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Shows & Panels
Dude, R U essential or expendable?
Tuesday - 1/15/2013, 2:00am EST
Thanks to increasingly nasty partisan political fighting in Washington, government employment — once considered by the public to be the ultimate safe haven — is suddenly the place to be if you want chills and thrills. Every day people have the emotional equivalent of being shot out of a cannon into a den of lions, tigers or bears.
For the last six months of 2012, feds sweated as they, and the rest of the country, crawled toward the fiscal cliff. Many special-interest groups and bad-news-is-good-news media types predicted gloom and doom if an agreement on spending cuts and taxes was not reached. Congress and the White House cut a last minute deal — heavy on taxes, pretty quiet on spending cuts — and that was that. But not for long...
Coming up is another possible calamity in mid-February when the debt ceiling limit must be raised or Uncle Sam defaults. In the past, the issue has been as much political as financial. The party controlling the White House says do it, and the opposition in the House and Senate balk. And nothing seems to have changed. Republican legislators did it to Democratic presidents. Democratic legislators did it to Republican presidents. When President George W. Bush asked Congress to raise the ceiling most Democrats, including then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) voted against it. He later said it was a political vote for negotiating purposes. Since moving up and into the White House, he has said he will not negotiate this time.
Among those caught in the middle are federal workers who face the very real prospect of being locked out unless they are considered super-essential. The definition of workers who are considered "emergency" or "mission critical" or "essential" will become increasingly important as we stumble toward the next politician-made crisis.
Much of the attention has focused on what the Defense Department, the largest federal operation, will do if sequestration hits in March when stopgap budget measures for most federal agencies expire. The Pentagon plan calls for a hiring freeze, layoffs of temps and tougher contract rules. But there is a lot more to the federal government than the defense establishment.
Special-interest groups continue to warn about closures that could slow transportation, curtail imports and cripple the economy. Other than that, no problem.
The question is if there is a shutdown can/will the FAA exempt air-traffic controllers? Limiting flights into New York, Chicago, Dallas or Atlanta could back up the entire system. Will Social Security tell claims processors and check-issuers to stand down? Will the IRS say sorry-about-that-refund? Will FBI agents be told to go home and keep current by watching "Criminal Minds?"
If the past is prologue, the politicians will run it to the end. Then either raise the limit (which they usually do) or not. A real possibility.
Once we get past that one, there is the sequestration monster to follow.
Meantime, check with your boss to find out whether you are essential or expendable. And let us know what would happen if you and your agency took a forced time out.
NEARLY USELESS FACTOID
By Jack Moore
Women consider men with brown eyes more trustworthy, according to a Czech study. Researchers discovered that men with brown eyes also typically had "bigger mouths, broader chins, bigger noses and more prominent eyebrows" than their blue-eyed brethren.
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