No one would mistake Mantua, a leafy section of Fairfax County where houses sell in the $700,000 range, for a factory town, but where Jenny Foo lives, almost everyone’s paycheck comes from the same place.
Foo, who spent her career at the State Department, lives across from someone who worked at the Food and Drug Administration and another who had a career in the U.S. Geological Survey and just up from a couple of military families. Around the corner, there’s a National Park Service historian, a Pentagon analyst and a Foreign Service diplomat.
In Mantua, 14 miles west of the Federal Triangle, the sledgehammer of budget cuts scheduled to hit today are a threat to financial stability, an unnecessary reminder of a political system that seems unable to solve problems, and, perhaps worst of all, a symbol of how dramatically perceptions of government work have shifted.
For most of their lives, federal workers in Mantua say, having “United States Treasury” atop their paycheck meant security, pride and a sense of mission. Things change: Now it means having to defend yourself against arguments, from strangers and even from your own relatives, that you’re an overpaid and underworked leech. And in these days of political paralysis, it means that that paycheck suddenly isn’t so secure anymore.