Shutdown: Americans feeling the pinch, showing their outrage

Desperation, frustration and disappointment dominated social media responses to the government shutdown

Vicki Maturo, of Culver City, Calif., protests against the government shutdown outside the federal building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.

Desperation, frustration and disappointment were the dominant themes in social-media responses to the government shutdown canvassed by Al Jazeera. While many were oblivious to the impact of the furloughing of 800,000 federal employees, some ran into immediate changes. Diykelo Rodz experienced frustration at a Social Security office, as she waited an hour for a printout. "Went to the social security office, waited for an hour, and was told that printing a paper out was not a service provided because of the shutdown. WHAT!!" she wrote on Facebook.

Rachel Benditt and Agnieszka Karoluk, both said via Twitter that they couldn't access government sites to complete school homework assignments, while Will Hickman of Philadelphia told Al Jazeera via email that his interview with the TSA was canceled: "I applied with the TSA for a transportation officer back in April," he said. "I was told two weeks ago that my interview would be on Tuesday Oct 1st at 2pm. I had to take off my current job for this interview, all for nothing. This morning I received an email from the TSA basically saying due to the government shutdown my interview was canceled, and had to be rescheduled the 30th." 

Katie O'Daire complained that her daily drive to work was sidetracked by a road closing in Virginia: “A road between Jamestown and 199 in Williamsburg, is closed because it's part of the national park system. That's my preferred way to get from Williamsburg to central Virginia and it SUCKS that it's closed!!!!”

James Arneal, a United States Air Force officer, said in a post to Al Jazeera's Call to Action page that he is pursuing a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He was looking forward to attending his first day of class Tuesday, but "due to the government shutdown, all graduate classes at the Institute were canceled for the time being."

Many Americans complained about the closing of national parks and museums. “Several tiny communities depend completely on tourism for their livelihoods,” wrote Mike Davidson in Texas. Their closure, he feared, would lead to a "loss of confidence will have long term effects on people and the economic viability of our entire region.”

Tom in Columbus, Ohio said a park closure has disrupted his wedding plan. He added that his story may sound “petty” compared to the thousands of federal employees who have been sent home but that “it's deeply personal."

"I'm getting married next week," he said. "I've been planning this wedding, with my fiancée, for the past year." The couple had planned to marry at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. “It’s been our dream to solidify our love in a place that means so much to us," he added. "Things always go wrong on your wedding day, but having our dreams dashed by political malfeasance is unacceptable. "

Working without pay

Other readers weighed in on how the shutdown would affect their personal bottom lines.

Phil Egidi from Hotchkiss, Colo., is a 58-year-old civil servant separated from his family by long distance. Egidi has been in Washington D.C., working for two years as an environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency. “Since I have taken this job," Egidi wrote on Call to Action, "my wages have been frozen, I have been furloughed, and now am shut down."

Egidi’s wife lost her job in rural Colorado, where she and their two children are living as Phil finishes his career. "I am proud and honored to be a civil servant and resent this treatment by the House," said Egidi. "I could make much more money in the private sector, but am committed to updating our outdated radiation policies and regulations." He says the government shutdown immediately affects his family. To fill in the financial holes, Egidi has to cash portions of his 401K. “We have no income as of this morning,” he said.

Kimberly Hoskinson, 33, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Like many Alabamans, she and her fiancé Emilio live paycheck to paycheck and have already felt the impact of the government shutdown. Emilio has worked as a bilingual Tele Service representative with the Social Security Administration for ten years. As of Tuesday, he was working without pay and will do so indefinitely as long as the shutdown lasts. “There is no guarantee that he will EVER get paid for the hours worked during the shutdowns,” said Hoskinson.

Hoskinson works at a home health company whose revenue largely depends on Medicare. With the possibility of Medicare not being able to pay its bills, in addition to Emilio working without pay, she says, “I have no idea how I am going to pay for next week’s phone bill or mortgage this month.”

Samantha from Pasco, Wis., says she will also be hit hard financially. “Because of the shutdown," she said, "I will not receive my unemployment benefits. I will not be able to pay my electricity bill this week, and I'm not sure how I will put food on the table.”

Tyler Carpadus, a disabled military veteran who is attending school on the 9/11 GI Bill, relies mostly on disability and educational benefits from Veterans Administration due to an accident onboard a ship in the Philippines. Carpadus, father of a baby son, warned, “If this shutdown isn’t resolved soon, I may not get my disability compensation or my GI Bill disbursement, which is money that my family needs to pay for rent and food.”

Carla Austin spoke of her sister-in-law, a contracted nurse working on a military base in Italy and the sole provider for her family in the U.S.  Her pay was suspended Tuesday when the shutdown went into effect.  “They cannot afford this,” Austin wrote. “I am sickened that the GOP would literally starve American citizens because they didn't get their greedy little way. Just sickened.”

Sherri Yagoubi, who works for the Indian Health Services, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is required to report to work as scheduled, but will not be paid until the government reopens. “I am not sure when we will receive any back pay," she said. "I am the primary provider for my family and I have a little baby and two teenagers. My husband works also but he is a recent immigrant to America.”

She added that finding an alternative job would be difficult because being, as a federal employee, she has to get permission to work outside her facility. “Trying to get a nursing agency job is something I am not allow do without approval," she said. "Those approvals take about 45 days to get.”

Anger at Congress

Many respondents expressed anger at Congress for a political deadlock that has imposed suffering on ordinary Americans.

Chris Parsons, on Facebook, said: “The biggest thing that bothers me is the hypocrisy of Congress people who will continue to draw a paycheck while those that a(re) furloughed will not.”

Federal employee Didi Meux also shared her frustration: “I'm an analyst for the Social Security Administration and I'm furloughed today. I'm very disappointed at my country's political leaders. What gets me upset though is that they are still getting paid and those that are furloughed are not.”

Michele Friedrich, just received a furlough notice after returning from active duty with the Army. Friedrich is “disappointed to say the least ... time for a massive change in DC. Going to write my government officials.”

Deacon Taylor of Colorado said the shutdown is an indictment of Congress. “Mostly I'm just embarrassed and frustrated with our Congress for playing games with our country,” he wrote. “I'm tired of the two party BS of putting party agenda over what's right for our nation. "

Posting on Call to Action, Kenneth Gonzalez from Long Beach, Calif., summarizes his feelings on the government shutdown by saying it will have a serious impact on his business, but that it doesn’t just stop with the shutdown — the national budget is a complex problem that Americans and their government will continue to face.

“The thing that isn't adequately represented here is that the true cost of these actions isn't just the impact on the direct delivery of services and the impact on the workers,” wrote Kengon. “Government spending is a key element of ensuring that the economy keeps going. The longer this goes on, the worse it's going to be. We are not done. In a few short weeks, we are going to face a similar challenge when the 'debt ceiling issue' comes to a head. This is a national disgrace."

Al Jazeera

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