'We basically put the American dream on hold'

Jim Cole/Associated Press

Orsom “Butch” Huntley, 63, a shipyard employee for three decades, talks at Mojo's BBQ Restaurant outside the Main Gate of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. Huntley said he is already living paycheck to paycheck while caring for his terminally ill wife and is now are preparing to lose the equivalent of a month’s pay because of Congress’ inability to resolve another budget stalemate.

KITTERY (AP) — They don't care which side caused Washington's latest crisis.

AP file photo

Shipyard workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery protest in 2005 against plans to close the base by the Defense Department in front of the main gate. Now almost the entire workforce, a community of more than 5,000 along the Maine and New Hampshire seacoast, are preparing to lose the equivalent of a month

Jim Cole/Associated Press

Kevin Do, from left, Don Hanson, and Paul O'Connor talk about the nation's budget cuts at Mojo's BBQ Restaurant outside the Main Gate of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery. Do, a facilities engineer, explains that he and his wife, also a shipyard employee, have already delayed plans to buy their first home and are preparing to lose the equivalent of a month’s pay because of Congress’ inability to resolve another budget stalemate.

Five hundred miles from Capitol Hill, the men and women of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are worrying about paying rent, searching for new jobs and caring for sick loved ones.

Almost the entire workforce, a community of more than 5,000 along the Maine and New Hampshire seacoast, is preparing to lose the equivalent of a month's pay because of Congress' inability to resolve another budget stalemate.

Orsom "Butch" Huntley, 63, a shipyard employee for three decades, is already living paycheck to paycheck while caring for his terminally ill wife.

"Congress doesn't look at the individual. They just look at the bottom line. And it just really makes it tough to think we're just a number to them," Huntley, a computer engineer, said this week in a restaurant outside the shipyard gate. "It's going to be totally devastating."

The fear is consuming military communities as the nation braces for budget cuts designed to be so painful they would compel Congress to find better ways to cut the federal deficit. President Barack Obama and governors from across the nation have intensified calls for compromise in recent days to meet Friday's deadline.

Defense officials warn of diminished military readiness as the cuts begin to bite. Economists warn of damage to a delicate economic recovery. And federal officials warn of travel delays, slashed preschool access and closed national parks.

But in small towns whose economies are deeply tied to the military, there is a human impact that breeds anger and fear.

Across the table from Huntley, facilities engineer Kevin Do explains that he and his wife — also a shipyard employee — have already delayed plans to buy their first home because of uncertainty created by Washington. With a 4-year-old son in daycare, he's now looking for part-time construction work to help pay the bills, even if it means working seven days a week.

"We basically put the American dream on hold," Do said.

Preparing for a worst-case scenario, Navy officials have plans to force mandatory furloughs on roughly 186,000 civilian employees across the country. People like Huntley and Do would lose 22 paid days between April and October, or roughly 20 percent of their pay. Shipyards from coast to coast have outlined cost-cutting plans to delay huge maintenance contracts on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Polling suggests that some Americans are still unaware of the looming cuts, known in Washington speak as a "sequester," but the debate is well known to federal employees and the huge network of businesses, contractors and communities that serve Navy shipyards and military bases. Virtually every nearby restaurant, grocery store or car dealer is aware of the looming cuts.

Some states are facing more pain than others. Oklahoma has five military installations. Chris Spiwak, owner of Chequers Restaurant and Pub outside Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, said he's afraid he might have to lay off an employee or two.

"We have customers telling us that if they're furloughed, they won't be coming in as much," Spiwak said. "That's their expendable income. They'll be eating at home or bringing their lunches."

And there is widespread uncertainty in Virginia, where many of the 21,000 workers at Newport News Shipbuilding are bracing for the worst. Obama addressed shipyard workers this week about the dangers of the spending cuts.

"Everybody's nervous, worried about what's going to happen," Ronnie Hall, a 27-year-old fleet support apprentice, said before the president spoke.

