Furloughs? Or French-kissing feds?

Friday - 2/15/2013, 2:00am EST

Many, maybe most, of the politicians who created the sequestration-furlough-fiscal cliff time bomb now say it can't be allowed to go off. If it happens, say the people who designed and approved it, there will be across-the-board spending cuts that will hamper national defense, leave big holes in the borders, and put the health and safety of Americans at risk. Delay benefits to little old ladies. Oh, and plunge the nation back into recession.

Other than that...

Sequestration was designed as a political poison pill to give Congress and the administration time to work out the debt ceiling, spending cuts and ways to increase revenue. Each side thought that properly using the fear of the "S-word" would force the other to cave in. Most probably don't want it to actually happen and, if it does, they definitely don't want to be blamed for the consequences. During the less draconian government shutdown of 1995-96, Democrats won the public-relations battle. President Bill Clinton was hailed as the statesman, while House Speaker Newt Gingrich wasn't. But then as now it was largely political jockeying by two sides who didn't much care what they got so long as they won, and it hurt the other side. Things have changed...

The political climate is even more sour today than in the 90s.

Contemporary liberal/conservatives don't even pretend to get along. Or like each other. There are no Ronald Reagan-Tip O'Neill good times.

Watching the smirks and body language (from both sides) at Tuesday's State of the Union made one glad the Westminster Dog Show was a viewing alternative. Also, this time, there are a number of politicians who genuinely believe the government is way too big, way too powerful and that we would be better off with fewer federal programs, laws, foreign involvement and federal employees. They seem to be counting on the fears raised by special-interest groups (unions, contractor associations, business groups) of the dangers of sequestration and furloughs. Scaring the wits out of rank-and-file federal workers is part of the pressure tactics. Lots of feds know that one-day-per-week furloughs for 22 weeks ( which is in the Defense Department playbook) could ruin them financially. Their salary could drop 20 percent between March and October. And because the furloughs would be one day per week, few could qualify for unemployment benefits.

(Earlier this week PBS's Frontline ran a documentary, "Cliffhanger an Interactive Guide to Gridlock" that does a very good job of laying out the timeline, the changes both side made and the internal struggle for power. If you get a chance, check it out. It helps explain why we are where we are?)

But there are some people, maybe a goodly number of feds, who literally say bring it on. If this is what Congress wants, these not-so-timid civil servants say, they'd welcome working a four-day week during the spring and summer. A few would like it all at one time, a month off in summer. Like the French! Here's what we are hearing from the bring-it-on crowd:

  • "I'm a federal employee and I say, 'Bring it on! I would love to have an extra day off per week, even if I pay for it. It's only temporary! In fact, I'd rather have two days off a week! These clowns don't get anything done around here anyway, so they wouldn't miss a heartbeat!! And hiking season is almost upon us..." &mdashj; Tom H., DoD Employee

  • Another not-so-scared fed goes even further. "I'll take a furlough. But I want my 22 days back to back." — Signed, Burned out in Dc

  • "This situation reminds me of a Walt Disney movie from my younger day. It would no longer be considered politically correct. However the main character was a rabbit (not Bugs!) who was caught and was about to become stew. Instead he kept begging the man who captured him not to throw him in the briar patch. Anything but the briar patch. Finally the dummy tossed him into the briar patch, where he was safe, thinking he had really socked it to the rabbit." — Show Me the Briar Patch


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The sweetheart candy turned 147 years old this year. The candy company, NECCO, once considered adding the phrase "PUCKER UP," according to The Atlantic.

But the industrial machine had a habit of printing Ps that looked a little to much like Fs. So, yeah. That was one Sweetheart that didn't make it to market.