The U.S. just emerged from the longest government shutdown in its history, and was on the brink of another shutdown that could start again in a week. Much has been written about the human costs of the shutdown, which include the halting of critical government services like food safety inspections.
While the temporary loss of these functions was bad for all of us, the harm of the shutdown was most acutely felt by the roughly 800,000 federal workers who were forced to go for weeks without a paycheck. Many of these workers were already socioeconomically vulnerable—the average federal worker’s salary is 32 percent lower than that of private sector workers.
Additionally, close to one in five federal workers are black, a population with significant economic challenges of its own. Centrally, black Americans are more than twice as likely as their white peers to have a net worth of zero or negative zero. And they have far less wealth, accumulating just seven percent of the wealth enjoyed by white Americans.
The shutdown exposed the glaring wealth inequities in the country. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressed incredulity that a brief loss of income could affect people as much as it did. The confusion of Secretary Ross, who is worth an estimated $700 million, was likely grounded in wealth. When one does not depend on a regular income for the resources one needs for daily living, it is easy to forget that if one has no wealth, no assets to fall back on, even a brief loss of income can create significant challenges.
Read the full piece at Fortune.