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There are few winners in the US government shutdown. Two weeks in and everyone’s domestic approval ratings are falling, and America’s reputation has taken a global hit.
But for Seeking Arrangement, a website that unites sugar daddies with gold diggers, Washington’s paralysis is proving something of a bonanza. The site, which describes itself as America’s “most reliable resource for the rich and the beautiful”, told National Public Radio that its registrations have soared in the past week. The jolt of the partial shutdown has, Seeking Arrangement claims, deepened economic anxiety among young women, some of whom were turning to kind elderly gentlemen to help them out. Or something like that.
“My sugar daddy is the sweetest man I know,” posted one unnamed student on the site. “He is my mentor, my benefactor and my lover.” Compared with the federal government, he sounds like a blast.
But the shuttering of Washington has also prompted more conventional remedies. Congress has declared that all federal employees will get back pay once government reopens.
Given Capitol Hill’s record, many of the compulsory vacationers are hedging their bets. According to the District of Columbia, 14,000 people applied for unemployment insurance last week – against an average of 600 a week during normal times. In neighbouring Maryland, where many federal employees live, claims last week surged to 24,000 – about six times the state’s average. If this carries on for several weeks, many more Americans will start to feel the pinch.
But whatever fiscal deal Congress eventually reaches to unshutter government, it should be sure to include a surcharge on sugar daddies. As kindly souls, they will no doubt want to compensate for having free-ridden on the crisis. It could be called the “shutdown windfall tax”.
I don’t know about you, but if I were single and my boss told me I was “non-essential” I’d keep my eyes peeled for other sources of income. Being deemed “essential”, however, must be comforting. Fox News, the conservative TV channel, sees the crisis as a “government slimdown”.
But according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which draws up the partial shutdown’s often arbitrary rules, just 212 of the 4,193 employees at the Department of Education are at their desks. That sounds like a starvation diet. And 317,000 of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 332,000 staff have been sent home. On the other hand, the Internal Revenue Service is running at almost full pelt. Only 8,752 of its 94,516 employees have been furloughed. And it seems no one will notice the difference. “The IRS will accept and process all tax returns,” the agency said. “But we will be unable to issue refunds during this time.”
Meanwhile, spare a thought for those who are now working alone. Only one of the 63 employees at the Office of Government Ethics has been required to show up. Let’s hope the others are behaving themselves.
I like trucking
Anger about Washington’s hopeless dysfunction is bubbling up in some unusual places. This Friday 3,000 furious truck drivers plan to converge on Washington’s beltway – the highway that encircles the capital – and clog it up. They will leave one lane free for essential government workers and any motorist bearing the sign “T2SDA” – “Truckers to shut down America”.
Given usual conditions on the beltway, it is unclear whether motorists will notice. But the “Truckers for the Constitution” group, do not plan to stop at honking. “The stage is now set for what we now consider the last peaceful defensive stand in a war that has been declared by Wall Street, Washington and the White House upon the American people,” it says. Earl Conlon, spokesman for the truckers, says they plan to get law enforcement agencies to arrest members of Congress for having criminally failed in their duties.
It is unclear what role the trucks will play in the police operation. But there will be a “grand jury of truckers” to determine which lawmakers should be indicted.
So there we have it. Washington is closed for business. Refuse is piling up on the National Mall. And thousands of angry truckers are heading our way. As they say in the US military, Situation Normal: All Fudged Up. Or words to that effect.
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