Just when you thought it couldn't get worse...

Thursday - 2/28/2013, 2:00am EST

Remember that time you carefully avoided the speed bump only to slam into something unexpected — a tree, a garbage can, a 900-pound hippo that escaped from the zoo — just a little further down the road? In life it is often the unexpected things that trip us up.

And if you work for the government — or use or depend on any of its many services — the threat of sequestration, horrible as it has been advertised, may merely be the speed bump that precedes a really nasty jolt. Instead of 7-9 percent cuts as required by the sequestration package, Uncle Sam faces the prospect of writing checks without any money in the bank later this month.

Whether sequestration hits or not, many people say it is a relative piece of cake, a speed bump compared to what's just a little further down the road. That monster is the expiration of the current continuing resolution. While sequestration would be slow to start, despite all the dire predictions, expiration of the CR could bring lots of things to a screeching halt. Instead of maybe being furloughed one day per week starting in April under sequestration, failure of Congress to fund government operations could mean massive federal furloughs lasting days or even weeks. Like in the standoff of 1995-96. Except worse this time.

Following the 1990s shutdown, all government workers who were furloughed got back pay. Many have said that while it was unnerving at the time, in hindsight it was a mid-winter paid vacation.

But that was then. Now is now. Like starting tomorrow.

Unless there is an 11th-hour settlement, feds furloughed this time around aren't likely to get back pay. The same is true for tens of thousands of contractors.

Uncertainty is the name of the game. Although the Pentagon has spoken of furloughing 700,000-plus civilian employees, the White House says it still doesn't have a number. Although the Federal Aviation Administration has warned of major delays and canceled fights, would it really be stupid enough to furlough air traffic controllers? Who would be at fault if there was a major airplane disaster — like a mid-air collision — while control towers were understaffed? Multiply that across the government and what have we got?

And the bad part is that the worst may be yet to come.

The good news for feds, if sequestered, is that the furloughs probably wouldn't begin until mid-March. Plenty of time for both sides to work out an agreement or, once again, delay the sequestration start date. Then everything would be okay until...

March 27 when the CR runs out. Unless it is extended, again, sequestration would seem like a mere speed bump.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Each year, Americans eat on average about 13 gallons of popcorn, much of it in movie theaters. And the theaters are getting rich off your gluttony. A typical $5 bucket of the salty, buttery treat only costs the theater about 50 cents to make.

(Source: CBS News)


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