2023年12月14日 星期四

Americans Are Too Turned Off by Washington to Even Complain 美國人對華府反感到懶得再抱怨

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2023/12/15 第463期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份
紐時周報精選 Americans Are Too Turned Off by Washington to Even Complain 美國人對華府反感到懶得再抱怨
Federal Firefighters Face Steep Pay Cuts 大火頻發反遭大減薪 美聯邦消防員火大
Americans Are Too Turned Off by Washington to Even Complain 美國人對華府反感到懶得再抱怨
文/Jack Healy, J. David Goodman


Whitney Smith's phone buzzed with a text from her mother, alerting her to the latest can-you-believe-it mess in Washington: "Far right ousted the House speaker. Total chaos now."


Smith, 35, a bookkeeper and registered independent in suburban Phoenix, wanted no part of it. She tries to stay engaged in civic life by voting, volunteering in local campaigns and going to city meetings. But over the past week, the pandemonium of a narrowly averted government shutdown and leadership coup in the Republican-controlled House confirmed many Americans' most cynical feelings about the federal government.


"It was just like, Oh God, what now?" she said.


Griping about politics is a time-honored American pastime — but lately, the country's political mood has plunged to some of the worst levels on record.


After weathering the tumult of the Trump presidency, a pandemic, the Capitol insurrection, inflation, multiple presidential impeachments and far-right Republicans' pervasive lies about fraud in the 2020 election, voters say they feel tired and angry.


In dozens of recent interviews across the country, voters young and old expressed a broad pessimism about the next presidential election that transcends party lines, as well as a teetering faith in political institutions.


The White House and Congress have pumped out billions of dollars to fix and improve the nation's roads, ports, pipelines and internet. They have approved hundreds of billions to combat climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs. President Joe Biden has canceled billions more in student debt. Yet those accomplishments have not fully registered with voters.


Voters said that Washington infighting and the Republicans' flirtation with debt default and government shutdowns recklessly put people's paychecks, health care and benefits at risk at a moment when they are preoccupied with how to pay rising health care and grocery bills, or to cope with a fast-warming climate unleashing natural disasters in nearly every corner of the nation.


"Disgust isn't a strong enough word," said Bianca Vara, a Democrat and grandmother of five in the Atlanta area who runs a stall at a flea market that crackles with discussions of politics.


Federal Firefighters Face Steep Pay Cuts 大火頻發反遭大減薪 美聯邦消防員火大
文/Madeleine Ngo

大火頻發反遭大減薪 美聯邦消防員火大

Thousands of federal firefighters could face substantial pay cuts in the coming weeks, potentially hampering the country's ability to respond to wildfires as they have grown more severe.


Federal wildland firefighters received a temporary boost to their paychecks last year, which was meant to help strained agencies offer more competitive wages to recruit and retain workers. But funding for the pay raises is set to run dry next month, and federal officials have warned that more firefighters will leave for higher-paying jobs if their salaries are slashed.


In 2021, President Joe Biden raised the minimum wage for wildland firefighters to $15 an hour from $13. Congress then agreed to increase firefighter pay by either 50% of a worker's base salary or $20,000 a year, whichever was lower.


The typical base salary for an entry-level wildland firefighter is about $34,000 without the supplement, according to Agriculture Department data.


The temporary supplement was intended to serve as a "bridge for two years as the administration works with Congress on longer-term reforms," according to a White House statement. While there is some bipartisan support for a permanent pay raise, it is unclear whether Congress will approve an increase.


Republicans are pushing for deep spending cuts, and disagreements over funding levels nearly led to a government shutdown late last month. The removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House speaker has also thrown that chamber into disarray, raising the chances of a shutdown next month.


The pay cuts are looming at a moment when climate change has intensified the risk of wildfires, which have grown larger, spread faster and become more destructive in recent years. Warmer temperatures and drier conditions have also led to longer fire seasons, increasing the burden on federal firefighters who respond to both fires on federal land and assist state and local fire departments.


The federal government has long struggled to hire firefighters, largely because wages have lagged behind some state and local counterparts. Many workers could also earn more money at less strenuous jobs.


The National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents about 10,000 wildland firefighters, has estimated that 30% to 50% of the workforce could resign if salary increases end.


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