Federal furloughs: Chiseled in butter?

Friday - 3/29/2013, 2:00am EDT

Awhile back, basketball great Charles Barkley wrote a book, "I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It," which made The New York Times best-seller list. Rightly so.

Now, maybe he should take pen in hand again, and look at the way the government is dealing with the sequester poison pill cooked up by the White House and happily served up by Congress.

The effect of sequestration — rock-solid, across-the-board cuts in virtually all federal programs — was supposed to be so horrible that nobody in their right mind would let it happen. That was the first mistake.

Just the threat of sequestration, the wise ones felt, would force warring politicians to, finally, agree on things: Like budgets, appropriations, taxes, the debt ceiling and other billion-dollar and trillion-dollar money matters. It was considered unthinkable that it, the it being sequestration, would be allowed to happen. Officials in the very highest places said, repeatedly, it wasn't going to happen.

But the power brokers did nothing and went on vacation. It happened.

So, now, federal agencies must draw up their own sequestration-compliance plans, based on the 158-page guideline supplied by the Office of Management and Budget.

Feds in some agencies already know how long their planned furloughs will be. If they be.

In many cases, workers know the (tentative) number of furlough days planned. Folks at Housing and Urban Development even know the exact dates of the furloughs, which is good for planning purposes if they happen. And that's a big IF. You can check it out by clicking here.

Yesterday's Federal Report was about the fact that agency furlough plans, and numbers, are all over the place. That could be a sign of panic or of good planning. Not all agencies are alike. Some have already made cuts sufficient to spare them from some or any furloughs. Some have intentionally put their worst foot forward warning, via the media, that sequestration would have a bad impact on everything from what you eat, to how you travel and how quickly you get those tornado alerts.

Defense led the way saying right off the bat that it would furlough virtually all of its 780,000 civilians for up to 22 days. That had a lot of people in government standing at attention. People who said it would never happen were dismissed as cock-eyed optimists or cynics who've been in D.C. too long. So what happened? Defense first delayed the dates it said it would issue the furlough notice letters. Then, yesterday, it revised the number of furlough days downward from 22 to 14. Nobody knows exactly why this reality check happened, but some speculate the answer may be in the code letters CHUCKHAGEL.

Furloughs are not funny. Not if you are facing them.

Each furlough day — when/if it happens — will mean a 20 percent pay cut for that week. Also, reduced government contributions to your TSP plan. Furloughs, used as part of a political foodfight, would be an unfair punishment of people who have been under a pay freeze for two-plus years.

Most feds — judging from emails and comments we get — say they would gladly bite the bullet and sacrifice if it is really necessary. Most don't think this is necessary.

So hang in there. It isn't over until its over. And it is definitely not over.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Old Fido may not be lazy; he may have narcolepsy. The ailment, caused by a mutation in the hyprocretin receptor 2 gene, is actually common in dogs, especially among Labrador retrievers, poodles and dachshunds.

(Source: Life's Little Mysteries)


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