Joe Davidson
Joe Davidson
Columnist

Correction:

An earlier version of this story misidentified Mariama Myers. This version has been corrected.

Federal employees are worried, angry about potential government default

Angry. Disappointed. Worried. Terrified. Furious. Afraid. Disgusted.

These are among the words we can print that federal employees used when we asked them to describe their feelings about a potential government default.

Joe Davidson

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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With the help of Ryan Y. Kellett, a Washington Post interactivity producer, federal employees from around the country responded to a series of questions. In many cases, they did not want their names used, but we do indicate their agencies and locations. Here is some of what they had to say.

As a federal employee, describe how you feel about the possibility of a default.

“Angry that they see federal employees as cash cows.” — Army, Alexandria

“Worried about the bills and if I will be able to support myself and my family.” — Homeland Security, Flint, Mich.

“Irritated. They don’t do their jobs, and we pay the consequences.” — Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota

“Inexcusable as Congress is unable to perform. Cuts and taxes, sadly, are both needed.” — Navy, San Diego

“I report to work at 4:30 a.m., work 8.5 hours per day, including weekends and holidays. My net pay is about $45,000 per year. However, I believe I will be a scapegoat for the politicians who need to prove that they are controlling expenses.” — Transportation Security Administration, New York

“It is embarrassing being in a foreign country and watching our Congress hold our budget hostage to a small group of extremists.” — Army, Italy

“I am tired of the partisanship. The president has been the ‘adult’ in this, and the Republicans are acting like petulant children determined to have their way.” — Interior, Atlanta

Readers were split when asked about their confidence that a default will be avoided. A question on that point generated contrasting views.

“Fairly confident. Lots of sharp elbows being swung around, but all know elections are just around the corner.” — Defense Department, Colorado

“The fact you claim not raising the debt ceiling is, in fact, a default, shows your biased, racist, socialist, Obama-supporting agenda.” — spouse of retired Justice Department employee, Fairfax

“The public has turned against us, hoodwinked by a radical [tea party] element that is as selfish as it is incompetent. The problem is that it now appears to control one piece of the national legislature, and as long as it does, the nation is on a downward spiral. I have no confidence in any of them. I have confidence in the one adult in this process, the one sitting in the White House. That’s it.” — A Justice Department lawyer, California

Many who responded to e-mailed questions place responsibility for the uncertainty on Republicans.

“I place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Republicans, especially the tea party. Because they could have resolved this months ago had they simply agreed to remove the Bush era tax cuts. But rather than do that, rather than compromise, they have dug in their heels and refused to budge. Their way or the the highway! — Mariama Myers

“The current ongoing uncertainty has to [be] put on the Republicans who have abused the filibuster and have demanded their way in the House. They have prevented constructive compromise from occurring by placating their tea party members. But I also blame the president and the Democrats for caving into them. Like any young child, they will keep throwing tantrums and making demands if you keep giving into them.” — David Larken, Lakewood, Colo.

“Well, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The Republicans have gotten stuck in a right-wing ideology, which is harmful to the interests of ordinary people, and are heavily committed to protecting the rich. The Democrats are confused, divided and unable to come up with a viable plan. The president refuses to really lead. He talks a good game but refuses in this case, as in several others, to take the responsibility of actually coming up with a plan and sending it to the Congress.” — Bill Samuel, Silver Spring

What information do you need/want to know from your agency?

“Everything.” — Potomac

“Something, anything; the silence is ridiculous and very disconcerting.” — Agriculture Department, California

“Just the basics: Will this affect our budget? Will people lose their jobs? If the answer to the last question is yes, then how will the remaining people fulfill the agency’s mandates? — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the District

“I gave over 30 years of my life to keep this country strong. Now I would like to know who in [Congress and the White House] is going to pay my bills when the government defaults.” — Defense Department, retired, Arizona

“I think it’s obvious that if we reach August 2nd without a deal, the government will have to prioritize obligations. We need to know where we fall in such a priorization, so we can prepare for the possibility of a furlough.” — Housing and Urban Development, the District

“How will overseas employees be compensated when our housing and overseas allowance is not paid? Should we go ahead and not pay our rent?” — Defense, United Kingdom

“When will they let us know when we shouldn’t report in and by what means? Will we be paid on Aug. 4/5? I did the work and that prez and those idiots in Congress better pay me.” — Defense Department, Clifton

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