When In Doubt, Mumble!

Tuesday - 8/14/2012, 2:00am EDT

Ever go to the store without a shopping list, not knowing how much you have to spend?

(Disclosure: I do this a couple of times a week. But the question is: How you — a hopefully better organized, more stable person — would react.)

Have you ever set out on a long journey, through a dense forest, swampy terrain or ice and snow without a map, compass or GPS device? That, in a nutshell, is what Congress (when it returns from vacation) will be asking the entire federal government to do.

Before Congress left town, the House had passed on seven appropriations bills. The Senate had not approved any, which is just as well because the White House hinted strongly that if it passed the House version of those packages it would veto at least six of them. Which is a lot.

So Congress did what it does best. Nothing. The Democratic Senate and Republican House leadership — both anxious to get campaigning — agreed to a Continuing Resolution. The CR, which still must be ratified by the full House and Senate, keeps the government running during the first half of the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Agencies would be allowed to keep spending at current levels through the end of March 2013. Which is fine except...

What do agencies do about program expansion plans? Does the IRS, as planned, hire more people to process 2012 returns and dig into the ever-growing pile of people who are behind in their taxes? The IRS says it collects $4 in taxes for every dollar spent on salaries. Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees, says it is more like a $16 to $1 ratio. Whatever it is, people who don't like to pay their fair share (or any) taxes love it when Congress throttles the IRS.

Agencies that planned to hire more employees in 2013 (to staff programs being pushed by the White House) may now be forced to hold off. They will also be anticipating the possibility of furloughs or layoffs next year if the ever-dreaded Sequestration kicks in.

Congress — whether controlled by Republicans, Democrats or split like now — has gotten into the habit of government-by-CR. Agencies and employees that once panicked when their budgets weren't approved now expect to be saved — sort of — by a last minute CR. But as the Federal Times points out this week, "...even if CR's are now the rule, the impact seeps into almost every corner of government business..." from the FDA to Social Security and the VA.

Many Americans say they would love to see the government shrink, and waste and duplication weeded out. Who wouldn't?

At the same time they don't want anybody slowing the processing of their Social Security (or civil service or Railroad Retirement) benefit. Or the delivery of their check. Also, if you or a family member is entitled to VA benefits and assistance, you need it when you need it. The fact that relatively few members of Congress are veterans may play a part in all this.

Also there is Medicare.

People complain about long lines at the airport, but it is front page news when there is a security breach by a TSA officer or operation. Ditto for air traffic controllers. We only hear about them when there is a problem.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore and Amanda Iacone

A new study out of France finds that men are more likely to give a bigger tip to waitresses who wear red. So the next time you go out to eat, consider your server's attire before deciding how much you should tip.

Read more at UPI.com.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Romney's VP pick targeted fed pay, benefits
Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), was the main architect of a budget plan that would slash federal benefits and would extend the pay freeze.

FAA cuts could trigger $20 billion blow to national economy
Shaving $1 billion from the Federal Aviation and Administration's budget as part of sequestration could cost the U.S. economy $80 billion a year by 2035 and as many as 132,000 job losses a year, according to a new study released by the Aerospace Industries Association.

Senators ask DoD to consider debarment for P&WC
Two powerful senators are calling for the Defense Department to determine if a major DoD contractor should face further punishment, including contract suspension and debarment, after the contractor pleaded guilty to illegally exporting military software to China.

Sequestration could hurt U.S. intel, analyst says
Sequestration could really hurt the ability of America's intelligence community to do its job. That's the assessment of a long-time observer of the U.S. intelligence community who is herself a former federal employee in the field. .