First, let’s address this idea that being forced to stop working equates to being on vacation. There is nothing we love to do more on vacation than eat. Now, our family doesn’t eat fast food, even if we’re desperate. We like seafood. We love sushi. And the more desserts, the better! Once every year or two, we may even splurge and visit a Brazilian steakhouse. For us, it’s all about the food! This week, in the best imitation of fine dining our budget could provide, I served potato soup for supper. Six potatoes. Water. Salt. And a single can of evaporated milk. The total cost was less than $3 to feed five people. It filled our hungry tummies when supplemented with saltine crackers. But the satisfaction was as minimal as the cost.
First, let’s address this idea that being forced to stop working equates to being on vacation.
On vacation, we might drive around — maybe explore a new museum or go to a rock concert. There is nothing better than listening to Jimmy Buffet while sitting in the grass in Atlanta. Planning and budgeting are critical so you can maximize the fun for the money available. Last night, we sat on the floor and played “Go Fish” in front of our darkened television set. Streaming services and cable cost money. We wear sweaters inside because we’ve turned down the heat to 62° to save on the substantive winter heating bills brought on by bitter Iowa winters. And we all try not to feel claustrophobic. Usually in winter, when patience wears thin and the weather makes playing outside impossible, we might go window shop at the mall. Or go play racquetball at the YMCA. But we live miles out in the country and gas is too precious right now to waste on such frivolous enterprises.
Even so, we are in the fortunate few. After surviving serious economic hardships in the late 1990’s that left us without food for the table or heat for the house for an entire winter, we now maintain a financial reserve for situations like this. The complicating factor at this point is that we have no idea how long that reserve needs to last, so we are cutting every expense possible to stretch it out.
The suggestion those of us missing paychecks should just get a loan or use a credit card is egregiously disconnected from the financial realities of life for most Americans. We use our credit cards every month and pay them off almost every month. But with Christmas just behind us, the credit card balances were already riding high when the shutdown started. At least the credit card companies are working with us as far as letting us skip payments and adjusting late fees. But while some banks are helping with stop-gap loans for affected employees, not all banks are.
The idea that our government is so unreliable that employees should anticipate needing bridge loans to make ends meet is incredibly discouraging. And yet, if this drags on into spring, we will have to look for such a loan ourselves.
The suggestion those of us missing paychecks should just get a loan or use a credit card is egregiously disconnected from the financial realities of life for most Americans.
On social media, people are starting to call us entitled. The simple expectation of job security is not entitlement. On the news, one genuinely entitled person, Lara Trump, implied we should just take one for the team. This rising lack of sympathy is worrisome. Worse, we are utterly lost as to what “team” we are supposed to be taking one for. Federal employees don’t have a team. Despite efforts to paint us as mostly Democrats, there is no partisan bias or requirement for the hundreds of thousands of people currently affected by this shutdown.
Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking,Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?
There are no questions relating to party affiliation on the work application or in the security questionnaires. In fact, the only truly partisan members of the government, Congress, are still getting paid. We, the affected, worried, hungry, scared and increasingly desperate federal workers are a tremendously diverse group of people from all socioeconomic, religious, and political backgrounds. We share only one simple, singular belief: that our service to this nation matters.
After our son is to bed tonight under an extra quilt, my husband and I will sit down at the kitchen table and take up our new ritual. We will review the expenses of the day, try to anticipate the expenses for tomorrow, and make yet one more transfer from our dwindling savings account to our checking account. Planning and budgeting are critical. Because we have no idea when this “vacation” will end.
Katherine Zimmerman is a recovering small business owner and writer who lives in Boone, Iowa with her husband, son, dogs, cats and pet chickens.