Cliff-Walking 101

Friday - 8/17/2012, 2:00am EDT

Is Uncle Sam heading off the sequestration cliff and taking us with him? Or will Congress and the White House pull a post-election rabbit out of the hat?

Will vital (and some not-so-vital) services be interrupted or crippled? Could the economy go back into an even deeper recession, as sequestration opponents predict? Will tens of thousands of government contractors lose their jobs? Will tens of thousands of feds get furloughed? If so, who, where and for how long?

Can Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill get some meds or anger-management counseling that will enable them to be in the same room without breaking out in hives, or speaking with forked tongues?

We should have our answers no later than early January.

Meantime, here's a thoughtful comment from a long-time, inside the Beltway fed who is going to grin and bear it. Here's what he said:

"I suppose the result on Election Day will affect the cliff edge walkers. The timid will become even more so, and the bold will be bolder.

Maybe once a century or so, dramatic consequences need to be played out with real effects so a future generation will have a reference.

This kind of brinksmanship though scares the world and a loss of confidence is hard to get back.

Ben (Bernanke) at the Fed will be a busy boy if our cliff-walking skills are rusty and someone falls off.

Me? I will eye my cash reserve and plan for a few, several, missed paydays and wonder aloud some dark thoughts about the future." — M.H.

Travel Costs: Who pays? GSA has frozen federal per diem rates for 2013 at current levels. This comes at a time when GSA is doing very little traveling of its own. This prompted a frequent traveler to ask:

"How did GSA come up with its estimate that freezing per diem rates is going to save $20 million? Do they seriously think that hotels and restaurants are not going to raise prices based on inflation/their increased cost of doing business?

Federal employees are still going to travel. And that $20 million cost is still going to be incurred. I guess, on second thought that GSA is right; it won't be billed against the government budget. It will just be another case of taking money out of federal employees pockets.

Guess we should be thankful that GSA didn't decide to roll back rates by 30 percent. But wait, Congress hasn't been heard from. Yet!" — Road Warrior


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore and Amanda Iacone

President Andrew Jackson was the unwitting recipient of a 1,400-pound block of cheese. Two years after a dairy farmer in New York shipped the big cheese to the Big Cheese, the President invited several thousand people to the White House to help finish it off — the guests reportedly needed just two hours.

Read a letter President Jackson wrote referencing the cheese.

Or just read more details about the cheese and how it ended up in the White House from Mental Floss.


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