WATCHING MEMBERS of Congress celebrate a bipartisan deal aimed at restarting the government, we couldn’t help but think of Monique Henderson. Or Katrina Lucas. Or Nick Wolfe. No doubt these furloughed federal workers will be glad to go back to work, but that relief can’t mask the harm done to them and tens of thousands of other Americans whose livelihoods are tied to the federal government.
The agreement hammered out Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would raise the debt limit and end the partial government shutdown. But even as plans are made to get 800,000 furloughed government workers back on the job and give them back pay, the damage done since Oct. 1 has to be remembered.
For many, the loss of back-to-back paychecks was not, as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) so cavalierly declared, a “temporary inconvenience.” Ms. Henderson, profiled by The Post, is a single mother whose fragile budget was so disrupted she has to move back in with her mother. Ms. Lucas told The Post that she couldn’t afford school supplies for her three children. Mr. Wolfe, the Huffington Post related, had to raid his retirement account to pay bills. Other workers reported losing coveted day-care slots because they couldn’t make a payment or damaging their credit with missed bills. The shutdown followed years of frozen salaries and reduced pay because of furloughs caused by the sequester.
The pain caused by the shutdown extended far beyond the government workforce. Over two days, more than 2,300 people responded to a Post online query about the effects of the shutdown, many providing heartbreaking accounts. Many business people suffered — a D.C. dogwalker, a Kentucky mortgage broker, an Ohio realtor, a Washington defense contractor. They won’t be getting back pay, and they’re likely to feel the pain for some time. The Washington region was hit hardest, and officials from the District, Maryland and Virginia gathered Wednesday to warn of the holes that will result in local government budgets.
The Republicans who engineered this assault on real people’s lives claimed to be motivated by concerns for “fairness.” We’d call that a joke, but there wasn’t anything funny about it.