Years ago, I think it was on a Monday, a work friend came up to me and said he had good news and bad news. Which did I want first?
I was in my 20s and tough. So I said to give me the bad news first. I feared nothing in those days since I had a cash reserve that would last me through the following Thursday. What could possibly go wrong?
Then he told me.
He told me that a bunch of people were being fired. And I was part of that bunch.
“And the good news?” I said.
We were to get two weeks severance pay!
That must be sort of the way a lot of government workers feel now a lot of the time.
The bad news is that they have entered the third year of a pay freeze and face furloughs of up to 22 days over the next six months. Plus, any travel or training they had hoped for in the foreseeable future is probably canceled. Congress has made it clear it isn’t finished scaling back employee-retiree related costs, and the White House has agreed to them.
The good news is that you still have a job (unless there is a RIF notice in your office email), and, uh, you still have a job.
Also, you didn’t go over the fiscal cliff at year’s end, and your agency spending authority (authorized by a continuing resolution) has been extended through Sept. 30. Had Congress not acted yesterday, there would have been a government shutdown beginning March 27 that would make the sequestration-driven furloughs look like a vacation.
Part of the problem is that Congress hasn’t been doing its job. And this is nothing new. According to one reporter’s research, Congress has approved all government budgets on time only five times in the last 31 years. Four of those were in the last years of the Clinton administration. Once it was after a government shutdown.
So what’s next?
Given the not-so-entertaining carnival nature of government operations it is hard to predict the future. But…
Sequestration won’t really kick in, and be felt, for another few weeks. What it will mean (despite the dire predictions and threats) is still anybody’s guess. In some agencies, you may be furloughed one day a week or once every two weeks. Some say they will simply shutdown for a day or two (not a very good PR move). Others will find ways to transfer funds even as their sister agency says it is illegal and impossible. Some agencies (like the Agriculture Department) will get permission to continue doing important things — like inspecting meat and poultry.
It might be an interesting exercise for feds to write down what they are thinking now and what they think is going to happen next. And how they are going to handle it. Then set it aside for six months or a year. Then reread it and compare it to what really happened.
Or pass it on to us right now. We’ll put it in a special time capsule and open it in the fall. Should be interesting, maybe even fun, reading.
Pentagon to delay furlough notices for two weeks The Defense Department is reassessing its plan to furlough the majority of its 780,000-member civilian workforce for the remainder of 2013, Pentagon officials said Thursday. The decision is a result of Congress’s passage of a 2013 funding bill, which averts a government shutdown and funds federal agencies for the remainder of 2013.
Debate rages over USPS delivery changes It seems like a simple question: Does the U.S. Postal Service have the legal authority to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail? The cash-strapped agency announced last month it plans to do just that beginning in August.
House passes GOP budget plan promising deep cuts The Republican-controlled House passed a tea party-flavored budget plan Thursday that promises sharp cuts in safety-net programs for the poor and a clampdown on domestic agencies, in sharp contrast to less austere plans favored by President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies. The measure, similar to previous plans offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., demonstrates that it’s possible, at least mathematically, to balance the budget within a decade without raising taxes.