Here we go, again. Last year we nervously watched the clock tick down, everyone hoped that someone somewhere would pull something out of a hat. The radio and TV stations in the DC area were running stories of gloom and doom “countdown to sequestration” with the requisite dirge-like music and solemn faced TV type reporting live from in front of a Federal Building or across the street from the Pentagon. Then after much trumpeting of “values” and vague threats of future generations being bowed down with debt, the House and the White House came to a magic agreement to kick the can down the road until, well, right about now.
As I said to a friend when she asked me what I know about this looming fiasco and how to explain it to anyone who wasn’t in our little military family or Department of Defense/civilian employee – there is “the general feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or actually for the axe to fall…” You see, this isn’t just a 45 second blurb on the evening news to us. This is our community. Right now, in offices across the DC metro area, on Ft. Belvoir, at the Navy Yard, at Andrews Air Force Base, and up and down the contractor corridor along the Beltway, men and women are trying to do their jobs while wondering if they will be back next month. Some have been “furloughed”. What a nice way to say “go home without pay for a week, or two, or three.. and by the way, all those emergency savings – time to pull them out of the bank to pay the mortgage!” The same stone has been tossed into ponds called Fort Bragg, Fort Sam Houston, Fort Riley, San Diego Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Lackland Air Force Base, Quantico and Camp LeJeune.
These Federal Employees, many of whom haven’t seen a decent raise in years, aren’t some faceless bureaucrats who spend their days making the lives of “ordinary hard working Amurricans” miserable. They are the lab techs who work at government labs, making sure the food we eat won’t kill you; they are the administrative assistants who make sure that the right parts go to the right place. And in my community – they are the folks at Army Community Service, who help the family members of the deployed soldiers of my post when they have nowhere else to turn, when their whole support system and family are in Iowa or Montana and can’t help them with an emergency. They are the nurses and lab techs at military and VA hospitals, they are the plumber and electricians at the refit yards keeping our ships in working order and able to go to sea.
The belt tightening is reaching, according to the stories I’m hearing from friends, to units training to go to Afghanistan – limiting or in some cases canceling training. This training isn’t make work, the infamous painting of rocks. This is training to keep people alive when they are in what is termed “harms way” – you know, that place where people are shooting at you, or planting an IED on the road to the next village or driving a car bomb into a bus. The Navy has cancelled deployments of ships – let’s hope really hard that nothing “untoward” happens in the Middle East! I’m hearing that civilians who are teaching and training have been told to take a day a week off , until October, without pay. WITHOUT PAY!
Before everyone mutters about lazy bureaucrats getting fat off YOUR tax dollars – these are not faceless anonymous drones here. These are neighbors, who are going to have to give up 20% of their pay. Could YOU do that? That’s going to mean a lot less money in the economy. How many of the small businesses that exist to serve that population – the sandwich shops, the cafes, the plumbers and barbers, the small clothing stores and the local mom and pop family restaurant – are going to suffer. Because when 20% less money is coming into your bank account, you are going to cut back. Those ballet lessons, or the once a week dinner out; the new dress or the haircut and manicure – those are luxuries. But those luxuries put food on the table of the waitress at the restaurant, the manicurist, the ballet teacher – and when they can’t pay their bills? The ripples of this stone dropped into our pond, are going to reach far and wide. Not just in the offices of Lockheed or Jeep, but also in the malls and grocery stores of Manassas Virginia, San Diego California, Groton Connecticut, Savannah Georgia, San Antonio Texas, Leavenworth Kansas.
So take a moment to pick out the faces in that amorphous mass called “the military” or “Federal Employees” – is that your cousin, your high school friend, your sorority sister? And if you can spare a few minutes, call your congressperson, tell them we cannot afford to drive off that sequestration cliff, the ripples are just too high.
Photo Credit: Photobucket/believersinmiracles16