Gridlock's not such a dirty word

Wednesday - 5/7/2014, 2:00am EDT

(Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is out today. This column originally ran April 15)

Looking for action, excitement and intrigue on TV this summer?

Here's a tip: One of the hundreds of channels (many of them in foreign languages I can't identify) I get at home is a 24/7 cattle auction. The show is nothing but a constant stream of steers, cows and the occasional bull running across the screen. I don't know if it is the same group or an endless stream of cattle. You've seen one Hereford, you've seen them all!

An auctioneer, again speaking an unknown language, keeps on keeping on. I don't know if it has sponsors, commercial breaks or a point. Its distinction is that it's duller than Congress. But not by much. So where do you turn?

If you are a political junkie (or just a tired federal worker) looking for real action, you can forget about Congress for the rest of the year.

If you crave real, meaningful drama go for some heavy stuff, like "Kitchen Casino," "My 600 Pound Life" or "Dancing With The Stars" to see where the nation is heading. Or maybe is already at.

Congress is currently on its third or fourth vacation (this one a two-week break) of the year. With more breaks to come.

In recent years, federal workers have been a primary target of deficit-fighters. The White House and Congress imposed the pay freeze, created the furloughs and shutdowns and are in agreement that feds should kick in more toward their retirement, and that future cost-of-living adjustments for retirees (federal, military and Social Security) should be trimmed, a tad, by using a new inflation-measuring yardstick.

In addition to raising retirement costs for current feds, there is talk and plans to eliminate the defined-benefit portion of the federal retirement package for future hires.

Many long-time feds, who have lived with cutback plans going back to the 1980s, have learned to grin and bear it. Lots of relative newcomers remain nervous. People who said that sequestration would never happen were proved wrong.

The good-news-bad-news (which is often the same thing when talking about political outcomes) is that Congress isn't likely to do anything this year. Other than work to see that everybody in Congress who wants to stay in the House or Senate stays in the House or Senate.

Democrats want to hang on to the Senate. Republicans want to hang on to the House and, maybe, get an edge in the upper body. The fact that an independent senator from Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats, may move into the GOP camp makes for interesting political drama. Meantime, gridlock rules.

Gridlock is a dirty word to some people. Especially those who want action on legislation that would benefit them. And of course the nation too! But if you are the chosen sacrificial goat, aka a career federal civil servant, gridlock has a certain appeal. If they can't (won't) do anything good for you, they also can't (won't) do anything bad to you either.

Groups — unions and professional associations — representing feds, postal employees, managers, executive and retirees will continue to warn members about pending dangers. As they should. Because what doesn't happen, or even come up, in 2014 will be with us this time next year.

But for now, relax, just a little. You've earned it. Think positively!

And for drama, check out "2 Broke Girls." I wasn't invited to the critics' screening, but they say Lindsay Lohan, who will be a guest star, is dynamite. Also, (and maybe most important) she isn't Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Speaker John Boehner.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

The longest word in the English language is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, according to Dictionary.com. The word refers to a lung disease caused by silica dust.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Survey: How much do feds trust the government?
Federal News Radio wants to know how much trust federal employees have in the government, and whether that trust has been growing or diminishing in recent years. Take our survey today and tell us your thoughts. Your anonymous responses will be used as part of a special report debuting May 20 on FederalNewsRadio.com and on the radio (1500AM in the Washington, D.C. region).

American Legion calls for VA Secretary, two others to resign
The organization says a series of whistleblowers and investigative reports show a "pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership" among VA senior leaders. This is the first time in more than 30 years the American Legion has called for the removal of a public official.