Emil Guillermo: Furloughed Asian American federal workers blame President Shutdown; and painting DC Spalding Gray

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Any federal workers out there? I’m sorry you don’t have a wall around the president to protect you from this new U.S. phenomenon: the payless pay period.

Zero point Zero-Zero is a triple-placeholder that does not compute as a fair wage for honest work.

I have two close friends in Washington who are hanging in there.

They work in the federal government, so I shall protect their identities.

One is luckier than the other. Friend No.1’s job is with one of those departments that got appropriated in the fall. Nine other departments , like Interior, are caught in this shutdown. So Friend No.1 has a check.  Friend No. 2 is in the latter category.

“Today was my first missed paycheck,” said No. 2. “One paycheck is doable. But I’m hoping we’ll get our next paycheck on Jan.25.”

Based on what happened Friday, I guess it’s possible. But I’d say unlikely. It presupposes President Shutdown comes to his senses.

Here’s one thing we’ve learned. It’s hard to negotiate with a congenital liar. Trump said he’d own the shutdown. Then he didn’t. He said Mexico would pay. Then he tried to weasel out of that (sorry, I should be more respectful to weasels than to compare them to a sitting truth-challenged president).

Friend No. 2, a highly-educated federal worker, had this opinion of the President Shutdown’s tactics: “It’s a ridiculous way to have a policy argument! POTUS can’t get something appropriated via Congress so he shuts down the government? Apparently, he can’t win on the merits of an argument, so he has to hold the wages of 800,000 workers hostage.”

Friend No. 2 was just getting started.

“[Trump] seized on an elegant and powerful symbol during the campaign—the wall,” No.2 said. “But like Mario Cuomo said, ‘You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.’ Trump boxed himself in with something so blunt and unworkable. Now he looks like a chump to his base for not being able to cough it up.”

Well, Trump was the least qualified person to ascend to the presidency. And now we know how he bankrupted a slam dunk like his Atlantic City casinos, where the house always has an edge. Unless it’s run by Trump.

I say he’s looking for a fig leaf big enough for his ego. But who’s going to throw him one first?

Some Republicans are suggesting a fake emergency court delay that gives Trump an exit plan to open up the government. Some are suggesting a deal involving funding for DACA, but the same white nationalist base he’s trying to placate hates DACA more than a wall.

A wall is a wall. DACA recipients are real persons of color. The base will never go for it.

It’s hard to see anyone but the Republicans forcing Trump to be reasonable. They have leverage on Trump. But Republicans need to revolt and push to re-open government for the country’s good. Conservatives must be conflicted. They are getting to live their “No government/Small government” fantasy. So anything Republicans have done is sort of half-hearted–besides voting themselves a tax cut that will raise the U.S. Treasury Department’s estimate of the federal deficit in FY2019 to more than $1 trillion.

Republicans should be motivated to have a heart-to-heart with the man New York Times columnist Tom Friedman just called an “ignoramous” on cable news. GOP Rep. Tim Scott is concerned about his fellow Republicans’ silence on Iowa Congressman Steve King and his racist remarks. They all ought to be more concerned with silence over Trump.

Democrats have shown what it’s like to negotiate with a liar. But Pelosi and pals have a little ways to go before they reach “a pox on both houses” territory. If they don’t budge–and why should they–it remains Trump’s tantrum until further notice.

And that means more pain ahead.

The longer President Shutdown is unmovable, the more our federal workers, Asian Americans among them, are the real victims.

Tickets are available for my solo theater show, “Emil Amok: Sex and Affirmative Action.“

Come see it Jan. 27, Feb. 1, and Feb. 7th in San Francisco. And if you’re not in SF, tell your friends there. Or bring me to your town!

For reading this, use the special discount code:


I have often called my show “Spalding Gray meets Ferdinand Marcos.” My dad is from Marcos’ home town and he tells the story.  But 1-11-19 is a bittersweet day because it marks the 15th year of Gray’s passing. I’m not feeling blue. I’m thinking about painting my house.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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