The president, who has pushed for a compromise deficit package of spending cuts and new tax revenue, seems to have the upper hand among the public over the standoff. A Pew/USA Today poll this week found 49 percent of Americans would blame Republicans in Congress if Obama and Congress couldn't strike a deal. Thirty-one percent would blame Obama, 11 percent would blame both of them and 8 percent were unsure.

On federal spending in general, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday found significantly more Americans in favor of Obama's handling of federal spending than Republicans in Congress, although neither side earned high marks. Half of the country disapproved of Obama's handling of the issue, while two-thirds disapproved of congressional Republicans.

The political stakes meant little to the workers gathered outside the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard this week during their lunch break.

"Both sides put us here," said Huntley, who had already lost his house because of his wife's medical bills. "At my age I should be in my golden years. But those things are gone. As the guys around me say, the golden years have taken the gold and just left me the years."

Next up for Congress and the White House is how to avoid Washington's coming crisis, which threatens a government shutdown after March 27, when a six-month spending bill enacted last year expires.

In Kittery, Do offered elected leaders a reminder: "They forget it's faces and families," he said. "There's a cloud over a lot of people."

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Comments

Bob White's picture

Seems to me if we can

Seems to me if we can furlough 180,000 people maybe we have to many people.

Steve  Dosh's picture

'We basically put the American dream on hold'

Butch ƒlyda HI time •  10 am
Sorry to hear of your predicament .
Some of us didn't [ 'put the American dream on hold' ]
Our prayers go out to you and your wifey for a speedy and complete recovery
i lost my wife to breast cancer ? (6 ) six years ago and am still raising kids at home
http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform /s , Dr. Dosh and ohana , Hawai'i ;)

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Congress' inability to reach a deal.......

The fact that people still seem to think this political showcase, is the result of Congress not being able to come to a fair compromise, is sad. The fact of the matter is, "MONEY TALKS". As far as I can tell this whole fiasco is over money, rich peoples money. A small faction of Republicans are determined to make sure, at any cost, without any thought to the middle class, to keep rich benefactors and their money together.
This has turned into a game, a foolish game, that puts at risk many people who can ill afford to play. The only winners in this game will be a segment of the population who could care less about anything but the bottom line. This is all about a segment of the Right, caring more about potential bank rolls, than their constituents well being. The "Tea Party" is concerned about the money. The money will greatly improve their chances of achieving re-election. The lack of financial backing and a strong challenge from the "Left", are the only two things Tea Partiers are afraid of.
This whole disaster was a line in the sand to begin with. It was to prevent this type of complete failure from happening in the first place. What did happen, a radical group of republicans has grappled on to this deterrent, as a tool to commandeer the U.S. economy in the fight to protect their biggest supporters, both politically and financially, the top 1%. The sad part is, if the Tea Party fails to win this tug of war, they will have at least destroyed any economic gains made by us up to this point. The wealthy really won't care, we are the ones who will pay for this, we can all thank the Tea Party. It's not Congress that can't reach a deal, it's the whole country being held hostage by a small group of Radicals.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Always have to blame someone,

Always have to blame someone, don't you? Now, it's the Tea Party, before it was Bush/Cheney. How about blaming a president who has his head so far up his a**e he wouldn't know a compromise if one hit him head on.? He is the Commander in Chief; he OWNS every single thing that is wrong with America today. He's not much more than a carnival huckster specializing in selling snake oil to a witless and uninformed group of followers. He is the Pied Piper of America and the rats are in line behind him. Tea Party my foot.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Bush / Cheney?????

I don't remember blaming them for anything, but now that you mention it, Ya, it's their fault too.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Hahaha.....but not oBAMa,

Hahaha.....but not oBAMa, right?

