A foursome you don't want?

Wednesday - 8/28/2013, 2:00am EDT

Bad news, according to the old saying, comes in threes. Unless maybe you are a government worker. In that case, you are eligible for an extra kick, punch, or dose of bad news because you decided to make public service a career.

The theme of yesterday's column was that some, maybe most, federal workers face the prospect of being furloughed, locked out or fired sometime in the new fiscal year which starts Oct.1. Three very real possibilities. Silly me...

Turns out, that was a happy-meal forecast. Things have suddenly gotten worse.

Now we learn that the Treasury Department says that Uncle Sam's line of credit, with China and other nation's, will run out in mid-October. By law the federal borrowing limit is capped at $16.7 trillion (with a T). And we all know prices keep going up.

So, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has informed Congress that the federal piggy bank will be down to a mere $50 billion (with a B) by mid-October. That's just enough to cover Medicare, Social Security payments, federal and military salaries, and Uncle's power bills for a short time. Then nothing.

The last time this happened (in 2011), Congress and the White House dueled for months. Finally, the White House agreed to make $2 trillion in spending cuts over a 10 year period. Generally speaking Republicans, especially in the House, want to make savings by cutting federal spending — though not necessarily on the contractor side. Democrats favor tax increases and some spending cuts.

Both political parties hope to come out of this — or any other — squabble with the other side looking bad. That would be especially helpful in the upcoming off-year (2014) election when only the most die-hard voters tend to go to the polls. Republicans usually seem to lose these sort of political tests of will in the judgment of voters and the media. The government shutdown of 1995-96 was a case in point. President Clinton was largely judged the winner and statesman (the intern thing came later), while House GOP leader Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was the goat.

While President Obama and Democrats agreed to the long-term spending plan in the summer of 2011, the White House has said it won't negotiate on the debt ceiling limit again. The Treasury Department says the Congress should authorize paying for the items it, and the U.S. government, have already charged.

While it is unthinkable that even the dumbest, most ideological politician will let Social Security payments and military pay lapse, the debt ceiling issue is still a threat. And federal workers, as per usual, are on the front lines.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

(Today's factoid comes courtesy of a Mike Causey Federal Report reader and "NUF afficionado")

When Internet search company Yahoo! was founded in 1995, the name originally stood for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle."

(Source: Wall Street Journal)


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