Shutdown logic: Off with your head!

Monday - 10/7/2013, 2:00am EDT

When the latest (and largest) government shutdown finally ends, the obvious question is how long until the next one? Where will you be? It could be a couple of weeks. (Or this one could last a couple of weeks.) Or it could be five or 10 years before a new crop of politicians reinvent the same crooked wheel.

But before the next shutdown, a humble suggestion. To prep for the action (and likely consequences), members of Congress and their staffs should be required to watch a movie. Either the Rocky Horror Picture Show for its style, grace and class. Or, my personal choice, the 1933 version of Alice in Wonderland. It starred a bunch of then-budding young actors like Gary "High Noon" Cooper, comedian W.C. Fields and a young Cary Grant, who played the Mock Turtle.

During the film, our legislators should be asked to take a blood test looking for traces of certain drugs (like stupid pills or ego-enlargers) in their system. Those who refused would be denied pay and told not to come to work until their colleagues ended the shutdown. Members of Congress that live and sleep at their offices to save a few bucks would be told to get a motel room somewhere.

Back to now: Impacted feds have handled the furloughs in different ways. Some are checking eligibility for unemployment benefits. Others are figuring out how to pay their bills. Still others are rolling with the blows. Here are some of the ways people are surviving (in some cases thriving) the furloughs:

Last Thursday, Pat, a Commerce Department employee emailed:

"...Right now I'm sitting at BWI waiting for my flight to Cancun. I figured I might as well make the best of a very bad situation. Luckily I have a place to stay there, so only added expense is my airline ticket and parking at BWI. I'll be reading your column from the beach tomorrow!"
Then there was this survival tip from an IRS vet:
  • "Seems to me you have a better chance of staying sane if you avoid insanity ... therefore, don't spend the furlough watching or listening to political news. Take a walk, read a book (can get them free at places called libraries), clean out the closets, play with the kids or grand kids ... in other words — try to make the best of it. As a veteran of the last shutdown, at a time when we had one income and five kids in the house, I know the urge to hang on every scrap of news. But, it didn't help then and likely won't now." — From one concerned fed to another

"I am one of the 800,000 furloughed feds, and I just wanted to let you know it's not all doom and gloom out here. It seems that, although they are disgusted with the powers that be, not everyone hates the rank-and-file federal workers. Here in Cincinnati, there are restaurants offering free meals to furloughed feds, some offer free haircuts and many other kindnesses. Many of my friends have said they will be there for me if things get really tough. Some have offered to pay a mortgage or another bill for me, although I'm fortunate not to need that (yet).

"I have had a homeless ministry for about 15 years here, caring for and helping them. I am amazed at the number of homeless people that are offering to share what little they have with me. Sometimes hard times bring out the best in people. I feel very humbled and grateful for the good people around me." — Kathy With The Cincinnati Solution

Ask the TSP

Got questions or issues about your federal Thrift Savings Plan program? You've come to the right spot. Today at 10 a.m. on For Your Benefit, Greg Long, executive director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, will be the guest of host Bob Leins and benefits expert Tammy Flanagan.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), or call in during the show at 202-465-3080.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Visitors to a safari-themed park in England "have been asked not to wear animal print clothes," according to a report in The Guardian, "after concern emerged that fake leopard print and tiger stripes might be confusing or even frightening for the animals."


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