Melissa Gilley, a stay-at-home mother, figures she doesn’t get a single benefit from the government and she doesn’t want any, but she’s worried about whether her 11-month-old daughter will be able to count on Social Security in her old age. Anna Lostritto depends on the government for disability checks and food stamps; from what she’s been hearing on the radio, those lifelines could vanish, and that threat is keeping her up at night. Russ Setareh is moving mountains to save his flooring store, the last remaining piece of what was once a four-store business, but he can’t get any bank to lend him money, which has him wondering how his country will survive if it can’t borrow, either.
They and many other Americans watching their government sink into a frightening paralysis are disgusted with the politicians, but that’s nothing new. What is different in this debt crisis is that as taxpayers compare their own lives with the mess in Washington, they are increasingly concluding that the great American engines of success and growth may be winding down.
As time ticks away, a chronology of the drama surrounding the fierce negotiations for a plan to rais the debt ceiling.
The new, improved Adams Morgan
Twenty-seven miles from the Capitol building, at King Farm — a sprawling planned community in Rockville surrounded by shopping centers that some real estate agents compare to Pleasantville, Hollywood’s version of the too-perfect suburb — Americans affluent and struggling, young and old, Democrat and Republican look at the struggle over the debt ceiling with a sickened feeling, like gawking at a crash on the highway.
They’re appalled by politicians who seem to view compromise as defeat, amazed that the people they elected to lead do not seem to be up to the task and frustrated that the powers in Washington don’t understand that Americans want one thing above all else from their government: security.
“I’ve always believed in less government, but I want there to be choices for my family, like if my daughter wants to apply for a grant one day or something,” said Gilley, 28, who was raised Republican and still leans that way. A former massage therapist who rents an apartment at King Farm, she thinks unrestrained spending by politicians endangers the security of her daughter Emberlyn’s future.
“You think about these things a lot when you are a parent,” she said. Only by controlling excessive spending now can the government provide benefits to the sick and the elderly decades down the road, she said. Why can’t the politicians see that?
King Farm is a lot like the rest of Montgomery County and the Washington area — more Democratic than Republican, more affluent than much of the nation. Yet, like the rest of the region, it is also more dependent than most American metropolises on federal dollars. The biotech industry that led the boom of the I-270 corridor depends heavily on federal contracts. And many of the retirees in King Farm’s senior housing can afford their homes there because of federal pensions.
In the dining hall of the seven-story Ingleside retirement complex, a few blocks from the Safeway where Gilley and daughter were shopping, residents also debated the future — theirs and their grandchildren’s.