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The president is being told "no." He is not taking it well.

The government shutdown has gone on for three weeks.. On Friday, 800,000 people on Uncle Sam's payroll missed a paycheck because of it.

Remember when President George H.W. Bush lost his re-election race in part over a not-too-accurate report that he was unfamiliar with a grocery price scanner? That supposedly showed how out of touch he was with the lives of average Americans. Now a president can posture as a champion of the little guy and leave 800,000 people without a paycheck. That figure does not include employees who work for government contractors. These are the people who, for instance, clean federal buildings. Those contract employees will probably never get back pay.

The president insists this is because the Democrats in Congress will not give him $5.7 billion for a wall. A wall is needed for border security, he says.

Ignore the polls showing only one American voter in four supports a shutdown until some of the wall is funded. Suppose for the sake of argument the southern border needs closing off, period.

I am no expert on preventing mass migration, but there are some eastern Europeans with 38 years of practical experience. They did build a wall -- in Berlin, a densely-packed city of about 3 million people in 1961. But barbed wire and guard towers sufficed for the rest of the iron curtain from the Arctic Circle to the Adriatic starting 10 years earlier.

Now I would object to an old-fashioned iron curtain, being opposed to gunning down families and putting land mines in their way. But since 1951 we have developed electronic sensors good enough to tell a human being from a jackrabbit. According to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas -- who represents a district that includes four out of every 10 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border -- these gizmos can seal off the border better than a wall or barbed wire by alerting the Border Patrol.

So hey, why not sensors and barbed wire? We should be cost conscious. After all, we did increase the national debt -- not the deficit, the debt -- by 10 percent in the last two years during a booming economy.

Only a wall will do, says the president who thinks the solution to California wildfires involves raking.

This wall thing may be the only time Individual 1 turned down the Russian approach to anything. After all, we also learned this week his campaign chairman shared polling data with a business partner who is a likely Russian agent.

Premier Vladimir Putin wanted chaos in the United States. Whatever role he played in the election -- big, small or none -- he got it.

I am told people like me who oppose a wall are against border security. I am a mere one-113 millionth of those who voted in the last election, but I know that is not true in my case. I oppose a multi-billion dollar vanity project. The real reason for wanting a wall is because barbed wire or artfully concealed electronic sensors make a very poor backdrop for presidential re-election campaign ads.

I shall inevitably be called liberal for my mockery today, so let me address that.

Dream up a fantasy world in which President Bernie Sanders blames Republicans for an equally unpopular shutdown because lawmakers will not approve paying $5.7 billion of student debt or for climate change, gun control or some such thing. The argument I offer today would be the same. Mr. President, you are not going to get it. The opposition party has no incentive -- none -- to pay this ransom or any meaningful portion of it. Make whatever deal you can. You could have had a much better deal six months ago but everyone is dug in now.

Oh, one more thing; Shutdowns never work. How many times do we have to re-learn that?

I will now guess wildly at what will really happen. The president will declare an emergency or some other way to steer money from its lawfully appropriated purpose into a wall. Before that fails in court, he will sign some other spending measure that reopens the government. That way, he can claim the Democrats in Congress did not beat him and the law needs to be changed.

And constitutional "conservatives" who flayed the last president for governing by executive orders will have no problem with this.

Commentary on 01/12/2019

Print Headline: Federal workers are paying for it

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