On Wednesday, a late-night White House meeting to resolve the budget stalemate ended without a deal, which means a government shutdown may very well still begin on Saturday morning. And while lawmakers are preparing for political fallout, some 800,000 federal workers nationwide are bracing for an open-ended stretch of unpaid furlough. (Congress could decide later to give furloughed employees retroactive backpay, or not.) Here, some thoughts from a few of those 800,000 people:
Why will Congress still get paid? "I'll be sitting home with no work," says a homeland security contractor at Gawker, "and no income until these clowns in Congress can stop their posturing and this ridiculous political theatre with their eyes only on the upcoming election and achieve what we are paying them to do. (And guess who will continue to get paid and have no gap in their health coverage during a shutdown?)"
We feel like pawns: "I think we are all expecting Congress to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the 11th hour, but this is beyond stupid," says a Pentagon employee at The Washington Post. "None of us know how long any furlough might last, and in the meantime we, as the pawns in this game, are stuck dealing with the fallout from the decisions we don't make."
Give us more information: "What's driving me and most of my colleagues crazy is the lack of information," says a D.C. courts worker at The Washington Post. "No one is saying anything to us. Some say it's not going to happen and some say prepare for the worst. Most of us live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford to go without pay. Some of us will have to report to work during a shut down, which will prevent us from seeking other avenues to get a paycheck during the shut down."
The Arab revolutionaries won't be furloughed: "There is a lot of work going on in the Foreign Affairs agencies right now, focusing on how to deal with all the growing crises in the Middle East and Africa, and those efforts are hampered by our inability to plan or even to know whether we'll all be in the office next week," says a foreign affairs worker at Gawker. "It's just not that easy to determine what the minimal levels of staffing needed are to keep these kinds of efforts on track, and the implications of dropping the ball are pretty severe."
We are real people: "How much will this affect my family?" asks a mail clerk at The Huffington Post. "How much will it hurt us financially? The uncertainty is maddening as I, and my fellow federal workers, watch the stage show that is called Washington Politics gamble with our way of making a living... People need to see that the repercussions of shutting down the government are larger than what they appear. This is working families we are talking about, not ideology."
This will devastate us: "My wife and I each work for Social Security," says an SSA employee at Gawker. "A prolonged shutdown would devastate us, financially. There is a good chance we will be told to come in regardless and work unpaid. We would then lose money, because we would still have to pay for someone to watch our children, not to mention gas and tolls... One of us could not just stay home, as anyone not in would be considered AWOL and could face termination... I don't see how federally-elected officials can accept their own paychecks when their own grandstanding will leave so many in the lurch."
A shutdown doesn't even make financial sense: "Our program has extensive travel plans (already funded) that will have to be scrapped due to a shutdown which will end up costing the government money," says an EPA employee at Gawker. "Contractors will have to delay work which will only end up costing the government more money. Nobody at EPA has been able to develop a coherent plan for this fiscal year on what priorities should be and if we can even accomplish our necessary tasks. The inability to plan for no more than two weeks at a time is no way to run a government agency."