What About This . . .? By Wayne William Cipriano

Some time ago we found how a short-term interruption in our electrical service due to bad weather could drag us back a couple of hundred years by making our lives inconvenient, and could have become really serious if it had gone on for few days instead of a few hours.

Another interruption some people experienced that was supposed to be nearly as paralyzing, almost as dangerous, and a great deal more inconvenient was the month-long federal government (or part thereof) shutdown.

I do not know even a small portion of all the factors that the shutdown effected, and so I was very surprised when we were told how horribly fragile the financial situations of many Federal workers seem to be. Especially when I thought federal workers are fairly well paid and collect excellent employment benefits, which do not stop even when their monetary compensation did.

Our home was mainly inconvenienced because I could not order the forms I use every year to file our Federal Income Tax Returns. Even after the shutdown was resolved, it appeared that the backlog of work was so immense at the IRS where those forms are ordered that weeks afterward there were long waits on the phone to order those forms, and for a while I could not even get on “Hold” to wait for a representative, but had to call back “at another time.”

And since the federal government Printing Office was shut, a full month of printing new forms and publications was lost and those of us who use that material now have to wait longer times to receive it. And remember, all the business (*and farm!) returns must be in by 15 March, not 15 April when the personal returns are due.

The thing that bothered me the most, however, beyond all the other optics in the media was seeing federal workers standing in lines collecting groceries and other life necessities from philanthropic organizations as if our federal employees were from some third-world country starving and begging for food.

These were people who had missed at the very most two paycheck. Yes, I know everyone lives paycheck to paycheck. No one had any savings then and will probably amass none now that the money is flowing in again. No one can ask for a little slack paying bills that they have paid on time and in full for years. No one has a credit card that can be used for short-term support until the job opens up again – and then paid off in full once pay resumes. No none could get any financial consideration in terms of their obligations due to the fact that they are federal employees in good standing who are lead pipe guaranteed to collect all back pay withheld, and get it all at once. And no one has any family and friends who can give a hand when needed.

Sure, I am out of touch. I don’t understand how tough federal employees, protected by the Civil Service Act, really have it. I don’t understand how underpaid, overworked, and generally disrespected federal employees are, particularly in view of the outstanding service they provide to us whenever we call upon them.

Yes, I just don’t get it. How lives well-planned and cautiously lived can be totally torn apart, everything they have ever worked for lost when for 30 days or so income is interrupted, not gone forever, but interrupted and then replaced in full.

Yes, I can’t imagine the terror a federal employee will experience when the prospect of having their family’s exceptional health care paid for as part of their compensation package, disappears when the federal government ceases to operate, never to return.

Yes, I just don’t understand how detrimental time off from work, spent at home with family or alone, wears on a federal employee.  How the possibility that the federal government will never open again and loyal, hard-working federal employees will be left without employment, without resources, forever.

Yes, the truth is, I just don’t get it.