Bob White's picture

Seems to me if we can

Seems to me if we can furlough 180,000 people maybe we have to many people.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Frank : Reactionaries is the

Frank : Reactionaries is the more appropriate term . Possibly fascists . In fact and in practice , it is ? 1/2 of 1/3 of the elected representatives on the US Federal government level holding the the rest of the US government hostage . Pure power play , that's all . Remember when " Mr Family Values " Newt Gingrich shut down the US Federal govt. in 1995 ? Same deal . Power hungry power mongers . h t h /s, Steve

Jim Cyr's picture

The Tea Party is

attempting to "destroy any economic gains" ? Are you kidding yourself ? Over 16 trillion in debt to our future great grand kids to attempt to pay, if that is what you call economic gains, you must be living in a cave. When this current Fed administration came in office, there were less than half on welfare than there is currently. Gas up more than 100%, 16 million getting "FREE" cell phones. All the Tea Party people want is for this country to return to our Constitutional form of government and much smaller than what the "Progressives" are trying to do which is destroying this great "Free Enterprise"country that the Constitution has instructed for only those wanting individual Freedoms and smaller government. Those "Progressives" are the true "Radicals", not the Constitutionalists. So sad, SPEND,SPEND,SPEND,TAX,TAX,TAX, LIE,LIE,LIE. You Progressives only think that it is either "Right or Left" It really is either more government or less. Where do you stand?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jim , We stand where we sit •

Jim , We stand where we sit • This is the USA .
The tea party is essentially clueless
btw - It's money we owe ourselves , that's all . Have you ever seen a Yuan or a Renabi ? Do you even know what they are ? Macroeconomics 101 . It's the Communist Chinese non-convertible curency , much like the old Russian Ruble . The Chinese use our money . The Cubans use our money . It is the official curency of Ecuador and Panama , the US$Dollar . The name comes from the Portuguese ' dolar ,' which means ' pain.'
We say less government , too . " The goverment that governs least governs best ." Tom Jefferson, the first US Democrat
Why did Bush even set up Homeland Security & TSA when we already had the Federal B I , the CIA , the NSA and the various military intelligence gathering operations ?
You tell us now
As for his lies. .don't even get us started . He did use cocaine according to the TX Rangers . His daughters were underage drinkers who used the Secret Service for their own means and ends
/s Steve

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Why did Bush even set up

"Why did Bush even set up Homeland Security & TSA when we already had the Federal BI, the CIA, etc......"
Because you damn liberals would have tried to hand him his head if he hadn't.
"He did use cocaine according to the TX Rangers."
Yeah, and oBAMA ate dog, and thinks there are 57 states. So what?

Jim Cyr's picture

Why did Bush

even set up ............., Because he is a "Progressive"! But he is not a "Marxist/Muslim" !

Jane Ryerson's picture

congress inability

Why is this that this is a republican issue. This is not a republican issue. This is an issue directly from the President of the country. This was a white house deal originated by President Obama. The republicans went along with and now, because the president refuses to negotiate in cutting spending, he is taking his scare tour on the road. He is weak and a coward for not taking responsibility for coming up with this idea. Where were you, when prior to the election he told government contractors to not give out the 90 day notice requirement for possible layoffs if sequestration when through. Note this was prior to the election. He also said the government would help with any legal fees from people who might sue due to not receiving proper notification of the impending sequestration layoffs. Where were you when during the debates he told the american public sequestration would not happen. Well the republicans are tired of making concessions to this president. I am not upper class but I am tired of us thinking we can continue to tax the rich and tax our way out of this insatiable spending problem this president has. The president needs to take a business 101 calls. Your democratic senate lead by democrat Harry Reid has refused to submit a budget for 4+ years. If we did that in our business we would be down the tubes quickly and that is exactly where this country is headed. Down the ditch. I can bet you 100% as a banker who was in banking for 30 + years, I could shave some programs. I could shave those programs that overlap with other programs and stop funding these energy deficient companies that continue to go bankrupt. 100 billion dollars in companies like solyndra would work to get rid of. Perhaps it is good that their are some radical republicans who are holding fast on this. Thank god, because it looks like this is the only way we are going to cut spending. Everyone knew this would hurt when it happens. So be prepared or if you like the way this country continues to support 53% of this country who doesn't work, then go see how Greece is doing.Not well.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jane 19:00 hst ? You are

