I’m Going There

I hate talking politics. It’s a conversation that never goes anywhere good, but today I’m going to venture into rare territory for me.

As a caveat, I might mention that I am neither a registered Republican nor a registered Democrat. In California you can “decline to state” and still vote in each of the major elections. Long ago I became disgusted with both major parties and decided to choose none. It was a good choice.

Also, I will state for the record, I vote in all of the major elections and most of the minor elections. It’s how I was raised.

I tend to shy away from being too specific, but I will go there. These days I am employed by a contractor to the United States Federal Government.

I work for a company that is engaged in some of the most mind-blowing science in the world.

For example, a couple weeks ago, I sat in a conference room waiting for a meeting to start. Also in the room was a physicist who works on the team searching for the existence of dark matter.

I sat there eating a salad (it was a lunch meeting) listening to this guy explain to another scientist how they actually test for dark matter, i.e. how they will know if they found it.

My mind was utterly blown. I once worked for Apple, so I know what it’s like to work for a cool company. I’m sorry Apple friends, dark matter beats the shit out of iPhones and iPads on the coolness factor eight days a week.

I am proud to work here and I work my ass off. I am also fortunate enough to have six people who report to me. They have put their faith and trust in me to work for them, to protect them, to knock down hurdles and to help them be the best employees that they can be.

It is somewhat amazing that in this team of six there isn’t a clunker in the bunch. They are all high performing, top-notch professionals. It is often remarked that my team is the most highly functioning out of all the teams in the larger division. (I can’t take all the credit for this, my predecessor laid a nice foundation that I continue to build upon).

I am proud of them, I throw my body on virtual grenades for them, and they reward me by making me look really good to my leadership.

Today I attended a meeting of all of the managers in the division and I had some choices I had to make.

You see, the entity I work for works a little differently than direct Federal entities and most contractors. We are able to carry over government funds so we often start the year with a surplus. This surplus means that we have not yet been furloughed and will probably be ok until mid-November.

Well, let me back up. If the debt ceiling isn’t resolved this week, we shut down almost immediately. That is a separate issue.

If the government shutdown drifts into November, we will have to move to a skeleton crew, and if it goes into December we will shutter our doors entirely.

So in that regard, I am lucky. Similar entities to my employer will be closing down effective next week and direct federal employees have been out of a paycheck since October 1st.

But, as leadership of this organization, we have to be prepared for all of the iterations of what might happen.

We must plan for the worst-case scenarios.

Today I sat with my peers and my boss and I had to decide which of my six people will work and which would be furloughed in the event this shutdown goes to November.

As a contractor to the Federal Government, we don’t get back pay in the event of a furlough. That money is lost for good. So I have to pick people who take a deep ding to their income just on the cusp of the holidays.

So who do I pick? The man with twin five-year-old children? The woman putting her two daughters through college? The guy who just started here two months ago, just moved to California and his wife hasn’t yet found a job in this terrible economy? The guy with the talented high school aged daughter who will likely make the Olympic team in 2016?

How do I choose who doesn’t get paid? How do I pick?

And why should I have to pick?

Tell me members of the United States House of Representative and the United States Senate, why did I have to make those choices today?

By the way, my boss had to make her choices too. I am on the list to be furloughed.

These past fifteen days of government shutdown make me sick to my stomach.

And angry. Yes, I am finally angry.

I am angry in a non-partisan way. I blame everyone. I blame each and every elected official who has any part of this. Every one of you made me have to choose who gets paid in November and who doesn’t.

I have seen a few off hand comments here and there online that this whole shutdown “is not that bad.”

If you think it’s not that bad, it just hasn’t hit you yet. But like a long string of dominos, it is coming for you.

It may be that bite of salmonella tainted chicken that gets your attention. It could be that airplane your loved one rode that crashed because no one inspected for safety.

Or perhaps it will be when you are laid off from your commercial sector job because these United States were plunged once again into a deep recession.

I don’t care what party you belong to, this shutdown should make you mad. It should make you wave your fists.

And by god it should make you get out to your polling place in 2014 and make your voice heard.


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