Furlough Follies

Thursday - 10/3/2013, 2:00am EDT

While 800,000 furloughed feds figure out how long they can go without a paycheck, the 535 members of Congress who caused or allowed the shutdown to happen are living large. They are not exactly sharing a foxhole with you!

For starters, the Representatives and Senators are still getting paid. So it must be hard for even the most compassionate of them to identify with rank-and-file feds.

On Capitol Hill, no matter how long the executive branch shutdown lasts, elected officials will get their salaries (by some estimate, that's $10 million per hour!), and benefits will remain unaffected.

At last count, roughly a dozen House members were living rent-free at their offices. They bed down for the night on couches or cots (the staff loves this) and clean-up crews, paid for by you and me, tidy things up. They can eat in the economical cafeterias and dining rooms. They can use the House and Senate gyms and, shutdown notwithstanding, can probably get into a closed federal building or national park if they want. But that is for them, not the likes of you.

Don't try bunking at your office, if you ever get a chance to come back to work. Odds are, you would be fired.

Veterans of the 1995-96 shutdown (which hit a much smaller number of workers) did all manner of things during their 21-day forced vacations. Some had fun. Traveled and decided it wasn't going to get them down. Others fell on very hard times, and spent the shutdown worrying about paying bills.

After feds were allowed to return to work, Congress voted to pay them. That isn't guaranteed this time. Given the hinky mood of politicians, it is possible that there will be another unpaid break in service. Thousands of Defense civilians, IRS workers, HUD and EPA employees and others were furloughed without pay because of the sequestration-triggered furloughs.

On the first day of the furloughs, we heard from a federal research librarian. She — like thousands of other feds — had to come into work Monday to shut down operations. The research assistance she provides the military will have to wait.

An IRS employee in California said he also came in, shut down, and turned around and went home Tuesday. " Doesn't make any sense", he said "because we make (or at least collect) money for the government."

A Washington area fed said she and her husband, a NASA employee, made the most of the 1995-96 shutdown. "We had 21 days on our own, then a big snowstorm." So what did they do? Well, their youngest child, a son, was born in 1997.

So how are you surviving? What are you doing with your furlough time? Is this a bonus vacation? Is it a hardship already? We'd love to hear your tips for maintaining your sanity.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are working to make the Fluffernutter — peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff on bread — the official state sandwich. Priorities!

(Source: WTOP)


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