Swiss-cheese body armor

Tuesday - 7/23/2013, 2:00am EDT

Wouldn't it be funny (not ha-ha funny, but weird funny) if we find out some day that sequestration didn't save a nickel? That it was about as effective as body armor made of Swiss cheese?

Wouldn't it be something if we learned that as soon as the "S word" hit the fan, it actually cost Uncle Sam a bundle in revenue not raised, lawsuits that could last a decade or more, and time-consuming and costly appeals filed? Not to mention productivity lost before, during and after a furlough day.

That would be funny! Right?

Would White House officials who designed it and the Congress that let it happen say they were sorry? That they maybe made a mistake? And that it won't happen again? Probably not.

Although the amounts vary — depending on whose yardstick is being used — sequestration is supposed to save a bundle. The people who created it and warned us it shouldn't happen assured us that it would hurt, but the hurt would feel good. It produced across-the-board (but at the same time also very selective) cuts in some programs. But not all. And in some federal agencies. But not all. And furloughs of some employees in some agencies. But not all.

Examples:

  • The brief (quickly withdrawn) furlough of air traffic controllers cost a lot of people — from the airlines to long-suffering passengers and businesses — a ton of money. How much? Make up a figure, that's what we do here in political Washington all the time.

  • Whatever the Internal Revenue Service is saving by shutting down operations on furlough days may be offset because of what it isn't taking in on those days. The Federal Times this week obtained internal Treasury planning documents that it said estimates the $600 million in furlough savings at the IRS will be offset by "billions of dollars in lost revenue." Federal union leaders have also issued the same warning, and individual employees have contacted Federal News Radio to tell us how much their individual furloughs cost in revenue lost or delayed collections.

  • The Merit Systems Protection Board, which normally processes 6,000 to 7,000 cases a year has seen a surge in filings from feds protesting their furloughs. In one 10-day period, MSPB got 3,000 furlough-related appeals, and they are still coming.

  • The Federal Employee Education and Assistance fund says it is swamped with requests for loans from furloughed feds. FEEA, a feds-helping-feds charity, said that more than half of the $49,000 in interest-free hardship loans it made in June went to furloughed employees to help pay rent, child care or for food. FEEA executive director Steve Bauer will be our guest on our Your Turn radio show Wednesday at 10 a.m EDT.

  • Many of the feds who have contacted us think sequestration is stupid or costly, but they say they continue to do their jobs because they feel what they are doing is important. But a growing number — small but getting bigger — say they've had it. That even on their nonfurlough days they will go through the motions, but that's about it. "They treat me like a zombie," one said, "that's what they will get!"


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Now you have another reason to eat your greens. In ancient Egypt, lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac, symbolizing the favored food of Min, the god of fertility.

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine)


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