For feds, deja vu all over again

Thursday - 12/15/2011, 2:00am EST

A long-time friend and coworker — the former radio-TV critic of The Washington Post, spent two years in hospitals run by the Navy and later the VA. He was recuperating from wounds received during World War II. To cut to the chase, his ship was hit by a kamikaze airplane. Many of his comrades were killed. He was "lucky." As a result one leg is two inches shorter than the other. He's walked with a serious limp for the last 66 years!

Typical of lots of badly wounded warriors, my friend always joked about his lengthy (and obviously painful) rehab. The worst part, he says, was four or five months in the hospital in New Orleans where the two guys on either side of his bed had a steady, long-running verbal duel. Their oratory consisted of two words. One guy would say "F--- You!," and and the other guy would respond with "F--- You!" The wordsmiths kept it up, interrupted only by periods of sleep, for months.

I hope my friend, now living in a retirement center in Alexandria, Va., isn't watching , or reading news coverage of Congress. Why? Because...

If he is paying attention, it might trigger frightful flashbacks of his time in hospital when he was stuck between two one-note dolts who, day after day and month after month, had the same deja vu argument, which in the end settled nothing.

The Republican-controlled House (again) on Tuesday approved legislation — this time linked to the payroll tax cut extension — that would make offsetting savings via an extension of the federal pay freeze and major changes in civil service retirement benefits. The Democratic-controlled Senate (again) announced that it was Dead on Arrival! Or, in simpler terms: "F--- You!" "No, F--- You!" Repeat as necessary.

Meantime the continuing resolution, which allows federal functions to continue, is due to expire Friday. Like tomorrow.

The CR replaces an earlier CR (which replaced an even earlier CR) that was necessary because Congress has failed in one of its primary missions which is to approve budgets for various federal operations. The government has been running on CRs, to one degree or another, for years under both political parties.

Everybody in the country — men, women and children — has a lot at stake here. You could argue that feds have more skin in the game than most people because in addition to being substantial taxpayers, they are also public servants. It is their pay, their retirement, their benefits that are often the first-targets when politicians try to undo the fiscal problems caused by bailouts, tax loopholes, mandates and earmarks voted by Congress.

Lots of feds are wondering why they have been assigned the shirts with the bullseye on them. For instance this reader who says:

"Am I missing something here? Are the feds the only workers in the U.S. that are receiving the "payroll" tax?

"NO — 160 million people ... including feds are receiving it, right?

"So, I, as a fed, am extremely upset as (are) ALL my co-workers that once again we feds are taking an attempted freeze for more years ahead to pay for this...

"I have fifteen years in government and am about to walk. I simply cannot believe that they can get away with this!" TOTALLY FRUSTRATED FED IN BETHESDA....


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Why are balloons used in celebrations — from birthdays to New Years? "because they're cheap and colorful, and people like watching things fly away," Slate's Explainer posits. Originally used for military communications and scientific experiments, balloons were commercially manufactured in the U.S. beginning in 1907, balloon animals made an appearance in the 1930s and the Mylar drugstore balloon were introduced in the 1970s.


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