year following a series of assessments. It was highly competitive and my University viewed these as coveted job opportunities. Being selected was a honor. Bragging rights for my school, a career path for me.
Somewhere, in the time between my law
school/grad school graduation and today, the views of public service have shifted. Government service was honorable, when I told people what I did or where I worked, I was thanked... today, the general public views government service with disdain. People will trash talk government workers without a second thought. It has been less than 15 years since I moved to DC... what happened? The short and easy answer is - Politics has changed.
The federal government has shutdown. This is not a minor inconvenience. This is a significant failure by our elected officials. And the collateral damage for their refusal to even debate is the public. Employees are out of jobs and we have no idea how long this will last. The most visual part of this process has been the shuttering of the national parks, monuments and the Smithsonians. Here in DC, tourists wander around lost and at a loss for where to go in the face of this insanity.
Does this impact the general public - with 800,000 people out of work - damn right it does. Looking at the micro level it is easy to see how - I am single, with a mortgage, condo fees, law school loans, and general bills. Sure, I save, but I also travel and shop. I love to go out to eat with friends, take in movies, go to the theatre, shop for clothes, jewelry, love to cook so I frequent groceries, farmers markets and other shoppes.... I spend. OR should I say I spent?
Not knowing when my next paycheck is means no trips on Amtrak or flights on United (although I have a ticket to Seattle soon), no renting cars, no hotels, no shopping, eating out, no tours... no fun. I have to lock myself in my condo and hope I can pay the bills. Hundreds of thousands are in the same position as me. So yes, we have no pay, but us not shopping, eating out or traveling around means that our hardship becomes the pain of all those shops we frequent as well. That loss of business hurts them and their employees. It snowballs. In fact, here in DC, economists project that ever day the region losses $200 million a day.
I was furloughed on Tuesday. Instead of going home to watch TV or get lost in twitter, I decided to wander DC for a bit. Wanted to take in those iconic sites that I miss all too often when I am in the office... Wanted to capture images of the shutdown. It was sad. Federal employees wandered around like on their own death march. Tourists consulted maps and looked
lost. I stopped to help a few, but what do you tell visitors from Brazil, Austria, Germany, England who have traveled to the US to see these iconic sites, and they are SHUTDOWN. I pointed to the Capitol and told them it was their fault. I directed them to the memorials that were open or at least could be seen, to the fee museums, and to our shopping districts but really, this is not what they wanted. Tourists love DC for the Smithsonians, the Greek inspired monuments of Lincoln and Jefferson, to wander the tidal basin and discover FDR, Mason... I felt horrible for them. I feel horrible for my colleagues. I have bills to pay - ACK!!!
I happened upon a scene that the WWII memorial that afternoon - a southern Congressman (Mississippi, I believe) in the closed monument screaming into his phone, wanting to talk to the Secretary of my Department - why were the monuments closed. It was at that moment that I realized that these guys didn't even read up on what was going to be shuttered because they could not do their jobs. He should have been 2 miles
down the road on Capitol Hill. He should have known that by not passing a budget the assets managed and cared for by employees would be shuttered. He should have read up on the consequences of his actions. Instead, he posed for the camera.
A few years ago, the government decided that the banks were too big to fail, the auto industry was too big to fail, so why isn't the federal government too important and too big to fail?