Furloughs go from bluff to reality. What's next?

Tuesday - 4/23/2013, 2:00am EDT

Question: What do you do when:

1) Your country is attacked by two (at least) apparent home-grown terrorists. The method they chose: bombs at the Boston Marathon. That was just over a week ago. The Russian security service reportedly asked the FBI to check them out two years ago. So there is likely more information, maybe more trouble, to come.

2) The leader of a starving, what-have-we-got-to-lose country (rhymes with North Korea) apparently has at least one nuclear weapon. He's threatened to attack his neighbors, or maybe Texas!

3) We, as a nation, are spending more than we take in. But, politicians can't agree on how to take in more and from whom.

4) Things in the Middle East — and Central Africa — aren't getting any better.

5) We are borrowing lots of money from the People's Republic of China which, in the past, has wished us less than well. And been known to do some serious hacking.

Answer: Our leaders devised a plan to furlough Defense Department workers, law enforcement personnel and everybody that works for the government's premier revenue-collector, the IRS.

The White House and Congress will remain open for business, which includes getting us out of the mess they created. Why didn't we think of this sooner?

After months of talk about furloughs and sequestration, the games have begun. The question for lots of cash-strapped feds is, how long will they go on? How many furlough days (each representing a pay cut) will they get while their political leaders, insulated from sequestration, continue to jockey for position?

Defense has — wisely and carefully, many think — been easing back on the number of days it plans to furlough employees and the start date of those furloughs. It has gone from 22 days for everybody to perhaps as few as seven for most, but not everybody.

The IRS has set five furlough days between May and August, with two more days possible. It will close operations as virtually everyone will be furloughed on the same days except for those involved in systems security and building safety. The IRS plan was designed to minimize the financial hit on employees and was worked out in consultation with the National Treasury Employees Union, which opposes any furloughs.

Some long-time employees think the furloughs have shifted (thanks to the calendar) from the bluffing stage to a stalling operation in hopes that they can be minimized or avoided altogether. Meantime, they are on track, so....

Suppose there is an even more serious (than Boston) event, attack or incident while DoD is semi-closed for business. Earlier, the White House spoke about furloughs of FBI and other federal agents. Is that still on? What happens if something happens? Who gets hit and, in the aftermath, who takes the political hit? Or hits?


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

If you collected all the water on Earth into a single drop, it would be just slightly less than 860 miles across.

(Source: Slate)


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