Sequestration: the new heartburn and Alka-Seltzer combo

Monday - 5/6/2013, 2:00am EDT

Years ago, I went to a nightclub where a moderately bad comedian was having a very bad night. His best joke of the evening involved a sandwich he had invented. It was a super-hot, onion-laden, chili hot dog topped with crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets. His claim to fame is that it both caused, then cured, heart burn at the same time.

I told you it was bad!

That said, the sequestration monster created by the White House and unleashed on government by the Congress is a legislative version of the hot dog, Alka-Seltzer combo — except we are still waiting for the cure part to kick in. After swallowing the legislative poison pill, each side still seems to hope that the other party will see the light, feel the heat, or blink and cave in to (certain) tax increases or (certain) entitlement cuts. Doing a little of each would mean a compromise — something Washington, these days, doesn't do very often or very well.

Caught in the middle are hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors who have been furloughed or will be hit by them later this month. Many will be able to weather the 20 percent cut that a one-day furlough will mean in that week's salary. But others are in panic mode. The Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund has been swamped with questions about its emergency, no-interest loan program.

Along with furlough notices, agencies have also been giving workers information about how to apply for unemployment benefits in their home states. Go figure!

Meantime, here's a comment from a reader about a column I wrote last Tuesday about the IRS losing money because of furloughs. (A separate reader commented that it isn't technically correct because, he said, the IRS will resume audits and collect money on non-furlough days.)

Here's what a West Virginia-based fed said:

I enjoyed today's column greatly and I hope somewhere someone with some pull has read it, too!!! As the arm of this government that brings in the money to operate this government, one would think that before starting a program where you are losing millions of dollars by trying to save thousands of dollars, someone would have done some research on this issue.

My workplace is abuzz with rumors, more so than the usual rumors that run amok through the building each and every day. No one knows what is going to happen.

We have emails telling us the seven days we will be furloughed...and the same day an email appears, as it did today, that contains another employee survey asking if we would please complete it. It states it will take 25 minutes to complete and we can do it on OFFICIAL time. More money wasted!!!! Let's see, at my workplace 25 minutes X 900-or-so employees equates to about 22,500 minutes, which equals 375 hours X an hourly rate of a GS-12 Step 7, comes to a total of $16,593.75.

So, Mike, on we go and I do hope you are not planning on calling the 1-800 line for the IRS on May 24 because no one will be home on that day, anywhere, any place in that vast IRS network. For this is the first day of seven furlough days that are scheduled for the IRS and the employees who work here. A scary thought!!!! Or a good thought depending on your belief in the IRS!!!!!

Finally another email arrived in the inbox. And for this, I am sure some folks are thankful as it tells us how to negotiate the unemployment compensation landscape.....how thoughtful!!!!!" - Lee in West Virginia


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID:

By Julia Ziegler:

Jack Moore, the editor of Mike Causey's daily column and the person normally responsible for writing the Nearly Useless Factoid, was named after the seventh President of the United States. His full name is Andrew Jackson Moore.


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