Here’s a thought to both depress and then, hopefully, jumpstart the first Monday of November. The thought is this:
It has been a zany, crazy year at the office. But what, in hindsight, if it turns out these are the good old days? That it doesn’t get any better than right now? Can you live with that possibility? Indeed, do you want live with that thought?
What if 2013, with its unpaid furloughs followed by a two-week mandatory paid vacation, is as good and bad as its going to get? What next? Are they going to make you all wear striped jump suits?
The focus for many people — from ordinary taxpayers to federal civil servants and editorial writers — has been the suprisingly long and inventive list of stupid things politicians have done trying to score political points.
Who but our elected leaders would have figured out that a great way to get things done and save money was to furlough some workers but not others, then follow it with a 16-mandatory paid vacation for 800,000 government workers.
In addition to what Congress and the White House have done, there is the equally powerful evidence of what hasn’t been done. And what continues not to get done. Things like approving budgets, again. Stopping and starting the government without any positive result, again. Shutting down the government — forcing at least 800,000 to take paid vacations of anywhere from six to 16 days. And still losing money. And all this after a series of furloughs which some agencies observed and others ignored.
The good news is that the stock markets didn’t react — except to go up to record levels — because of the shutdown. The other good news, for feds, is that Congress was so busy doing nothing that the 1 percent pay raise proposed by the Obama administration slipped through the cracks. Not much, to be sure, but something.
Congress and the White House have agreed that federal workers in the future should pay more toward their retirement. The Obama administration says the increase should be 1.2 percent. The House GOP budget says workers should kick in an additional 5 percent. But it hasn’t happened. At least not yet.
Politicians have been so busy shooting at — and mostly missing — their goals that almost nothing has happened. The House plans to take off more time this month, and the entire Congress will shut down for an extended Thanksgiving celebration. Then there is Christmas which will require an additional time-out.
Meantime, here are some reader comments on what they think and how they are coping with the good-old-days:
“I keep my TSP contributions divided between the C, S, and I Funds and pray that the economy stays in the toilet until I’m ready to retire. That way I get more shares per dollar. When I retire, I’ll wait for shares to rise before transferring to the G fund. I’ve just under three years before I make the 41 years, 11 months maximum, but five years until I pay off my TSP loan I used to clear out some credit card debt. The rate was great!” — Larry in Baltimore at the Dreaded CMS
“Re your Friday column: …. It has been a topic of discussion amongst us ‘old timers.’ Don’t get me wrong this 1 percent is nice — something is better than nothing. But … We are still under sequester, so how do we get paid for this? If it comes out the organization’s budget and that’s being reduced, does that mean furlough days next year, RIFS buyouts? I have read nothing as to what effect a 1 percent raise will have in the overall budget. Do you have any insight?” — Tony K.
What shutdown? TSP ends October with strong showing Fears that the two-week government shutdown and the threat of a catastrophic default on the national debt would roil the stock market and shrink federal employees’ retirement accounts turned out to be unfounded. For the second month in a row, all the funds in the TSP posted in positive territory, according to data released Friday by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.
In House-Senate budget talks, feds fear being familiar target When House and Senate lawmakers kicked off formal budget negotiations this week for the first time since the government shutdown ended, both Republicans and Democrats said replacing sequestration, the blunt across-the-board budget cuts, with an alternative plan would be a top priority. The sticking point remains how to pay for it. Federal-employee unions and advocacy groups fear federal pay and benefits will once again be on the table.
Report: DHS employees abusing overtime allowances Employees from six Homeland Security Department offices have abused an overtime program and cost the government about $8.7 million a year, according an Office of Special Counsel letter and report sent Thursday to the president and Congress.