The president doesn’t seem to care about the 800,000 workers who won’t be receiving paychecks during the government shutdown
Though Trump’s decision to shut down the government may keep him in Washington for the holidays, it won’t keep taxpayers from footing a heavy portion of the bill for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party. As was noted by Quartz this week, government spending data shows that the Secret Service paid Grimes Events & Party Tents Inc. of Delray Beach, Florida, $54,020 on December 19th for “TENT RENTAL FOR MAL.” An employee of the company confirmed to Quartz that it is providing tents for the annual for-profit bash at Trump’s “Winter White House” in Palm Beach.
Americans chipping in to help Trump and the Palm Beach elite turn over their calendars isn’t unique to this year. The Secret Service spent just over $26,000 on an array of accessories for Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party in 2017, which was attended by both Trump and Melania. Though it’s never not going to be a conflict of interest when the president has taxpayers subsidize a for-profit party at his private club, $54,000 for tents feels especially egregious given that the government is currently running under a partial shutdown that has deprived approximately 800,000 federal workers of their paychecks.
Tickets to Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve party are $1,000, up from $750 a year ago, which was up from $575 the year before that. The cost of joining the club has also skyrocketed since Trump became a political figure. Shortly after he took office, former Obama ethics chief Norm Eisen described the price hike to the Washington Post as “naked profiteering that is more like something out of the era of Louis XVI.” Anyone with an extra grand lying around can essentially buy access to the president.
Given the government shutdown, it’s unclear whether Trump will make it to Florida for New Year’s Eve. After returning from a surprise visit to Iraq, Melania traveled to Palm Beach on Thursday night. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both government employees, have been vacationing at Mar-a-Lago since before Christmas. On Tuesday, the couple was photographed taking a stroll in flip-flops.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is telling the 800,000 federal employees currently out of a paycheck to turn to creditors for help paying their bills. The office even tweeted out sample letters employees can use to apply for relief.
“As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency,” read the template letters addressed to creditors, mortgage companies and landlords. “Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses.”
Earlier this week, Trump claimed that he has spoken to furloughed workers and that “many” have no problem with not getting paid, so long as it is in service of border security. On Thursday, he continued to diminish the impact of the shutdown by tweeting that “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats.” No progress has been made since the shutdown took effect the Friday before Christmas, and it is now expected to persist into 2019, possibly for weeks. On Friday, the Daily Beast reported that the White House is actually enthused about the shutdown, in that it will distract from Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives.
The president didn’t seem very concerned either when he was asked this week how long he will keep the government closed in service of funding the border wall. “Whatever it takes,” he said.
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