Science research isn't exactly the most well-funded endeavor in the country. Especially when the research isn't medical or otherwise of direct human impact. Ocean research is fairly low on the priority list overall, even in the best of times. Education is likewise not exactly a high priority here. The politicians talk it up, but when it comes time to fund it, the money isn't there.
In the economic climate of the past six years, the entire University System of Georgia was well and truly squeezed. The state budget proposals called for more and more cuts each time, until whole universities would've had to close. Every institute-wide meeting we had was doom and gloom about our lack of ability to pay for anything. There was a lot of pressure on the faculty to find funding from other sources than the state. There were layoffs. My boss was constantly worried about keeping all his own underlings paid.
Meanwhile, living expenses continued to rise. The price of gas skyrocketed, both for cars and for winter heating. Rent kept going up, as did utilities and the cost of doing laundry in the complex's coin-operated machines. The complex started making us pay for our own water. Each individual thing was only a little bit, but it adds up.
So I got a second job. I did it to avoid asking for a raise. I considered it my part of the sacrifice of the hard times we were in, because even with the low pay, it was better to have a job at the institute than not have it. I thought it made sense that it was better to have a job at low pay for a long time, than to have high pay for a short time and then become unemployed, which almost happened with my previous boss when his grant funds ran out earlier than he expected.
Sometimes people from the institute would buy food while I was working there. They were always surprised and cheerful about seeing someone they knew, and I would tell them I was "just helping out a bit for some extra pocket money," and then they would pick up their food and obliviously go on about their lives, not stopping to really wonder why.
I also kept my heat ten degrees lower than is actually comfortable for me, ate a lot of butter, and stopped going anywhere other than work, home, and the grocery store in between.
Imagine my surprise when, last summer, I discovered that I was the only one who hadn't had a raise in those entire six years. Not only that, I was now the lowest paid research grunt in the entire institute - and quite possibly the lowest paid full-time employee period.
Tonight my boss met my other boss. It was the first he knew. I wonder if he'll be observant enough, recalling the rage that made it impossible for me to speak to him for two days, and the ensuing straightening wherein I got a 12% raise and was promised another 8% raise next fiscal year, I wonder if he'll figure out how it really happened.
The economy has improved in the past year or so. We have money now to repair our existing infrastructure, upgrade our docks, replace old vehicles, and even build a whole new building. The future is looking good.
But never again when I hear about funding crises will I just quietly understand.