Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gov't Shutdown Can't Stop Us! (I hope...)

By now you've probably heard about that teensy little government shutdown thing going on over there in the good ole U.S. of A.

Small thing, really.

Unless, of course, you're one of the 800,000 people who just got laid off because a small group of congresspeople decided it was time to take their ball and go home if nobody was going to let them have their way. Or, you know, unless you're one of the millions of people who relies on one of those 800,000 people to cure your disease or forecast your weather or arrest those bad guys or defend those innocent folks or any number of things federal employees do for us every single day.

There's not much I can say about the government shutdown that hasn't already been said by people much smarter than me. I do fear for our little experiment in democracy if it's this easy for a small band of jack holes to hold an entire country hostage because they don't happen to like one particular law. A legal law. You know, that was passed and signed and made real and upheld and everything, all legal-like. It troubles me, really it does. As it should you - whether or not you count yourself among those 800,000 people who now have to decide whether to buy groceries or pay their electricity bills, because they can't do both with zero income.

We're both government workers, too. We're actually better off than some of those other government workers, though, because we work for the U.S. Department of State, which, because of the way its internal budget works, actually has enough money in its coffers to keep crawling along for a few (days? weeks? nobody seems able to say how long) while we wait for a handful of people in Congress to come to their senses already.

My husband works in law enforcement, overseas, in Baghdad, so his job is considered "essential." That sounds impressive, doesn't it? But really, what it means is that he is required to show up for work, every day, but they are not required to pay him. Right now, he's still getting paid, though not nearly as much as he is owed.

Here's the problem we've been facing over here, on a personal level. He is supposed visit us this Thursday. This Thursday! That's two days away! His first visit since he left us way back in June. He has the plane ticket - it was bought with last year's funds. But as soon as his plane lifts off of Iraqi dirt, he ceases to be essential, and his paycheck disappears. No more pay until he gets back to Iraq. That's right: he is not allowed to take the vacation days that he earned, and to which he is entitled. He can leave, sure. But good luck with your mortgage payments, sir.

We talked about this - agonized, even. Because, let's face it: we have a mortgage and four kids to put through college. We save every penny we can. Sure, we can dip into our emergency funds to cover the shortfall. We can... but should we have to?

In the end, we decided we need to do it. We just need to take the hit and get him back here. The kids already knew he was coming, and they've been planning all sorts of daddy-centered events. Neither of us could bear the thought of telling them that he's not coming after all.

So he's coming. In just a few days, for just a few days, he'll be here with us in Amman. We'll make it work, but DAMN! We shouldn't have to.

It's funny, you know. Even over here, I can read the coverage of the shutdown, and everyone is complaining about those terrible people in Washington, fighting over our country. Yes: they are, geographically speaking, in Washington. But they're not from Washington. They are our nation's elected officials, all of whom came to Washington from wherever they were elected.

We're stuck with them now. Maybe you voted for one of them? Look it up: if it was one of your representatives who decided to push our whole country off of a cliff just to try to make some sort of point, well, then, it's sort of your fault, isn't it now?

Look it up: if it was one of your representatives who did this, you should be writing, and calling, and pledging your last dollar to support someone else the next time around, someone who takes our country's commitment to democracy a bit more seriously.

Meanwhile, I'll be over here in Amman, waiting impatiently for my husband to wing his way back to us, and hoping to see another paycheck soon.


izz said... [Reply]

Really appreciate your post, Donna. I read the daily DoS press briefing transcripts and have been pleasantly surprised by how vociferously State has spoken out against the shutdown "tactics" employed by some lawmakers.

Hope Bart gets home to you all safe and sound. All the DS staff and families are in my thoughts.

Kate said... [Reply]

Ugh. Cannot even tell you how annoyed I am, but glad you at least get to finally see your husband, just sorry it's under such crappy circumstances. My old man is not even allowed to buy his plane ticket home next month.

Hannelene www.vitalmommy.com said... [Reply]

Well said.

Please. Write your own stuff.