoted into the press secretary role in July 2017, succeeding Sean Spicer.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, was re-elected in 2018 and cannot seek re-election in 2022. Sanders has not announced any plans to seek office.
Lauren Egan contributed.
World6 days ago
Kazakhstan election incites violent protest in Nur-Sultan, Almaty
World5 days ago
My skateboard career is the bravest thing I’ve done
Politics1 week ago
ICE doesn’t know how many veterans it has deported
Politics1 week ago
Manafort’s SoHo apartment put up for sale by U.S. Marshals
Latest News1 week ago
Border patrol agent saves woman and son from thousand of bees | US News
Politics1 week ago
House will call spy hunters to testify about Trump campaign, Russia contacts
Politics1 week ago
Theresa May resigns: Has May resigned yet? When will Tory leadership contest start?
World1 week ago
Trump says there’s a ‘good chance’ that Mexico averts tariffs by purchasing U.S. farm goods