- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The is the last week federal workers will be taking a furlough day. It is the last week that their paycheck will be cut 20 percent.
At least until after Sept. 30.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Aug. 6 that the 11 scheduled unpaid furlough days, which began in early July, would be trimmed to six. That means that federal workers won’t be losing what amounts to another week’s pay this summer.
Good news for sure. And if that were the end of it, the workers who will have lost six days pay might even consider themselves lucky. The emergency pay cuts resulting from the budget cuts known as sequestration would be behind them. The Pentagon budget crisis manufactured by a dysfunctional Congress would be over.
Ah, but it may not be over. Congress, which is now in the middle of a five-week recess, has not agreed on a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Who believes that when congressmen and senators return to Washington, D.C., after Labor Day they will buckle down and cooperatively hammer out an agreement for a continuing budget resolution without pushing up to and perhaps beyond the deadline?
Only a sucker would bet the paycheck on that. And who could risk that anyway? Congress is already gambling with the livelihoods of federal workers.
Even if Congress avoids a government shutdown Oct. 1, federal workers at our military bases aren’t out of the woods. Unless a larger budget deal replaces it, the next version of sequestration will force the Defense Department to cut an additional $52 billion in fiscal year 2014 — 40 percent more than the $37 billion in cuts required this fiscal year.
Elsewhere in the country, there are those who couldn’t care less about the careers and paychecks of federal workers. In places where federal spending is not central to the local economy, it’s easy to buy into the caricature of entitled government workers producing nothing but paperwork and red tape. This is why the majority of congressmen seem to have no real interest in replacing sequestration. Their constituents don’t see federal workers as real people.
But even those who have no use for the federal government, or think they have no use for it, would know, if they stop and think about it, that arbitrarily cutting nearly $90 billion in defense spending in two years with a meat cleaver instead of a targeted review is not the ideal way to develop military technology and strategy.
A nation weary of war may not be interested in thinking ahead to what it takes to defend the country in the future. But that’s the job of many of the people who work at nearby bases.
Congress may be playing into the image many people have of politicians interested in nothing more than gaining ideological and political footing for the next election. That is a self-inflicted wound.
Federal workers don’t control their image or their fate. They didn’t this summer, and they don’t for the next fiscal year.