President Trump shows no sign of backing down from his Fox News-inspired government shutdown over funding a border wall. Democrats are also standing firm on not funding the wall, which means this awful experiment in TV-run state is going to continue for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, federal workers are the ones suffering most directly from Trump’s shutdown.
Furloughed federal employees and those working without pay have become the face of the shutdown, sharing their stories of ruined Christmases, uncertain financial futures, and desperation. It seems the Trump administration noticed, because someone from the Office of Personnel Management (basically the HR & payroll departments for the federal workforce) tweeted some tone-deaf tips for how unpaid federal workers should get by until the shutdown is over.
Feds, here are sample letters you may use as a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough. If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney. https://t.co/t6h6OzALsS
— OPM (@USOPM) December 27, 2018
The truly genius advice from Trump’s OPM comes in the form of “sample letters” you can send to creditors or your landlord, one of which included an offer to trade menial labor in exchange for rent:
The Trump administration is recommending that furloughed federal workers offer to perform maintenance work in lieu of rent during the shutdown. https://t.co/K5aNhPQUnr
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 28, 2018
This is real advice from the OPM in a sample letter: "I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments."https://t.co/NsbRLU4s1A
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) December 28, 2018
You read that right! The Trump administration thinks the hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees should roll up their sleeves, strap on some overalls, and start hanging drywall to get by without pay.
To add insult to insult to injury, Trump’s OPM also advised workers to get their “personal attorneys” to help them negotiate some deals:
OPM believes that federal workers have personal attorneys? https://t.co/0KG96UAUSn
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) December 28, 2018
Yeah, or maybe they could borrow some cash from their personal chefs, or tell their butlers to wave off collection agencies, or have their valets sell the rattiest Rolls Royce to cover expenses! Gotta think outside the box, folks.
The slapdash tone-deaf advice got roasted on Twitter:
This is the dumbest tweet I’ve ever seen. https://t.co/yJjAQxMMDb
— sohmer (@sohmer) December 28, 2018
Ah, yes, "your personal attorney" a totally normal thing that normal people have. https://t.co/LLA4mgo6Xk
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 28, 2018
You've got to be shitting me. Will "my personal attorney" also exchange legal advice for house-cleaning services? https://t.co/i3c8KnpdJp
— David Adstutia (@DavidAdstutia) December 28, 2018
Dear Landlord, I can plunge toilets for rent $$. Sincerely, Federal Worker "One of the letters suggests the cash-strapped workers could barter handyman services in exchange for rent money." Seriously OPM, even for you this is beyond stupid. https://t.co/spSfPdcosA
— Nada Bakos (@nadabakos) December 28, 2018
How many of you have been able to settle your debts by bartering with odd jobs? That's the advice your federal government is dishing out to those affected by the #GovernmentShutdown. https://t.co/nGljXmx3Bj
— Jim Lokay FOX 5 (@LokayFOX5) December 28, 2018
I'm disabled due to a brain tumor & seizures but I'm sure my landlord would be really comfortable having me doing maintenance on apartments in my complex in exchange for rent. I'll check that out right away. Gee thanks @USOPM! https://t.co/0tuX2GUImS @TheYoungTurks #tytlive
— Dana Moretti Fairbanks, MD 🌹 (@dcfairbank) December 28, 2018
This is truly the "thoughts and prayers" of financial advice. https://t.co/pjBbdOhIw7
— Romero (@yagoromaios) December 28, 2018
I'm a pretty good lawyer, but if a furloughed federal employee came to me with this tweet and a mortgage payment they couldn't meet, I don't know what the fuck OPM expects me to do. https://t.co/kCjs1ds0K3
— Matthew Cortland, esq. (@mattbc) December 27, 2018
On day six of the #TrumpShutdown, OPM is advising govt employees to send mercy letters to creditors, consult “personal attorneys,” and barter w/landlords over rent. Americans’ lives are being upended by Trump’s temper tantrum. This is a disgrace. https://t.co/Ds7T78uIVr
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) December 27, 2018
Maybe they can trade a goat for rent, or their child into servitude to cover it.
— Kevin Panda McCumber 🐼 (@kvmc7272) December 28, 2018
But there’s more to the story. After getting brutally dunked on, OPM decided to quietly update the letters.
The original link automatically downloaded a doc file (which is rude as hell, don’t do that) titled “sample-letters-for-creditors-mortgage-companies-and-landlords.doc” that included three sample letter, the last of which included the offensive bartering strategy.
Someone swapped out the files, however. The link currently downloads a doc titled “sample-letters-for-creditors-and-mortgage-companies.doc,” with only the first two sample letters. The insulting “odd jobs” letter has mysteriously vanished. Guess someone at OPM learned that it’s not currently Tom Sawyer times and you can’t just slap a fresh coat of paint on a banister in exchange for reduced rent.
OPM hasn’t commented on the switcheroo yet, and the shutdown provides a convenient cover for their silence.
Due to a lapse in appropriations, OPM’s social media channels may not be updated or monitored.
Employees should refer to their home agency for guidance on reporting for duty.
— OPM (@USOPM) December 26, 2018
Still, federal workers deserve an answer as to why the Trump administration thinks they should (or could) perform maintenance work to cover their rent. Donald Trump and Jared Kushner were actual landlords (and bad ones) and if you think either of them would ever agree to a deal like that, I have a bridge to sell you with very affordable rent rates!
Imagine working at a place where lapses in pay are so common that they provide you with sample letters to give to your landlord and your credit card company. https://t.co/7SMEMurPU8
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) December 28, 2018
Full-time federal employees will receive back pay once this grotesque shutdown (the third of this year when Republicans control Congress and the presidency!) is over. However, the damage to the federal workforce could be considerable. How many civil servants are going to stick around working for a government Republicans keep breaking to make their rabid base—and the right-wing media that keeps them that way—feel like they’re accomplishing something?