Like many civilian federal employees, I watched with great apprehension as our nation’s lawmakers came to a last minute agreement this past Friday night on the fiscal year 2011 budget. It’s difficult to put into words how disappointed, and thoroughly disgusted, I would have been had our elected officials been unable to avoid a federal government shutdown. As a federal civilian employee, I am one of the approximately 800,000 civil servants that could have been furloughed as a result of the inability of our nation’s “leadership” to reach a consensus and pass a budget that would satisfy the demands of both parties. I appreciate our lawmaker’s efforts to reach a last minute deal. However, reaching an agreement does not negate the finger pointing and partisan politics that placed undue burden and stress on so many people’s lives.
I believe that we do need to start doing things smarter. This country cannot continue to spend the way it does. I understand the need for a budget that reflects fiscal responsibility and I applaud our nation’s lawmakers for finally realizing this and trying to do something about it. However, the efforts of our elected officials come too little too late for this budget. In a few days, we will actually be closer to fiscal year 2012 than the beginning of fiscal year 2011. The end no longer justifies the means when the means paralyze government, adversely impacting the people of this country.
One bright spot in what could have been a more disastrous situation is the Tea Party movement has revealed, at least for me, its true colors. At one time, I believed the Tea Party movement was good for this country. Now, it’s clear to me the Tea Party movement is only interested in advancing its own ultra-conservative agenda. Sadly, some members of the Tea Party movement, to include lawmakers and supporters, actually advocated a federal government showdown:
“I’m not the slightest bit worried about a government shutdown,” Tea Party supporter Robin Maas said at a March 31 rally in Washington. “I think we find out that there are many things government does that we really don’t need to keep this country going. And a government shutdown would actually save us some money.” (Cohen, 2011)
Statements like this highlight just how out of touch, misinformed, and short-sighted Tea Party supporters truly are. I don’t know what Ms. Maas does for a living. Based on her lack of worry however, it’s safe to assert her livelihood does not depend on the federal government’s operation. I would love to hear how she came to the conclusion that a government shutdown would save us money. On the contrary, there exists the likelihood a government shutdown would actually end up costing more in the long run (Riley, 2011).
Those in favor of a shutdown, or those that believe they would not be adversely affected by a federal government shutdown, simply just don’t get it. They live in a world of false consciousness. We do not live in a society whose parts are separate and independent of other societal aspects. Adverse effects upon one facet of society will ultimately affect all aspects of society in some way, shape, or form. Those whose livelihood does not depend on the federal government may not be affected immediately. However, in the long term, we will all bear the brunt in some way, shape, or form, of those that will be directly impacted.
Those in favor of a federal government shutdown, as well as those that do not think they will be adversely affected by a shutdown, miss the ultimate point. We should never find ourselves faced with the prospect of a federal government shutdown, much less an actual shutdown. We expect, and pay our elected officials to make timely, difficult decisions that ensure our federal government remains in operation. When lawmakers are either unwilling, or incapable, of doing this, it will be we the people that will pay for our lawmaker’s inability to act. Ironically, while federal civilian federal employees sit at home against their will, not drawing a paycheck, the inept lawmakers that ensured a shutdown will continue to be paid.
Contrary to the popular belief of many, the average civilian federal employee is not a millionaire. Many of those that will be furloughed live paycheck to paycheck. While our lawmakers continue to draw their six figure salary, many federal civilian employees run the risk of not being able to pay their mortgages, rent, and car payment…as well as those other “extravagances”, like food. Let us not forget about our military members, who will continue to report for duty, maintaining the safety and security of this country…without pay. Now, in addition to worrying about snipers and IED’s, our combat troops incur the additional stress of worrying about whether or not their families at home have enough money to eat. While Tea Party supporter Robin Maas has the luxury of not being “the slightest bit worried about a government shutdown”, others are not so fortunate.
A federal government shutdown won’t go on forever. While it may feel like forever for some, the reality is the day will come when our inept “leaders” in Washington pull their heads out of their anal orifices and come to a consensus. In doing so, both Democrats and Tea Party (formerly known as the Republican Party) will claim “victory”, they will tout their party as “the good guys”, and life will return to “normal”…or will it?
By itself, the federal civilian workforce is small in numbers. However, we are strong in voice and action. When combined with members of the armed forces and their families, we are a political force to be reckoned with. Incumbents, as well as those lawmakers currently on the Tea Party movement payroll, take heed. In the event of a federal government shutdown, we will not forget the names of those that took money from our pockets, food from our family’s plates come Election Day.
Cohen, T. (2011, April 6). Tea Party: Bring on a government shutdown . Retrieved April 7, 2011, from CNN: Tea Party: Bring on a government shutdown
Riley, C. (2011, April 7). The price of a shutdown. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from CNNMoney.com: http://money.cnn.com/2011/04/07/news/economy/government_shutdown_cost/index.htm?hpt=T2