Name your poison… literally

Would you rather be attacked and eaten by a great white shark, a saltwater crocodile or a hungry tiger?  It’s your call.

How about this, you can be baked, fried, frozen or boiled.  It’s nice to have options. So what’s it going to be, if you had to make a choice.

The you-must-choose game is one my kids played with (on, against?) me when they were younger.  It usually happened on a long car trip, like to Ocean City.  They would give me several horrible and disgusting torture, eating or death options.  And I had to pick.  When I did, reluctantly knowing what was coming pick an option they would all groan at the stupidity of my choice.  It was a lose, lose deal.

Fast forward to now.  Federal workers get to play — or rather be pawns in — a version of that no-win game every couple of years.

In 2013, tens of thousands of feds in a dozen departments and agencies were furloughed. Many lost 20 percent of their income for that period.  The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund — the feds-helping-feds charity — was flooded (and went temporarily broke) making interest free loans so people could pay rent, mortgages or put food on the table.

The furloughs were the result of sequestration (a poison pill cooked up in the White House) that Congress in, in a fit of pique and stupidity, swallowed.  The plan for each side — the White House and congressional Republicans — was to teach the other guy a lesson.

While the politicians got paid, salaries for some employees were delayed anywhere from two weeks to a month.  Vital projects and work stopped, people were inconvenienced but paid and the ultimate losers were the taxpayers who paid billions for services not rendered.

The politicians took a break from furloughs and shutdowns last year. But since many have short-term memories (among other things) they are back at it again. They dodged the question of a shutdown last month by passing a stopgap spending bill.  It allows the government to keep on keeping on until Dec. 11.   But even before that horrible option deadline, Congress and the White House will go to the brink Nov. 3 when, the Treasury has calculated, the government will hit its debt ceiling limit:  i.e. When we can no longer borrow money from overseas friends, like China.

Once the debt ceiling limit it reached all sorts of mysterious bells and whistles take place. Feds, in past, weren’t  furloughed or shutdown.  But if it went on long enough the government be slow to pay salaries.

Debt ceiling limits also make some feds nervous because they involve interest on the Thrift Savings Plan’s super-safe, never-has-a-bad-day treasury securities G-fund. While officials in past have insisted that nobody in the fund loses any interest or money, it still makes many nervous.

Congress is back after yet another extended vacation. Members have lots of homework to make up, because they’ve been on so many vacations.  What they do, or not, may give you some no-win-choices down the road.  Like whether we pay the rent, or eat next month.

And if it happens, you must chose one, and there is no right answer!


Nearly Useless Factoid

by Sam Ufret

Captain Hook got his iconic pirate hook after his hand was cut off and fed to a crocodile. The same crocodile pursues him relentlessly to finish his tasty snack,  but the ticking clock it has swallowed warns Hook when it’s near.


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