There are lots of regions and cities in the area that are known for the way their citizens earn a living. Some states and counties have mines, some have plants, some have factories, some have ranches and farms.
Even if these industries go away, these jobs still remain part of the local identity. They even name professional sports teams after them. The Green Bay Packers, The Houston Oilers, The Hartford Whalers, The Edmonton Oilers, and the Milwaukee Brewers were all named to reflect a source of employment and regional pride to those areas.
Here in the Washington, DC area, the source of employment is the government. A huge percentage of the population either works directly for the government, is working for a company that is working for the government, or is working to influence the government on behalf of one cause or another. This can be a bit of a bone of contention for people who don’t live in the area or understand how the system works. As far as they are concerned, “government worker” equals “lazy, overpaid, ineffective and unnecessary.”
Right now, our government finds itself in dire financial straits. There are multiple reasons for this, and each side of the political spectrum likes to point the finger at causes that they don’t like and conveniently avoid the causes that they do. People on the right side of the political spectrum will blame it all on so-called “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and government benefits in general. People on the left side of the political spectrum like to blame it on heavy defense spending, the cost of fighting two wars over ten years, and the financial sectors misadventures in the housing market in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, we hit what is called “the Debt Ceiling,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It is the predetermined limit of the amount of money that we as a nation allow ourselves to borrow. There is some debate over whether the President has the authority to simply override the limit and raise it himself, but at any rate, he chose not to. He chose to get permission to raise the debt ceiling through Congress.
In order to get permission to raise the debt ceiling, Congress and President Obama promised to find a way to cut $1.5 trillion from the debt over 10 years by a certain date. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives would ideally have liked to have seen this done by not raising taxes and to have the debt reduction achieved solely through cuts in entitlements and social programs, while President Obama and the Democratic Party would have liked to have seen this done by a combination of revenue increases (taxes) combined with spending cuts.
As an incentive to coming to an agreement (which they have historically not been able to do on much of anything,) they put together a series of enormous cuts worth around $500 billion that would take place only if they weren’t able to reach an agreement. These cuts were designed to be equally painful to both sides. These cuts are what are known as “The Sequester Package.”
Since the Republican Party does not want to see cuts to defense spending, and the Democratic Party does not want to see cuts to government services, it was assumed that they would reach an agreement on how to reduce the budget within the Sequestration deadline. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and at around 9 in the evening on March 1st, President Obama was forced to put these cuts into effect.
So what does this mean for us here in the Washington, D.C. area? Quite a bit, actually. The sequester will affect us in two ways. The first is in defense spending. The D.C. area is the home of the Pentagon, multiple Army, Naval, Marine and Air Force bases, and countless contractors doing work for the military. Systems, weapons development, logistics, anything you can think of, there is a private company doing work for the military on a contract basis. These cuts will certainly affect a lot of these programs, so we expect that there will be quite a few people put out of work.
It will also affect those who work for the actual government as employees. What has been happening as of late is that many employees in many agencies have received furlough notices, which means that they will be forced to take a certain amount of days off during the week or month. These days will be unpaid.
As personal injury attorneys in the Washington, D.C. area, many of our clients are federal workers. We have clients who are car accident victims, or victims of medical malpractice, or victims of defective prescription drugs, or victims of negligence, and some of them work at Labor, or Interior, or Defense, or the Social Security Administration, or Agriculture, or any number of other departments, agencies or sub agencies. We fully expect to receive a lot of lowball settlement offers from the insurance companies that are involved in our legal cases over the next few months. They’ll know if our clients work for agencies that are affected, and will probably try to work that to their advantage.
We would advise you to be patient. If these cuts really start to hurt, we expect that the government will act. There is already talk of ways for government agencies to get around furloughs, or minimize them, and the various public employees unions are hard at work on this. Not to mention that all of the politicians will come under pressure if things get really difficult. So as tough as it might be in the short term, be patient, and if you receive a lowball settlement offer from an insurer, we would advise against it. Hang in there.
Greenberg and Bederman is a personal injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to those who have been injured in an accident due to no fault of their own. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, DC, contact Greenberg & Bederman today.