I'm a civilian government employee and have been for 6 years. Like everyone else, one of the main appeals to a government job was the stability. Now even that is being taken away. My husband and I are young. We bought our house, started a family and then the economy took a turn. The company my husband worked for filed bankruptcy and he was laid off. We pride ourselves on being self-sufficient. Instead of staying on unemployment for months on end, he accepted a job that was $8 less an hour than his previous job, resulting in an over $20,000 drop in our income. I now found myself the bread-winner of the family but felt confident we’d be okay because, hey, I had a government job and they’re known for their stability. Government wages were frozen in 2010, preventing any raises for the past 3 years. So I doubled my efforts to move up in the government to try and make up for the loss. But then the Department of Defense’s (DoD) furlough talk started. Being employed under the DoD, this halted almost all my possibilities since majority of the agencies went on a hiring freeze. When Washington wasn’t able to reach an agreement on that, I was furloughed one day a week for six weeks. I lost nearly 25% of my income each month. We still hadn’t recovered from my husband’s lost wages, now this? We struggled to make ends meet. Our mortgage went from being less than 20% of our income to over 40%. What happened to the American Dream? This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. We did what we were supposed to; we got an education, saved up, bought a house and started our family. We worked hard, put some money aside and didn’t run up credit. We’re responsible individuals; why is this happening? Ultimately, we’re all just pawns in Washington’s petty disputes. Most of this isn’t even about the budget; it’s about the parties trying to further their own agendas. How quickly would all of this be resolved if their money was lumped in with ours? It’s easy to pull a 6-plus figure income, live comfortably and toy with the livelihoods of faceless people. Well, I’m not faceless. I’m not only the poster child for what the American Dream used to be I’m also the poster child for the next generation of civilian employees. On average, I’m the youngest by decades from my colleagues. The budget crises forced some attrition. Some senior staff who needed to retire finally took the plunge. A few of the younger baby-boomers opted for early retirement too. But a good majority stayed on. I kept telling myself to stick it out, weather the storm and position myself for when the bulk of the workforce retires en masse. The DoD furlough ended early fortunately. I thought, “Alright, Washington’s got its head together finally.” And now this? So I pose the question, why should I stay? Why not follow my few fellow Gen X-ers out the door? Why not contribute to the government’s self-induced brain-drain? Clearly we don’t matter in Washington’s eyes, so why should I care about and contribute to the future of my government? If my government can’t recognize the hardships we’re already suffering and empathize, I see little reason to remain. Washington needs to remember we’re real people. My husband and I don’t want to add to the statistics of foreclosures and bad credit. We don’t want to contribute to the perception that our generation is lazy. We want the American Dream and we want to work for it, but even government employment is no longer a safe bet.
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