Tracy Mitrano, Democratic candidate for Congress (NY-23rd), says the recent government shutdown exposed some hard truths about the US economy.
“The desperation voiced by furloughed and unpaid federal workers highlighted the numbers of people in safe, middle-class jobs who are living paycheck to paycheck,” Mitrano says. “What does that tell us about people in our district? What does that suggest about the true strength of the Trump economy? What does it say about how much people can save toward retirement and how we’re going to take care of them in the years to come?”
Mitrano, who opposes the use of shutdowns to achieve political goals, cites five takeaways from the experience:
1. There was a local impact. “We have major IRS offices in Elmira and Jamestown, and those workers were furloughed,” says Mitrano. “The TSA workers at our passenger airports continued working, but they were not paid for more than a month. And most importantly for a district that is 97 percent rural, we have farmers all over the 23rd who could not get credit, advice, or contact with the USDA.”
2. It showed that “even people in safe middle-class jobs can have trouble making ends meet if they miss a paycheck,” says Mitrano. “If middle-class earners across the US are struggling, residents of New York’s 23rd are probably doing even worse.” The median household income in the 23rd district is about $48,000, well below the national median of $57,617. People with lower incomes rely on the federal government for food, shelter, medical care and other necessities. “When so many people are living so close to bone, what is the rational for shutting down the government with nothing to show for it but suffering and a permanent debt of $3 billion?"
3. New Yorkers care about one another. “We saw an example of that when the Lansing Food Pantry provided relief for TSA workers at the Ithaca airport,” Mitrano says, “Similar efforts happened around the district.”
4. SNAP benefits for February were distributed early, but “if the shutdown had continued, 18 percent of the households in Cattaraugus County would have been without food support,” says Mitrano, citing a county-by-county map produced by the program. “One in six people nationally go hungry on any given day; in the 23rd, it is probably closer to one in four. It’s clear that our district has greater need of direct federal support to families than of repealing the estate tax.”
5. Republicans still don’t get it. “[Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross isn’t the only one making let-them-eat-cake statements about the shutdown,” Mitrano says. “Congressman Tom Reed, who voted for the shutdown and hopes you’ll forget that, called it ‘political theater.’ I guess workers with hungry children were the extras.” At a panel discussion Friday, area state Senator Cathy Young reportedly suggested that “We could use a government shutdown in Albany.”
“No doubt Senator Young will say she was joking,” says Mitrano. “But in the aftermath of a shutdown that left millions of Americans feeling insecure about their jobs and finances, it is not funny. We need to stop toeing the party line and pay more than lip service to solutions that work for people.”