Zen 101: Is nothing better than something, or anything?

Tuesday - 6/5/2012, 2:00am EDT

Here's a great election year plan for the nation:

You've got two-and-counting wars going on. Casualties are down, but still happening. Plus, unannounced action in Africa, Central America and a growing number of aerial drones along the Mexican border. Oh, and Syria and Iran (maybe North Korea) are yet to be heard from.

So if you are Congress, what do you do? You freeze the salaries of the federal civilians — at the Pentagon and at bases at home and abroad. And for good measure, you include employees of the Veterans Affairs Department in the extended freeze. No matter that they (like their civilian and military counterparts) provide care for wounded warriors from both recent conflicts and the fast-disappearing Greatest Generation group. Oh, and the anniversary of D-Day (June 6, 1944) is tomorrow.

Defense and VA account for a huge chunk of the federal workforce. Next in line for the pay freeze, no doubt, will be people at Homeland Security, the TSA and the IRS. Then all other federal workers. After a two-year pay freeze, what better way to motivate feds (and their families) than extending the freeze another year.

The idea for the original pay freeze came from the White House. The Obama administration thought it would save money and send a message that the government could tighten its belt too. But in the most recent budget, the president called for a teeney-weeney 0.5 percent raise effective in January 2013. Not enough to offset higher health premiums next year, and maybe higher taxes too. But better, slightly, than a sharp stick in the eye.

But the House, in its wisdom (?), last week voted to extend the pay freeze until at least 2014. Lest you think this is an all-Republican show, be advised that the vote to extend the pay freeze was 407-12. That's not even close.

To add insult to injury is the (probable) waste of time. The Democratic-controlled Senate has made it clear, all year, that just about anything that comes out of the GOP-run House is dead on arrival. This time, the White House has threatened to veto entire Defense-VA package. But its opposition is based on issues other than the proposed federal pay freeze. So it's back to square one with five months left until the election.

Maybe government watchers complain about divided government. They say nothing gets done if one party controls the House (or Senate) and the other controls the White House and the Senate (or House). Some experts say that's a good thing. That is that nothing — given the leadership we've given ourselves — is better than almost anything else.

Being ruled by the gang that couldn't shoot straight is not so bad, as long as you are the intended target!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating 60 years on the throne this year, and the U.K. is going all out for the "Diamond Jubilee" celebrations. The diamond anniversary (for royalty and weddings, more generally) used to refer to the 75th year, however no British monarch has ever ruled for that long. The anniversary was moved up in 1897, according to to Life's Little Mysteries, when the reclusive Queen Victoria wanted to "reconnect" with the public but had only ruled for 60 years. The perks of being a monarch, I guess.


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