Jane 19:00 hst ?
You are wrong . " 53% of this country who doesn't work, " is what got Mitsie un-elected .
As for balancing the US federal budget , President Clinton was the last US Presidient to have one
Fact • /s, Steve

Jim Cyr's picture

Steve, Clinton

never had a balanced budget. The data is out there ! He just shuffled the numbers and essentially borrowed from "Peter to pay Paul". As long as we print "frauds" for the FED, we will never balance the budget. Kennedy was the last President to attempt to get U.S. back to print U.S. notes instead of Fed notes. I believe it cost him his life!

Noel Foss's picture

That's an interesting slant.

But you seem to be forgetting that the Sequester was a piece of bipartisan legislation that was worked out by the leaders of BOTH parties (John Boehnor and President Obama), more directly through negotiations between VP Biden and Mitch McConnell. Given his recent campaigning against, it, the President and senate Dems seems to have forgotten their direct and involved role in setting the sequestration up in the first place.
The fact that nothing's been done to stop the sequestration from actually taking place speaks volumes about our leaders. Their hypocrisy in how much finger pointing has been done by both sides; Their ineffectiveness to negotiate (which can't be pinned on the proverbial "Small group of radicals" since Republicans have already agreed several times in their budget negotiations to increases in tax revenue) to actually pass legislation; Their blatant disregard for the jobs they're supposed to be doing (did you know that congress hasn't passed a budget since 2009?). The people that are running the country can't even fulfill the basic requirements of their jobs.
But, something to keep in mind: The sequestration doesn't CUT anything from the budget. It simply slows the GROWTH of spending. Given that our current national debt is greater than the GDP for an entire year, cutting 2% out of the budget doesn't strike me as the end of the world. Hell, most Americans had to figure out how to do that last month when the tax law changed. The problem is that since our leaders are useless, they can't agree to cut wasteful spending, and instead are choosing to just yell at each other and play the blame game.

Jane Ryerson's picture

interesting slant

What a great comment and put very succintly. The sad part is that so many people in the country don't care or don't even know what is going on in Washington. Those of us who do are sick of it all. I seem to remember the President prior to the election telling government contractors to hold off on giving anyone a notice about sequestration, all so it would be better for his election. He said the government would take care of any legal repercussions from this. I remember him also saying prior to election or shortly thereafter that sequestration wouldn't happen. Now he is doing his scare road show to the american people. I am sick of it all. I know I could go in there and find cuts on duplicated overlapping programs; stop funding these solar energy companies that continue to go bankrupt. No one in Washington cares about the people and furthermore they don't care about the bottom line referred to in the article. They don't even know what the bottom line is. Sequestration was the White House's idea and congress did go along with it. Now, it appears this is the only way they get the government to slow it's spending.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jane , You are sadly wrong .

Jane , You are sadly wrong . " No one in Washington cares about the people ." 19:14 hst ? Friday
i worked in DC for > 7 years , 23 years overseas , for you and you too , Noel , and cared deeply about people . Still do . i was in DC on 9.11 and watched the Pentagon burn across the Potomac as - your - security officer for the 11th floor of the 2nd largest US Federal office building ( behind said Pentagon ) , the International Trade Center DC http://www.itcdc.com
It's the Republican party that does not seem to care very much about the ' polis ,' or ' we , the people .'
There is no kinder, gentler, G O P yet . It's a bunch of cranky old white guys like John McCain and other cynical and sarcastic old losers . Take your Governor as a prime example , for instance . Tell us , what does your party hold for the future ? If there was not a Democrat running against a Republican in your district or political area , ( i.e., a Republican running unopposed ) , what would the Republican be saying ? It's a valid question • The G O P has no platform except ' rail against the Democrats '
" Take my wife , please . " -- Henny Youngman , comedian , 1 9 2 8
/s, Steve :)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What are you paying for

What are you paying for gasoline over there in Pineapple Land.

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