'The shutdown literally stinks': DC area residents pay the price in Trump's quest for a border wall
On Saturday, the federal government shutdown reaches the two week mark with no apparent end in sight. For his part, Donald Trump seems to think it’s all fun and games—invoking Game of Thrones references and insisting the shutdown will not end until he gets the money for his wall in order to appease his xenophobic base. The media framing of this is largely about the politics—namely an out-of-control president and his enabling party vs. Democrats who have the good sense to know that no one wins when the government is closed. Meanwhile, furloughed federal workers are wondering when they’ll get their next paychecks and residents in the areas most impacted are barely being thought of at all.
Here, in the Washington, DC area we are affected in multiple ways by a federal government shutdown. It’s worth highlighting this because when we hear references to “Washington” or more specifically “those people in Washington” it’s often used as a rhetorical and political device to conjure up images of wealthy elites, politicians, and policy wonks who are out of touch with everyone else in the country. Folks regularly refer to this town as if it’s devoid of any normal human life beyond the lawmakers on Capitol Hill and lobbyists on K street. To the contrary, it’s actually a place filled with regular human beings, lots of whom are longtime residents and natives, many of whom who are poor, who are forced to watch political appointees and gentrifiers come and go while making no real investment in the District or the people who live there. These are the same people who can’t afford to wait out a pissing contest started by an inexperienced, volatile, incompetent president who shouldn’t hold the office in the first place.
Let’s start with the most basic of things. The federal government is the single largest employer in the DC area, accounting for more than one out of every ten jobs in the region. This includes a wide range of jobs and not all of them are white collar. In addition, the salary ranges for these positions also varies widely. The federal government has a pay scale with steps which accounts for the type of job and years of service/performance. Someone in a professional position with many years of service could potentially make $136,659 (the highest end of the scale) while the lower end is a bit over $18,785. There’s no way to live well on $18,785 in Washington, DC, especially when the average cost of rent is $2,263. These are the folks that are likely working multiple jobs to make ends meet and who can’t afford to go weeks without pay. Heck, even those at the high end of the pay scale will still have to worry about paying student loans, rent/mortgage, utilities, etc. during the shutdown.
Tourism, leisure and hospitality also represents over 300,000 jobs in the area. When museums, monuments and other sites and tourist attractions are closed because of the shutdown and people stop coming to town, businesses lose money. That means local business owners struggle and their employees may not get paid or get laid off. Likewise for the more than 450,000 childcare, day care, and healthcare workers who aren’t getting paid or lose work when furloughed employees stop bringing their kids or the aging adults in their lives to daycare programs or other facilities.