Government shut down ? Not so bad and why.

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Government shut down ? Not so bad and why.

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budgetFor the past week I have monitored the comings and goings of Washington (the other Washington, not the state) relative to the budget negotiations and the threat of shutting down government.  Talk about scare tactics to gain public support.

Oh woe, small businesses would not get loans (they are not getting loans anyway).  Oh woe, homeowners will not get mortgages (big deal, few are getting them now due to bottlenecks and incompetence at the banks, not the Feds).  Oh woe, the parks will be closed (okay, that one is not so good).  And oh woe, there will be no cost savings because the Federal workplace would get back pay and thus a free two week vacation at taxpayer expense (and we all know that there is a way to prevent the issuance of back pay).

I was out most of Friday evening but when I returned, I saw that both parties were claiming victory at getting the budget approved.  What a bunch of jerks.  Both parties failed.

And here is why: our congressional representatives could have and should have  set aside their individual interests and become street savvy creative.  They should have behaved like a business owner trying to save their company from failure.  Apparently they need some help in that regard.

Let’s give them some ideas.

1.  The cost to taxpayers during the two week shutdown in 1995 is estimated to have been $700 million to $800 million.  The primary reason for this cost was the issuance of back pay to the furloughed employees.  Yep.  The got a two week vacation with pay over and above their existing vacation benefit.

Doing the math, using 1995 numbers, that is approximately $80 million per day so let’s say, the sake of argument, that the current savings is $100 million per day.

Would it be so bad if the Feds learned a lesson from states, cities, counties, and private companies and required employees to take a mandatory two week furlough some time over the next year?  This would mean an extra two week vacation albeit without pay.  Using the simple and undoubtedly conservative number above, that would result in a $1 billion dollar savings to the taxpayers.  Many will say that is a drop in the bucket but the old axiom, watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of the themselves applies.

After all, don’t you clip coupons to save a buck on a box of cereal?  Or take public transportation to save parking fees.  And why do you do that?  Because every dollar counts.  Plus, saving money a dollar at a time fosters the frugal mindset.

So what else?

2.  While the rest of the folks still employed are working long hours with lunches at their desks and curtailed coffee breaks,  a significant number of federal workers clock in exactly on time and, about 10 minutes before the allotted eight hours are up, they start packing up their desks to prepared to leave.  Don’t believe me?  If you know someone who works for the federal government, just ask.  They will be happy to explain this entitlement.

I know.  I have asked.  A typical response is “Why should I work any longer than everyone else around here?”

Let’s cut that out.

3.  Like the teachers, let us begin to evaluate evaluated federal workers based upon performance and not tenure.  I don’t really understand that tenure system anyway.  Just because you stick around for 10 years does not entitle you to 10 more years.  Talk about the Peter Principle at work.  What happens in the government is that a non performing employee gets high marks during their annual review specifically so that they well get promoted out of the department where they are not performing.  No supervisor or manager wants to get stuck with dead weight so they promote them onward and upward.  Don’t say it doesn’t happen it does.  Again, just ask your friend, the federal worker.

4.  How about this other lesson from the private sector:  hire only one employee to replace two that quit or retire.  As companies across the country have learned during the current recession, this is a no brainier.  They are getting by just fine and making record profits to boot.

5.   The days of allowing Federal employees to retire at age 55 are over.  If Social Security requires you to wait until you are 62, why not Federal workers – regardless of time on the job?  Sure, they can leave federal service at 55 if they choose but there should be no pension payments until they are at least 62 and even then, a reduced pension until they reach the full retirement age of 65 plus as defined by current Social Security Administration rules.

6.  And what about congressional members that travel back to their home states weekly?  Some will argue that this comes out of the congressional expense budget and not the taxpayer’s budget.  Well duh!  The congressional expense budget comes from the taxpayers.  Let’s cut those expense budgets and earmark how those budgets can be spent.  Want to go to Washington?  Fine. Go.  But don’t expect the taxpayers to pay for that weekly trip home.

7.  My last suggestion for now is one that is near and dear to all of us.  Throw out the tax code, eliminate 50% of the IRS employees, and charge a flat tax to everyone, fair and square.  If the rich elites paid as much as the working class did, on a percentage of income basis, we would not need complicated tax rules and guess what, our representatives in Washington would have a lot more time on their hands since they would not have to spend an iota of their time working on tax loopholes for their rich supporters back home.

It would seem that many of us out in the blogosphere are having similar thoughts.  I suggest you go read the article “Shut it down” from The Economic Collapse.    Good stuff (although I think the article was written before the late hour approval of the budget).

I didn’t mean to rant about this timely topic and for that, I apologize.  But I want to do one more thing.  I would like to issue the universal single finger salute to our pals in Washington.  You deserve it.

Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!

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5 Responses to “Government shut down ? Not so bad and why.”

