Man bites dead horse: Now that's news!

Friday - 7/19/2013, 2:00am EDT

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey on "In Depth" with Francis Rose

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I got an email yesterday that probably represents the feeling of some, maybe lots, of readers. Feds — and nonfeds — who are sick-to-death of reading about furloughs and the prospect of layoffs later this year. For them, the furloughs are remote — something happening to somebody else. Fair enough!

Understood. Gotcha!

Being the bearer of bad tidings (even though this is reality, not media speculation) gets old too. Even though it is in reporters' genes to secretly hope for some kind of a headline-producing disaster. Provided we are miles from the real action!

The subject-line on the email was: "Furlough Farce." Here's what he said:

"Why do you keep beating a comatose horse (aka furloughs). I work as a fed in California (for 35 years) and, to be honest, I don't even know anyone who has been furloughed. It's like the only thing you seem to talk about anymore and, frankly, it has gotten old. And while I'm on a roll, most feds (those who have worked as a fed their entire careers) don't know how good they have it" — David M.

I'm sure there are many people who feel the same way. Especially if furloughs are something they read about, but don't experience even second-hand. In fact...

Trust me, a lot of us on this federal news beat are looking forward to the day when furloughs are a thing of the past. To a time when critics of the "bloated bureaucracy" have a change of heart. When federal workers cease being called pointy-headed time servers. When there is praise and recognition — for federal agents, forest rangers, air traffic controllers and IRS folks who go after tax cheats — for what they do. Often when we are asleep. Even if it is at 41,000 feet in a steel and aluminum tube cranking along at 500 m.p.h.

We await the time when professional critics of the government, whether they work for think tanks or us (hah!) give a shoutout — in a Senate speech or on one of the Sunday talking heads shows — to Defense, DEA and FBI, State and USAID personnel for putting themselves in harm's way in some pretty nasty, hot and dangerous parts of the world. Meantime, many of those same folks — whose pay has been frozen for three years — are circling upcoming furlough days.

To date, between 800,000 and 900,000 federal workers have been furloughed. It includes the Defense Department, IRS, EEOC and Housing and Urban Development. And the Office of Management and Budget as well as some congressional staffers — but not their bosses.

The number of feds who have been furloughed, so far, represents more than half the the total nonpostal workforce. That's a fair number of people who really have been furloughed. Some for a couple of days. Some for five days. The dead horse, in this case, is them. Each furlough day represents a 20 percent pay cut for that week and, as many point out, a reduction in the amount of money they can put into the TSP (and matching funds from Uncle Sam) reduced income, for high- three purposes, etc.

But mostly it means paying 10 days' (one full pay period) bills and obligations with nine days' pay. For some people, it is just a tiny speed bump. Some say they've decided to roll with the blows and to consider their Friday or Monday furlough as a three-day weekend. A time to rest, play and maybe reconsider their career options.

For tens of thousands of workers — many but not all low-income — the furloughs have been a disaster.

Thousands of workers have applied for interest-free loans from FEEA. Not to buy a car, but to pay medical bills for sick kids. Or themselves. Or to make the mortgage payment.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Think you love ice cream? Aztec emperor Montezuma was so enamored of a rudimentary form of the icy treat, he ordered servants to to climb to the top of nearby volcanic mountains, in order to gather snow to mix with fruit juices.

(Source: GovBookTalk)


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