How stupid is a shutdown? Let us count the ways

Test your common sense: A State Department employee had plans to spend Christmas in Europe. He’s got the tickets and his leave was approved long ago. But if there is a government shutdown — when people are sent home and ordered not to work — can he still go on his vacation?

Is that a stupid question (look dummy, his leave has been approved, he’s got the tickets!), or is the answer even dumber?  Option two is correct. The answer to the take-it-or-leave-it question is: No! The person cannot take his/her previously approved trip to Europe (or anywhere else) because you can’t be on vacation during furlough. That’s why it is illegal to commit suicide before your execution.  Get it?

Here’s the official no-fly furlough guidance from the government:

May an employee not excepted from the furlough take previously approved paid time off (e.g., annual, sick, court, military leave, or leave for bone marrow/organ donor leave, or compensatory time off, including religious compensatory time off) during a shutdown furlough?

All paid time off during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights. The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341 et seq.) does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law. Paid time off creates a debt to the Government that is not authorized by the Act. Therefore, agencies are instructed that during a shutdown furlough, all paid time off must be canceled.

The answer is that in most cases, during a shutdown, all approved leave is cancelled during the shutdown. Huh?

Many politicians say the problem with the government is that it isn’t run like a business. They got that right!

The pols complain that the bureaucracy is filled with overly cautious, indifferent or feckless (don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too) bureaucrats who can’t be fired. And it’s managed by idiotic managers who don’t have any power and who can’t be fired.

What the anti-fed politicians fail to point out is that the government’s CEO is the president and the board of directors are the 500-plus members of the House and Senate, most whom can’t be fired!  Some are from states or gerrymandered congressional districts that make it virtually impossible for the incumbent to lose.

To set an example, maybe the House should furlough the Senate, and the Senate send House members home. Then the politicians could consult the federal furlough manual which has guidance on how to write a “sorry I’m a little short this month” letter to the landlord and other creditors.


Is a selfie for you? Many federal and postal workers, and retirees are intrigued by the new self-plus-one option available as part of their health insurance program. But many hesitated to sign up. So the government is going to have a limited enrollment period (I have incorrectly been calling it an Open Season) when people who wish to switch to the self-plus-one option can do so. It’s  good deal for many couples, active or retired, and for single parents with one child.

Today at 10 a.m on our Your Turn radio show, David Snell will be available to explain the self-plus-one concept, how it stacks up with two single options or a family plan, and other facets of the health program.  He’ll also talk about the backlog in processing retirement applications, and talk about what you should be doing if you are five years out from retirement.  He’ll take questions on the air (10 a.m. EST) (202) 465-3080, or you can send them to me:


Nearly Useless Factoid

By Meredith Somers

The highest altitude toilets in Europe are installed on Mont Blanc and are 14,000 feet above sea level.

Source: Spiegel Online

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