Everyday Life

Shutdown! Shut Out! Reflections of a Federal Government Worker

Well, I’m currently out of work. Rent is due today.

But what if I refuse to pay the rent UNLESS my landlord agrees to change the lease, lower the rent, give me my security deposit back, allow for pets and let me borrow his car once a week to pick up groceries? Better yet, no rent will be forthcoming unless he immediately cancels the lease, sets it on fire and allows me to decide how much rent I feel like paying each month. No? I simply won’t take no for an answer, even if it means I’ll be evicted

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next month.

I’m really tired of being thrown under the bus by these backward-thinking extortionists in the House of Representatives. Today America is really, literally broken. Still, I hope that congressional leaders and the president do not appease the hostage takers. That would be a very bad precedent to set for future congresses and presidents. Paying the ransom would only encourage the hostage takers to exact more demands the next time rent is due, no

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matter how unrealistic or unrelated the demands may be. The DC gridlock would continue indefinitely. It’s BAD FAITH to include the same poisonous pills in what should be routine legislation to keep the government running and pay the bills that are already racked up.

Who cares about election results? Who cares what the Supreme Court says? If you don’t agree to X, Y and Z, we will blow up the government and force the first default in American history! What kind of governing is that? Is that a democratic way to resolve disagreements?

House Speaker John Boehner refused to let the House vote to temporarily keep the government open at the current sequester levels, with no other strings attached, just to buy time to negotiate an actual budget. But because this approach would not destroy Obamacare, the Tea Party has instructed Boehner to block it. Why won’t Boehner allow the democratic process to play out in a full House vote, like the Senate did? Because the simple stop-gap bill would pass with BI-PARTISAN support, throwing the Tea Party destructionists into a tizzy. His job as Speaker would be in jeopardy.

Playing into the House’s new approach to negotiating a budget and paying the bills would reward and promote a new and destructive form of governing–one that is completely undemocratic. Democracy CANNOT work this way. It’s closer to how terrorists do business. The full faith and credit of the United States just doesn’t seem to matter to them. It’s only a bargaining chip to be used to force their narrow vision on the rest of the country, without going through

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the electoral and legislative processes that are established by our Constitution. So much for the rule of law! The US and global economies be damned.

Public servants work hard to help their families, neighbors and perfect strangers live better lives. That’s the point of choosing a career in public service. To give something back to the community. To empower your fellow citizens to make things better. To ensure that laws are enforced–laws that Congress passed to make sure buildings and bridges don’t collapse, to make sure your food won’t make you sick or kill you, to keep the air and water safe, the list goes on and on. Because of their work we are undoubtedly safer, healthier, smarter, faster, more productive. Public servants, like most contemporary Americans, believe their government should be there to help people and communities and businesses work together in mutually beneficial ways. Public service should be an honor, a privilege, something worthy of respect.

But then these friends and neighbors, who work for you, start hearing from some in Congress that they are out-of-control, greedy, lazy, job-killing leeches who do nothing more than push worthless papers around all day in pursuit of destroying liberty and freedom, providing no real service or value to anyone except themselves. They wonder how they could have become the enemy. They wonder why they are being blamed for things that are not their fault. They wonder why their paychecks are being cut while the true culprits of fiscal insanity walk away and get fatter. They wonder: “Why do I care anymore?”

So, with that, I’m heading into my office to close down. I’ll change my voicemail and email messages, get all of my stuff from the fridge and lock my door. Clean air will have to wait for another day. This is EXACTLY what many House Republicans have been dreaming about since 2010. And it’s all on the record, well-documented history in the making. The battle for the soul of America rages on. It’s time to confront the hostage-takers and to show them there will be NO RANSOM in exchange for simply doing their jobs, performing their most basic constitutional duties.

Maybe I’ll be back to work tomorrow, or the next day, or. . . . But in a sense the damage is already done. A small minority found a way to throw the whole country over the edge, and they didn’t flinch when executing their plan. A group of legislators clearly demonstrated that they do not care about democracy or value the rule of law. Well, I still do care. And I’ll wait here until I’m authorized to participate in my democracy and uphold the rule of law again.

To the House GOP: Negotiating in bad faith is NOT negotiating at all. Stop holding the country hostage. Do your basic job and keep the government running, pay the bills. Then sit down and figure out how to resolve your differences in an intelligent, professional and CONSTRUCTIVE manner. This means having to compromise, and not bringing the rest of the country down with you when you fail to get 100% of what you want.


  • Andrew Bannister

    I hope everyone who sees this shares it — we are only feeling the first wave of consequence from this shutdown. What if it persists? What if his landlord, in turn, fails to pay his rent? Who would headquarter a new company in this environment? No guarantee that we can fairly and lawfully facilitate safe and healthy commerce. In time, we will still need to borrow money to fund our government, but because of this we might pay more to do it — can the faction in the House see that their disdain for national debt is only driving a further increase in national debt? The story of America is being written — help to make it one of success. Great article Erick.

  • Scott

    As the “partial” shutdown continues, it comes as no surprise that Congress’s approval rating has dipped to just 5%. That is a ridiculous and disturbing number. Yet could a 0% percent approval rate be around the corner? It seems within the realm of possibility.

  • http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

    As the debt limit crisis comes to a critical moment, I recall the telling insights of this post, by someone who is directly affected by the irresponsibility of the House Republicans.

  • Chef James

    Interesting that the last Republican offer was simply this; delay the individual madate for one year, and require Congress get no special exemption, something OVER WHELMINGLY supported by Americans because it is FAIR. The President refused this, in light of recent developments, incredibly sensible offer. No. You can claim the GOP did this, and believe me, I have no great love of that party either, but the shutdown is completely laid at the feet of a President who put his “legacy” before common sense, and the pain of others. Being recently unemployed, I have compassion for anyone losing their job. It sucks. But guess what? It happens in the private sector every day. Are our Federal Employees somehow more relevant, more important, than the average worker? I think not. As a matter of fact, I propose that the typical Federal worker, generally through no fault of his own, is the least productive and necessary of ALL working classes in the union.