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Mr. President,

While I doubt this letter will ever find you, I felt I would be remiss in electing to do nothing substantive. I am writing to call to your attention the plight of a growing group of Americans directly affected by the on-going government shutdown, a group who has been largely ignored by both the media and our representation in Washington: federal contractors.

The bulk of attention paid to locked-out workers has focused on federal employees. Now that the Department of Defense has put more than half of them back to work, to most Americans’ knowledge the only people still sitting at home are the roughly 350,000 federal employees not included in the Department of Defense recall and most people have justifiably little sympathy for them, knowing that they will receive full back pay once a resolution is reached.

There are, however, many times more federal contractors who have been furloughed as a result of this government impasse—a number that continues to grow by the week—and we have a much more stressful situation with which to deal.

I work as a contractor to the US Air Force at a complex of large-scale wind tunnels within NASA Ames Research Center in California. We support of a variety of testing that helps develop emerging military technologies to help our deployed troops do their jobs serving and protecting this nation. We also test technologies to make aircraft and automotive vehicles more fuel efficient and better for our environment and we test a variety of cutting-edge space technologies. Our facility served a critical role in qualifying the parachute that put the Curiosity rover on Mars last year.

I could have made more money in a different career path, but I chose to be a federal contractor because I found the work interesting and wanted to do work that could help my country in some way. I may never have been physically fit for military service, but I am proud to be able to nonetheless make some contribution to my nation in my line of work. Many of my co-workers are military veterans who continue to serve their country by working at our facility. Now, I feel as though that country has turned its back on us.

As a result of the government shutdown, we have been unable to continue supporting our current customer, who is using our facility to help develop technologies which could greatly improve the safety and efficiency of the commercial air travel industry. All of our contractor work force (nearly our entire staff) was placed on furlough at some point this week. Unlike our federal employee counterparts, we have been told not to expect to receive back pay when this issue is resolved. We are thereby forced to burn vacation time which many of us have been saving for planned trips. Once that is exhausted, we will be forced to take leave without pay indefinitely until this situation is resolved. During the time we are taking leave without pay we will also be accruing debt to our company for the benefits which are usually automatically deducted from our paychecks, such that if we do not have enough vacation hours to wait this shutdown out, we will owe our company a substantial sum when we return to work.

We live and work in one of if not the most expensive local economies in the nation and while we will be eligible for unemployment benefits during this time, the maximum payoff is not nearly enough to live on, especially for many of my co-workers who have families to support. I can speak personally to the fact that were I to begin drawing unemployment, the maximum benefit would barely cover monthly rent on my small, one-bedroom apartment even before taxes were deducted. I would then need to find a way to cover my car payments, student loans, and other recurring monthly obligations.

Ultimately, unlike our federal employee counterparts, we cannot even be sure that we will have jobs to which to return if this shutdown drags on much longer. Working for a private company­—which relies almost exclusively on Department of Defense allocations—it is not at all a stretch to believe that they may elect to down-size our facility if they see a reduction in funding.

While I cannot claim that I voted for you in either the 2008 or 2012 election, I was very pleased and encouraged by the seemingly bi-partisan excitement your election wins generated. I was eager to see how you could utilize this energy to make the country better. While I must commend you for living up to your promises of ending America’s occupation in Iraq and instituting a national health care program, I feel that our current situation constitutes a failure on your part which greatly outweighs the benefit of either of those two accomplishments.

You ran on a platform of bi-partisanship, talked of bridging the growing divide in Congress, and told us that we were “not just a collection of red and blue states, but are and will always be the United States of America.” Yet now our nation is more deeply and caustically divided than perhaps at any point in its history. I am not trying to claim that you are solely to blame for this situation, as I think there is equal if not more culpability on the parts of the conservative factions of our government, but assignment of relative blame is not the point.

ImageAs our Commander in Chief, you ought to be held to a higher standard. You ought to be able to be the bigger man and put your political affiliations aside to try to bridge the gap and work in tandem with your political rivals in the best interest of our country. Rather, I think you have largely done the opposite throughout this process. Your tacit refusal to budge on anything substantive helped lead us headlong into this shutdown and your accusatory rhetoric since the shutdown began has only served to grow the animosity and broaden the rift that lies at the heart of the crisis now facing our nation.

I have never been more concerned or quite frankly afraid for the future well-being of the United States of America than I am right now. When I look at our present situation, I see a nation on the verge of total collapse. I fear that that the virulent blame being slung between these two warring factions will only further entrench resentment and narrow-mindedness within the voting public and lead to the election of even-more radical political leaders in future elections, spiraling our country into even worse despair.

Sir, I implore you: give me a reason to believe in our country and our system of government again. Make good on your most critical campaign promise and build the consensus we need to end this ridiculous shutdown. Put your personal pride aside and do what’s best by your country. America cannot survive as a nation that plots its course two years at a time. For the good our nation and our way of life, I wish you and the Congress the best of luck along these lines.

Sincerely Frustrated and Disappointed,

Pat Goulding II

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