After 20, 30 or 50 years with Uncle Sam, you decide to retire in December or January. Or you are sticking around, but plan to take a midwinter vacation to Hawaii, Bermuda or some other exotic spot. Whether you are pulling the plug or simply recharging your batteries, you’ve earned it, right?
Even though it’s been a rough year, it’s almost over. So what more could go wrong, right?
The ticking sound you hear is the sequestration time bomb our elected leaders and their unelected staffs built and have set to go off Jan. 3. Unless…
Unless Congress and the White House, which frequently can’t agree what month it is, come up with an agreement and also a plan to start reducing the deficit. Few people understand the consequences, or exactly what sequestration means. Except that it would be really bad. Everything from border patrols and customs searches to research would have to be scaled back. Uncle Sam might morph from big brother to problem child, Freddy Krueger.
Among other things, sequestration mandates an across-the-board cut of 8-plus percent in most federal programs. That could mean furloughs (worse-case scenario of one day per week per employee) in the federal service and could force federal contractors to furlough or fire tens of thousands of employees. And that could cause problems with Social Security payments and claims, IRS refunds — you name it.
Sequestration at its worst could mean longer lines at airports (because of reduced TSA screener staff), longer delays and fewer flights (because of furloughs at the FAA). Over the past couple months, various groups have come up with their own “bleak house” pictures of what sequestration would mean to the American public and the people the groups represent.
Federally Employed Women, for example, says the delays in transportation — train, plane and automobile — could make travel a nightmare. It could mean delayed delivery times for everything from apples to smartphones and medicines. And people. Janet Kopenhaver of FEW was a guest Wednesday on our Your Turn radio show. She said sequestration would have a “devastating” effect on the country and could easily push the nation back into a much deeper recession. She said everything from food inspection to programs for poor children would take a hit.
Stephen Losey and Sean Reilly of the Federal Times said it could be weeks before we know whether the sequestration time bomb will go off and what it’s impact would be. Despite the doomsday picture most of us have painted, they also said it is entirely possible that Congress — at the last minute — will vote to delay, kill or ignore sequestration.
GSA testing new energy-saving technologies at federal buildings The General Services Administration plans to roll out a dozen new technologies designed to better measure and manage energy use in federal facilities, the agency announced Wednesday. GSA will install the new technologies in federal buildings across the country as part of the agency’s Green Proving Ground program.
Federal government owes itself money, deemed a delinquent taxpayer again As of December, 70 federal agencies owed the U.S. Treasury $14 million in unpaid taxes that were withheld from federal workers’ paychecks, according to a federal audit released Thursday. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s audit also found that the IRS did not make recommended changes included in a similar audit five years ago and needs to improve its efforts to get federal agencies to pay their taxes on time.