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These Are Not Very Bright Guys

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President Donald Trump examines a fire truck from Wisconsin-based manufacturer Pierce on the South Lawn during a “Made in America” product showcase event at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Olivier Douliery (Photo credit should read OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration had no idea what the shutdown they engineered would actually entail:

The Trump administration’s shutdown of the federal government over the last two weeks is a synecdoche for the way it has run the federal government over the last two years. They blundered into it almost by accident, without any understanding of what they are doing nor any plan for success.

Just as Trump did not expect to win the election and neglected to plan for his transition, he shut down the government on a whim, after right-wing media complained about his plan to approve a government funding bill. Nobody in the administration had a clear understanding of just what a shutdown would entail. Two devastating reports in the Washington Post over the weekend detail the horrifying scope of their ignorance. The administration did not realize that 38 million Americans lose their food stamps under a shutdown, nor did it know that thousands of tenants would face eviction without assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Administration officials “recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact,” reports the Post, and was “focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.” First Trump shut down the government, and then the Trump administration started looking into what effect this would have.

It’s likely the administration was lulled into complacency by a previous, abbreviated shutdown that took place in early 2018. This interruption in funding lasted only a few days and had barely any effect. Perhaps the administration assumed a longer shutdown would work the same way, but, you know, more of it. The reality is that the effects of a shutdown compound over time. Government agencies can creatively stretch their budgets to mask gaps in funding, but at some point, their capacity to maintain services snaps. The relationship between the length of a shutdown and its impact is not linear. A 30-day shutdown is not ten times as damaging as a three-day shutdown. It is probably 100 times as damaging.The impending reality of millions of Americans going hungry and homeless is just one aspect of the horrors that await us. At some point, the shutdown will impinge upon Trump’s C-suite constituency. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration have had to work without pay, but that cannot continue indefinitely. Already, employees at some airports have begun staging sick-outs. At some point, air travel will grind to a halt, and with it large segments of the economy. By next month, tax refunds will be in jeopardy.

Facing an economic cataclysm, Trump appears to have no endgame in mind. He told Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer he would “look foolish” if he agreed to reopen the government without extracting concessions. But Democrats have no incentive to give him any. Voters in general tend to blame the president for problems. This holds true even when Congress is responsible for the problems, but it especially holds true when the president personally engineers the calamityand announces beforehand on camera that he won’t blame the other side for it.

Making resolving this even more difficult is that 1)Trump is an idiot and con man whose ability to negotiate effectively with people with any leverage was a pure media-created fiction, and 2)the people who care most about immigration restrictions don’t actually care about Trump’s wall and don’t want him to trade anything for it, so any deal will get attacked by de facto co-Presidents Doocy and Carlson.

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