  1. I have many relatives and friends working for the Federal government. Work hours and conditions vary from place to place. It can be much stricter or very much looser than the private sector depending on department and section. The habit of clocking out exactly on time usually arises when federal departments are not authorized any overtime use. It can easily become an institutional habit after those times pass. This is the short version of how the rules force this behaviour:

    It is a serious Federal crime to falsify a federal record or a timesheet (in either party’s favor). For federal hourly employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that all hours worked be paid for, so a supervisor who allows hourly employees to work “off the clock” (or fails to pay for time over that was clocked) is (also) in violation of that law. FLSA also requires hourly employees be paid overtime when they work over eight hours in one day. Once a department orders no overtime use, this set of rules, when enforced, leaves the hourly employee little choice but to clock in and out on time. A department who has seen even one employee reprimanded or fired for violating these policies and laws tends to set career long habits.

  2. Interesting piece. I would only add that part and parcel of the problems this country faces is the atmosphere of emergency that roils the markets on the occasion of party bickering and this will really get worse in the comming months with the need to raise the debt ceiling to prevent default on the national debt. In an interview this weekend, James Baker on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS noted that the U.S. is bankrupt, really bankrupt. For my part I’ve come to realize that all the wishing and hoping and politiking and primaries and elections and debates, etc. aren’t going to lead to a solution. As a financial and economic entity, the U.S. is fiscally doomed. As Baker put it, the U.S. is actually the United States of Greece. And there’s an interesting history to this; it’s been going on since Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard such that the currency could free-float which took the lid off the debt ceiling and made it possible for that and future administrations to inflate the economy to fight endless wars overseas to pump up the bank accounts of the corporations involved in the military-industrial complex, just as Ike had warned. And, once a nation hit’s a Debt to Equity ration of 1.0 or higher, the interest on the debt kills the goose that laid the golden egg; there’s no such thing as a soft landing from this mess. How does this play out? The dollar becomes ever more worthless; interest rates will ultimately have to be raised choking off this jobless recovery. The gov’t’s solution to this has been to with the help of it’s Allies, intentionally launch covert operations to destabilize North Africa, Syria, Yemen and possibly Saudia Arabia such as to insure that the Muslim Brotherhood and like minded affiliates, (Al Queda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc) establish control in those countries. And, it’s working, as noted by Baker this weekend, the MB is arising as the only organized political entity in Egypt. And what’s the end game? I’m not sure; it appears to be to compromise oil supplies in the West while at the same time emboldening the Arab nations to launch attacks on Israel. Why compromise oil supplies from the Gulf region? To force oil prices ever higher. The gov’t’s goal is something on the order of $5.00~$10.00 a gallon gasoline. Why? It will force people to buy fuel efficient and electric vehicles from companies into which the gov’t has poured billions in so called “green” initiatives. Companies that the politicians and (of course Al Gore) own a huge stake in. And of course this adds a new battlefield for the mil-indus complex to play with their toys and to increase profit from.

    So……..what lies ahead? Another war……….more inflation followed by……..another war and………more inflation followed by……………..

    Bottom line: 1) don’t buy retirement property in Israel and 2) work your inflation hedges as hard as possible.

  3. Hey Gaye, had to chuckle at your #2 regarding packing up 10 min. early and leaving exactly at the end of their eight hours… actuality, not funny. I had the privilege of volunteering in a federal office and was amazed when the full time employee packed up, as you said, 10 min. early, locked up the place and ran out the door exactly at the end of 8 hrs., no matter what was going on at that point. Didn’t matter. I worked for a very large fortune 500 corporation before I retired and it was nothing to come in early (off the time clock) and to leave later (off the time clock) if it was needed. Not to say that we didn’t get overtime if we stayed over our 8 hours, but in general we didn’t count minutes before we started work or after. We did the job. This employees attitude was an eye opener for me and as I observed was the norm for that office. I am sure as with everything we can’t lump all federal employees into this category, but I feel sure its more that way than not…… Oh, and by the way….with this proposed government shutdown, what about the expense wasted on preparing for a shutdown?

  4. Hi Gaye,
    Fundamentally, I don’t have any issues with your proposals, except for item #1. I have friends who work for the Federal Govt and a forced two week pay cut for at least one of them would not be an insignificant impact to their own personal budget. It feels unfair to me that they would have to suffer without income because the congress can’t agree on a budget. If it is so expensive to back pay these employees, maybe just keep paying them and find another way to spread the unpaid days out later in a way the employees could manage the lost pay.

    Okay, and maybe a little of #2 as well. I don’t work for the Govt yet I have seen plenty of examples of employees working only ‘just enough’ to meet the bare reqmts of their job. I have also seen Govt workers hide the fact they were working long hours because they weren’t eligible to work overtime. Some people are lazy and game the system – but let us not suggest that a sense of entitlement only happens in Govt jobs!

    In any case, I certainly agree that the Fed Govt could take a few hints from how the rest of us manage to find ways to live within our own means…

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