Light traffic today? Blame the F word

Friday - 7/5/2013, 2:00am EDT

(Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is on vacation. This column was originally published June 14)

Although people in the Washington area are noted for being articulate, many revert to a sort of hand jive — often using only the middle finger — to greet fellow drivers on our usually clogged highways.

But if traffic is a little light today, don't credit it entirely to the weather or people on AWS rotation. In many places, you can chalk it up to the presence of the F-word, which is becoming part of the deal if you work for Uncle Sam.

Whether you commute into or from Ogden or Provo, Utah, greater Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia or metro D.C. itself, lots of federal workers are taking today off. Without pay. And not because they want to!

It's the F-word. Furlough.

The largest group of furloughed feds today is probably in the Internal Revenue Service. IRS, EPA and a few others were furlough pioneers. While Defense held out as long as possible, the IRS and others decided to bite the bullet and get it over with.

Each furlough day represents a 20 percent pay cut for that week. Many people can handle it. Many can't or won't be able to. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, a feds-helping-feds-charity reports it is swamped with requests for no-interest loans from employees trying to make the rent or put food on the table.

So now that it's here, how are people getting by? Send me an email at


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

When the Statue of Liberty first arrived as a gift from France, "she was the color of a shiny new penny," according to Mental Floss, "It took roughly 20 years for Liberty to patina to the greenish-blue hue she is today.