How thoroughly insulated are those glass walls in Washington D.C.?
Apparently, they’re solid enough to keep some of the most powerful figures in our nation’s capital from realizing the hardship the government shutdown has had upon furloughed federal workers.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross aptly demonstrated his distance from the depth of the hardship of federal employees whose paycheck may not stretch as far as his.
In an interview on CNBC, Ross – whose reported worth is $700 million – said he does not understand why federal employees who are furloughed or have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown would need assistance from food banks.
Let that statement jell a bit. Some of you may be federal workers on furlough, but it doesn’t have to stop there.
The gross domestic product and wage earnings have not been on the same level since 1973.
Many surveys now state that as many of three out of every four Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Granted, some may have student loans or credit card debt, but the mere ability to eke out enough to raise a family, shell out money for a car note and pay the mortgage has become something of a precarious balancing act.
In the meantime, hardships ranging from illness or job loss or even an auto repair can cut out the floor from under the feet of a wage earner. Sometimes the setbacks are self-imposed; many times they are not.
Such has been the case with the 800,000 federal workers who have not yet received a paycheck in 2019. Some have found part-time gigs ranging from bartending to Uber driving, while others continue to work their regular jobs without any idea if they will ever receive compensation for the shutdown period.
For thousands of employees, who will likely miss another paycheck, Rosshas instead suggested that the affected government employees borrow from a bank or credit unions which are federally guaranteed.
So much for the principle of responsible living. A family struggling at no fault of its own because of a shutdown now must go into deeper debt as a stopgap measure.
Keep in mind that it’s not only the workers who lose out – and, strangely enough, their situation may not be the worst.
Ross said federal workers will “likely” receive back pay – kind of a “check is in the mail” mindset – but federal contractors will likely have no chance at it.
To single out Ross would be unfair, however. Republicans and Democrats alike on Capital Hill have not addressed the matter with as much urgency as one would expect.
It has led to a deeper sense of divisiveness and has fueled a greater feeling of anger among Americans, whose sense of disillusion with Congress has grown deeper by the day.
Four Louisiana House members have taken a no-pay pledge: Garret Graves of Baton Rouge, Mike Johnson of Bossier City, Clay Higgins of Port Barre and Ralph Abraham of Monroe.
Perhaps they will get their pay later, but it shows a sense of empathy for the federal workers.
In fact, “empathy” may be the most lacking element in this whole equation. With each day that passes in the record-long partial shutdown,
it gives a greater impression of the disconnection of many lawmakers and department heads on Capital Hill.
It also explains why a very wealthy, high-ranking D.C. official would not understand how a shutdown would lead government workers to food shelters.