Furlough Journal: The end of an error

Uh, that’s it?

After more than two weeks of a partial government shutdown and right up to the brink of a government default on its bills, all forced by extremist Republicans trying to coerce Democrats and the president to give up their wins on health care reform, the Republicans waved the white flag.  Unable to come up with a plan that was agreeable even within the group of Republicans in the House, the House threw up its collective hands and punted, agreeing to approve a compromise originated in the Senate that funds the government and raises the debt ceiling—that is, it kicks this can down the road a few months.  And as far as the Affordable Care Act goes, this bill does not defund a damn thing but it does “strengthen income verification requirements for those who sign up for insurance under Obamacare.”  Well, isn’t that special.

The extremist Republicans got exactly none of what they claimed to have been after, the entire Republican Party has taken a black eye in public approval, 800,000 civil servants and an uncounted number of contractors who do not do “essential jobs” missed work and maybe paying some bills.  And what did I learn, back here in my little corner of the partial government shutdown?

  • I enjoy not going to the office, and going instead to the golf course
  • I don’t respond to a few consecutive days of exercise like I used to
  • Working from home on a short term basis is hard because there are too many potential distractions
  • I hate getting calls from telemarketers

Now I wait for instructions.  My contract management tells me and my colleagues we must wait until our contract gets official notification before we can step foot back at our government offices, and that hasn’t come yet, but the civil servants we work directly for are already calling 9:00 o’clock meetings for tomorrow morning.  That’s right: some things never change.

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What the hell just happened here?

For someone who didn’t just go over the fiscal cliff, I’m pretty disappointed with our House and Senate and president. Not surprised, but disappointed…if I can summarize out loud, to help organize my thoughts:

Our elected leaders were faced with some $600 billion worth of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that might or might not have any real impact in reducing the government’s debt and deficit, but which arguably might push our struggling-to-recover national economy back into a recession; they set a deadline for themselves to act a year and a half ago; then they did nothing, waiting until after the national election to bother to talk about it among themselves so the nasty details of our national fiscal crisis wouldn’t intrude on an otherwise uplifting discussion of the issues of the day; and the best they could come up with—even after the deadline had passed anyway—was a bill that raises marginal income tax rates for some well-to-do folks but not for most of us and kicks the budget cuts can down the road again?! So it’ll have to be taken up at the same time as another increase to the debt ceiling—what could possibly go wrong?!?!

It’s a plan that a majority of Republicans in the House voted against, even though—since the Bush-era tax cuts had just expired at the end of 2012—they were, technically, voting against lowering the tax rate for the bottom 98% or so of Americans.  Because there weren’t enough spending cuts.  Or in this case, any.

Which Barack Obama were Republicans negotiating with—was it the same one that the Conservative Industrial Complex consistently criticizes for being too soft, too dumb to get a good deal for America?

I try to look on the bright side: at least they finally agreed on something, even if it was only that going over the fiscal cliff would be a bad thing. Hooray…take an honorable discharge out of petty cash. (Thanks, Hawkeye.)

(Heavy sigh.)