The Human Costs of a Government Shut Down

Many of my regular readers know that I lived in the D.C. area for many years; close to 20 in fact.  I recently moved back to my home state in New England.  For many months after first moving here I had been told many times by someone I had left the bubble and was experiencing the real world.  This discussion was mostly referring to the effects of the economy.

It isn’t that I never knew that I lived in a bubble while in Northern Virginia.  For instance, I knew that finding a job in that little area of the world was much easier than many others around the country.  The unemployment rate in the D.C. area was only around 5% even when the rest of the country was well over 8%.  There were foreclosures, layoffs, and the like in the area; but they were able to absorb it better.  Most people got through it without a huge problem.  There are jobs available in the area, maybe not great paying jobs, but you can find something.  Not so much in the state I am in now.  Jobs, even just part-time, are hard to come by.  I went to a very large mall on Friday evening and the place was dead.  That isn’t the case at Tyson’s Mall just outside of D.C., the place was almost always busy.

So I have kind of a unique perspective on the looming government shut down.  I am conservative and I want to see Obamacare repealed.  I want to see government spending under control, I want to see waste done away with.  But I also know the real human side to a government shut down and how it will affect everyday people.  Many of these people don’t work for the government.  They work for private contractors and they clean the floors at the Smithsonian’s.  I don’t know how much they make, but I doubt it is in the range of six figures.  They also work for the cafe’s that are around the government buildings.  I know that not everyone that works on the hill makes a big salary.  Many of the people who work on the Hill are young, passionate people who make just enough to live on and enjoy a few things around the D.C. area, but not much more.  Now they will get back pay if the government shuts down.  Or at least that has been the pattern in the past, although there is no law that states that has to happen.  That will take an act of congress.

About 50% of the Department of Defense are civilian employees who work for government contractors.  They get no back pay, unless of course it was the contracts to start with.  I know many government contractors and not one of them told me that such a provision exists in their contracts.  They will get no back pay, and remember, they are already living on shortened hours due to sequestration.

I also know that there are hot dog vendors that have nothing to do with the government except that a big part of their business depends on people who do.  Babysitters, dog walkers, restaurant staff, hotel staff, vendors who sell T-shirts and trinkets.  There are National Parks all over the country that have campgrounds and hotels that depend on the traffic that those parks bring.  There are also federal buildings all over the country, not just in D.C., the businesses that surround those buildings will feel exactly the same thing, possibly on a smaller scale.

I am all for making cuts to the government, but I am also very much aware that those cuts have to be done in a methodical way.  We can’t just wake up tomorrow and say shut it all down and act like that won’t have a rippling effect to people who are just like you and me, struggling to make ends meet.

This is a failure of both parties.  These people knew when these dates were coming, and instead of working to avoid these issues, they forge ahead in order to score cheap political points that ends up hurting everyday people.  Many of which who pay no attention to politics, more than likely some of which don’t even bother to vote.  They are just living their lives.

The GOP may be able to get a one year delay on the individual mandate.  I am not holding my breath on it, but it is in the realm of possibility.  To me they should be going after spending cuts, because at the end of the day Obamacare isn’t going anywhere until it is fully repealed.  That ain’t happening until you have a congress that is willing to pass it and a president that is willing to sign it.  The earliest that will happen is in January of 17.

My point is say we close the government down for say a month trying to force Obama to give, at best, a one year delay on the mandate, just remember, that there will be people who won’t be able to pay their rent or their credit card bills.  The restaurants and delis that depend on the government employees to stay open may end up closing if they can’t make up the income from another area.  Wait staff at these restaurants won’t make their normal salaries or could potentially lose their jobs.

It is very easy to say that the average person won’t even know that the government shut down when you aren’t one of these people.  When it isn’t your livelihood that it is at stake.  For those that think it is worth it to prove a point about Obamacare, that is primarily mandatory spending by the way, just think of those people.  If you are in the D.C. area, put your money where your mouth is and go and visit some of these businesses, they will need it.

Call me a Rino if you will, but as I said, I have a unique perspective from living and working in the D.C. area for so long.  I have a Facebook friend who is a government contractor, she just got back to work after having a baby.  She is vet who served her country and pays hers taxes.  She is also a person who doesn’t have a great deal of money in the pot to pay her bills during a long shut down, and she isn’t alone.   There will be a human cost to this shut down.  Even if agree with it, don’t ignore that these people exist.  Just remember, these people are no different from you and me, everyday people who work hard and are getting a raw deal by our very dysfunctional government.