“The idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea,”

A direct quote on Thursday, January 24, 2019 by the U.S. Commerce Secretary. Of course he was referring to Federal workers’ plight, or apparently to him lack thereof, by missing a second paycheck through no cause of their own. In a single income household—given the fact that I am unable to even walk without crutches let alone drive to an interview—with the standard expenses of a household in one of the most expensive places in the nation to live I say yes, it really IS a valid idea.

Admittedly I am far, far detached from the thinking of the wealthy, or even very well off. I drive a sixteen year old car, complete ninety-five percent of our own home repairs and maintenance, sit on a second hand couch, grill on a second hand grill, accumulate points from the grocery to save a nickel-per-gallon on gas, don’t have an enclosed garage and can often be found wearing shirts up to ten-fifteen-twenty years old. Yeah, I’m detached from the thinking of someone who makes a statement like the one previous or the one the statement of “I don’t understand why Federal workers need food banks”.

We will not be frequenting food banks in the near term, we lean closer to the fortunate side. Yet for the first time in my life I’ve had to have a mortgage payment stopped (thank you to our lender!) because our dwindling cash reserves are needed for any number of ongoing daily and weekly constantly accruing smaller expenses. Suspending a mortgage payment—unbelievable to admit I had to make that call. What we have been and will continue to do is make several other seemingly small yet meaningful adjustments. We haven’t spent a dime on any time off/away/vacationing for over five months, we haven’t spent on clothing, we haven’t spent on normal recreational/fitness activities, we skipped trips to see family, we won’t spend on a fitness center membership so I can try to speed up my rehab, we didn’t spend on our anniversary, we minimized holiday spending, we may need to postpone veterinarian care, we’ve scaled down upper end grocery shopping, we’ve cut dining out by at least 50-60%. Perhaps even more telling is we’ve had ongoing conversations about each of these items and it’s likely the pinching will continue even when we are back-paid what we’re owed. I wonder how many of the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of impacted families have and are having the same conversations and coming to the same conclusions? Given that we consider ourselves quite fortunate I’d make the bet a sizable percentage of us.

Unlike the wealthy class of the country the idea of ‘a paycheck or zero’ can actually be a reality. It’s a shame high-performing folks who choose to forgo higher pay and prestige from private industry to work for their chosen mission in public service are not rewarded more on a general, day-in-day-out basis. It’s an embarrassing travesty the wealthy class look right over them and the service they provide without any hint of empathy.