Former US President George W. Bush has taken an unprecedented step, and spoken out against Donald Trump’s government shutdown.
Bush delivered pizzas on Friday to federal workers who aren’t being paid but are still working due to the shutdown that has entered its 28th day.
Bush posted a photo of himself on social media as he made the generous delivery.
He has also called for an end to the shutdown.
“It’s time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown,” Bush wrote.
Bush also singled out members of the Secret Service, who still travel with him and watch over his home in Dallas, Texas.
“Laura Bush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of Federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck,” Bush wrote.
“And we thank our fellow citizens who are supporting them.”
The shutdown affects 800,000 federal employees as the war between Trump and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues.
Pay the unemployed their benefits
Bush’s comments come as the Democratic governors of Michigan, New York and Washington on Friday asked the Trump administration to let states offer unemployment benefits to federal employees who are working without pay during the partial government shutdown that began nearly a month ago.
Governors Gretchen Whitmer, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee said in a joint statement that their states are providing the benefits to furloughed workers.
But federal regulations prevent those who are on the job without pay from eligibility.
After four weeks, the partial shutdown of the US government has begun to rattle the world’s largest economy, particularly hitting consumer sentiment, a mainstay of growth.
A closely-watched monthly consumer survey on Friday touched its lowest level since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, suffering its biggest one-month drop in more than six years, according to University of Michigan economists.
Americans have less confidence in the economy’s strength in 2019, as Trump battles on Democratic politicians over funding for a wall on the Mexican border.
The shutdown, which began December 22, directly affects only 0.5 per cent of the labour force, but indirectly, it is beginning to hit morale for more than half of US consumers, according to the report.
When government operations resume, federal workers should ordinarily get back pay. But this may not be true for contractors, who could have to eat the loss.
As the work stoppage continues, economists have progressively raised their estimates for its cost to GDP growth.
White House economists doubled their estimate early this week, determining that after a month, the shutdown would shave a half percentage point off the first quarter.
Influential central banker John Williams, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, upped the ante on Friday, saying the first quarter could lose a full percentage point.
“It is going to be a drag on consumer spending and the economy in the first quarter directly, enough to pull growth down by up to a half percentage, or maybe even a percentage point, if it continues,” he told a local banking conference, according to Bloomberg.
Fundamentals are solid
Nevertheless, Williams said there could be a post-shutdown rebound, as had been the case in the past.
The battle over wall funding coincides with other clouds on the horizon, as a recent Fed survey showed.
The US-China trade war, sharp volatility on stock markets that left the major Wall Street indices in correction for a month, and fumbled public statements from the central bank also made investors shudder.
With a slowing global economy and trade uncertainties, the Fed for now expects 2.3 per cent growth in 2019, down sharply from the growth of about three per cent expected for 2018.
Forecasts for the first quarter of this year are not yet available.
The fundamentals of the economy remain sound, analysts say, even if much economic data — including home and retail sales or the trade deficit — is not being produced during the shutdown.
Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, said in an analytical note on Friday that some were sure to claim the Michigan survey “signals an imminent recession.” But he said the index had already been too high in recent months, meaning it was due to fall.
“Further, while growth in outlays will slow in 2019, a strong labour market, firming wage growth, lower prices at the pump and reduced mortgage rates remain supportive of momentum,” he wrote.
Williams of the New York Fed likewise said in a speech on Friday that the situation looked good.
“The economy is strong, the outlook is healthy, and my number one priority is using monetary policy to keep it that way,” he said.