This week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers doubled its estimate of how much the shutdown – the longest in US history – will cost the economy. Others are warning that it could push the US towards a recession. Families across the country are scrambling to feed their children, keep their homes, and pay for expensive medications. As hundreds of thousands of federal and contract workers continue without pay, Trump has demanded that workers return to their jobs, stating that the shutdown will continue indefinitely – for months or even years – until his racist, multibillion-dollar border wall is approved.
Despite Trump’s claims that what he is doing is for the safety of everyday Americans, this moment could not make it plainer that he does not care about any of us – not even the working class white people he claims to represent. The wall’s aim is not to protect ordinary Americans, but to rile up Trump’s base using racism.
This is a classic divide-and-conquer tactic, aiming to get poor white people to blame people of colour and not the political and corporate elite, for poverty. The wall will also make loads of money for an ever-growing corporate defence industry, who are deep in Trump’s pockets, and see militarised borders, surveillance, deportation, war and incarceration as opportunities to make cash.
But polling shows that Trump’s plan is backfiring. By refusing to back down, Trump is actually losing support among his base. This carves out a path for leftists to present a new vision for this country, one that sees the fate of everyday people - both within and outside the US border – as deeply connected. We have an opportunity to present a political pathway where there is enough for all of us. We have an opportunity to actually win more people towards our side, and away from Trump, the fascist far right, and the political and corporate elite.
A shutdown happens when Congress cannot agree on the budget. In recent years, we’ve become used to the threat of shutdown but no president has openly called for one. In May, Trump tweeted that “our country needs a good ‘shutdown.’” Months later, he announced that he would not sign any spending bill that does not include $5.6b for a border wall - a demand that Democrats refuse to meet.
As a result, working-class people across the country - already struggling - have been pushed into an even more vulnerable position. Over 800,000 workers are being forced to work without pay – some will be reimbursed after the shutdown ends, others won’t. Families are preparing to go without food stamps – and potentially, without their tax refunds – next month.
In New York City, imprisoned people at a local jail launched a hunger strike to protest the cancellation of family visits due to staffing shortages caused by the shutdown. Others have reported that they aren’t receiving their medication.
For Native American sovereign nations, the US has failed to maintain treaty agreements due to the shutdown. As a result, guaranteed funding for programs like healthcare, education and safety are all on the brink of collapse. On the Navajo Nation, many are stuck in their homes – unable to get to the grocery store or take care of vital needs, like getting to a pharmacy – because ploughs aren’t operating in the midst of heavy snowfall.
43,000 immigration hearings have been cancelled – the number set to grow by 20,000 weekly. People have been waiting years for these hearings and are now being told they might have to wait years more.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Trump’s shutdown is a historic opportunity for real change’.