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Federal budget deal hanging

The U.S. Capitol dome is visible through a glass ceiling as a Capitol police officer look on in Washington, D.C.

HOST: On to more pressing matters in Washington. President Obama ticked through a list today of those who could be affected by a federal shutdown that's looming by the end of the week.

Barack Obama: Whether you're a veteran, or you're somebody who's trying to get a passport, or you're planning to visit one of the national monuments or you're a business leader who's trying to get a small business loan -- you don't want delays, you don't want disruptions just because of the usual politics in Washington.

Not to mention the federal workers who won't get paid. They're watching this wrestling match with hopes that they won't have to wrestle their bills without a paycheck. Here's Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Margaret Curtis is a meteorologist at a National Weather Service office in Maine. In a shutdown, she's considered essential. She'd have to go to work.

Margaret Curtis: I could even be at work and not getting paid. My landlord still needs a rent check, regardless of what's going on with the federal government.

Curtis has only been on the job for four months. Steven Snodgrass has worked for the federal government for 19 years. Now he's with the Air Force. He remembers the last shutdown in 1995. Back then, he was certain he'd get retroactive pay. And Congress did eventually authorize it. But he says this Congress is different and he thinks that reflects a change in public attitudes. He says he's never seen such hostility.

Steven Snodgrass: I'm embarrassed almost to say I work for the government because there's this idea that we're lazy and, more importantly I think, that we're taking their tax dollars.

Snodgrass and Curtis say if there is a shutdown, they'll live off their savings. Federal workers with little or no savings turn to people like Joan Moran. She heads a credit union for Labor Department workers. The main branch is in the Labor Department building. It would close during a shutdown. Moran has already crossed that hurdle.

Joan Moran: They are letting us come into the building. We won't open the branch because there'll hardly be anyone in the building. But we'll be there for phone calls, answering emails, taking loan applications.

The bank will offer loans with no interest for six months. But there's a $29 overdraft fee if Uncle Sam's strapped workers put too much on their debit cards.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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It's sad to think that we live in a world where federal employees who provide a valuable service to society should feel uncertain about their ability to simply pay their bills while Wall Street Bankers who blew up the world economy get ever higher paychecks.

The solution is easy. Instead of not paying federal employees who make up the middle class (or below), don't pay any of the senators, judges, or the presidential staff. I bet it wouldn't take long to balance the budget then!

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