Sequestration Book: 50 Shades Greyer

Wednesday - 2/20/2013, 2:00am EST

The original headline for this column was "PLEASE, PLEASE, DON'T READ THIS!" But we decided that might actually encourage some people, so instead we gently encourage you to stop right now.

Seriously.

OK, if you've got this far, it's your fault. Continue. But first, a confession:

Although I had woodshop, then metal shop and finally print shop at Gordon Junior High School, I am not handy around the house. Or any other place.

The birdhouse I built didn't have an opening for the birds to ingress and egress, according to a nit-picking teacher.

The "guidebook" we came up with in print shop could have gotten us expelled. Maybe jailed at that time.

In metal shop I made a spoon which made my mother weep. Not because of the thought behind it, but because it was so ugly.

My branch of the primate family doesn't use tools or follow directions. For us, the three-most feared words in any language are: SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. Show me that, and I am gone like a flash. Inability to read and follow directions is the problem. With that fear-of-instructions lead-in, try to guess what this new Washington-generated book is all about.

Here are some clues:

  • It is 394 pages long — with small print and some charts. "Fifty Shades of Grey" it is not! A very tough read.

  • Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people contributed to it. Many of them had to drop what they were doing to research and write it.

  • The book is important (we are assured) but it is pretty slow going. It may do double-duty as a put-your-kid-to-sleep tool. Read little Joshua or Susan a couple of pages each night. They will either pass out or fake sleep so that you will go away.
Don't laugh, because whether you read it or not, you paid for it. And you may pay a lot more starting in a couple of weeks. What is it? Well, the title is problematic: OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-155).

Prediction: It will never make Oprah's Book Club.

The book tells how sequestration will work unless Congress and the White House block it.

Sequestration — and its subsequent across-the-board cuts and furloughs in many agencies — is complicated stuff. These are really uncharted waters and could make the shutdown of 1996 seem tame. As it turned out, that was a paid vacation for hundreds of thousands of federal workers. This time, if it happens, there will be real cuts in pay (for those furlough days) and there is little chance that Congress — which just voted to continue your pay freeze — will authorize back pay once sequestration is over.

It is not known how many people have read the entire sequestration manual. Probably not many. But if you want to look up specifics, like its impact on the legislative and judicial branches of government, it can be done.

Meantime, our Your Turn radio show today will answer some of your questions and concerns about what sequestration means to you, your job and your benefits. Can you apply for unemployment? What about the impact on your Thrift Savings Plan account? Will being furloughed have an impact on your eventual retirement benefits? What are your rights and responsibilities during a time of furloughs? Washington attorney John Mahoney of Tully Rinckey will be on to talk about your rights when in furlough status.

In the second half of the show, Federal Times writers Stephen Losey and Sean Reilly will talk about the pay freeze, pension liability and a new crackdown on poor performers. And, of course, sequestration.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Hans Christian Andersen — the author of several beloved fairy tales, including "The Little Mermaid" and "The Ugly Duckling" — suffered from taphephobia, the fear of being accidentally buried alive. Andersen "would always lay a card on his dresser before he went to sleep, even while traveling, that said 'I am not really dead,'" according to Today I Found Out.