Leaving aside the head-on collision tactics between Republican legislators and President Obama, one of the sadder things about the looming federal government shutdown is how it stigmatizes public workers in Virginia and the rest of the Washington area, where 11 percent of the federal workforce lives and labors.
While shutdowns have occurred before, this one comes with the venom of the midterm elections, which were among the most polarizing in Old Dominion and national history. The reaction to the election of the nation’s first African American president has unleashed, unfairly, a lot of hatred that seems to have been simmering below the surface for some time. Grass-roots movement such as the Tea Party and media pundits such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity have brought it out.
Right now, the federal worker is the bogeyman du jour. He and she epitomize wrongful federal spending. These are workers who supposedly do little for the public good while they enjoy large salaries and even bigger benefits.
As such, they are the latest in a long line of bad guys. In the Wisconsin budget crisis, state workers were the undeserving evil-doers. Somehow, public school teachers were suddenly seen as lazy and inept, at least in the right-wing blogosphere. Before them, illegal Hispanic immigrants were drains on our social service budgets and threats to our American way of life.
In Virginia, unfortunately, too many politicians buy into the politics of the bogeyman. Prince William County Supervisor Corey A. Stewart comes to mind, with his movement to bring his county’s crackdown against Hispanic workers, along with that of Arizona’s, statewide in the Old Dominion. Luckily, the General Assembly had the good sense to shoot down most of his ideas.
Too bad that the target is now the federal worker who brings so much to the Old Dominion, the D.C. area and the nation in terms of hard work and expertise. If only they were private workers, today’s logic seems to say, the cloud would miraculously evaporate.