Furloughs: So, who's in charge?

Tuesday - 2/5/2013, 2:00am EST



When it comes to the possibility of government furloughs, we know one thing for sure. That is either...

1) They are coming next month, and they will bust your chops. Feds in some agencies (Defense is the leader of the pack) could be furloughed one day per week (for a grand total of 22 days) between March and Sept. 30 — the end of the fiscal year. That would mean a pay cut during that period of 20 percent. Some agencies believe they can avoid furloughs, others won't be able to.

Or...

2) This is a load of the kind of fertilizer Washington-based politicians produce in abundance, having had years of practice.

Both political parties are using the threat of furloughs to get their way on taxes, entitlements and spending cuts. For them, the reality of extended furloughs is about the same as an asteroid strike in D.C.'s Georgetown section. The exception is a small fringe group of House Republicans who would genuinely like to see the government furloughed on a permanent basis — except for the facilities and federal funding in their congressional districts.

So the answer is either 1 or 2. For sure.

Consider:

Before the November election, the Labor Department notified government contractors that they really didn't have to send out those silly and scary (also mandatory) letters warning of possible layoffs because of the "fiscal cliff" crisis. Why unnerve people unnecessarily? Labor said. Plenty of time (as in after Election Day) for that. Like now.

Now, after delaying the detonation of the sequestration time bomb until next month (maybe) the government is again sending out mixed signals on furloughs.

Less than two weeks ago, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter issued a memo that said it would have to fire 46,000 temps and that if sequestration hits, the automatic budget cuts would mean most of its 780,000 civilian workers would face one-day-per week furloughs through the end of fiscal 2013. While not fun reading for most, it was a realistic appraisal of what would happen if the worst happens.

Then, last week, the Pentagon came out with a hold-your-horses memo saying that furloughs are not a sure thing and that people should stop all this scare talk! The memo made it clear that some portions of the media were hyping the furlough threat out of proportion when it fact, most of the "hype" (if that is what it is) has come from unions, contractor groups, think tanks and, uh, Congress and the White House. Government Executive reported that Kathleen Hicks, principal deputy undersecretary for policy warned that many media reports about furloughs "included many inaccuracies" and that no decision has been made on furloughs" of the civilian workforce.

So there you have it. Either we are going to have furloughs or not.

Stand by for the next it's-on-again-off-again memo.

Either way don't worry. It's in the hands of our elected officials, so what could possibly go wrong?


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Now you can help Fido go out with a bang — literally. The Australian-based company, Ashes to Ashes, operated by a circus performer, sends pets' ashes "up in the air as fireworks, descending on to the water of Sydney Harbor as their final resting place."

(Source: I Can't Believe It)


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