Sunday, October 06, 2013
My Sunday Feeling
The two year anniversary of my taking early retirement from my job with Uncle was October 1. That was also the day the government shut down. I do not think there is a cause and effect.
This is one of the reasons I left government service. While I could not have predicted a shut down 2 years out of the chute, working for the Feds had become more stressful since 2008. Every September saw a fight over funding the government through Continuing Resolutions to continue funding the government. Forget passing actual budgets in a timely fashion. A Presidential election was coming up in 2010 that had every chance to be the nastiest in history given the rise of the Tea Party in the previous Presidential election.
The Agency that I worked for had no money for travel or training. One of the lawyers I worked with had a hearing in Louisiana. She needed to pay for gas and to book a room. She was told by the Regional Office to ask the Judge down there to hold the hearing in Little Rock.
Right. Now THERE'S a helpful suggestion.
No. I was sick of it all by 2011. And so I got out while the gettin' was good.
I had been through at least 3, maybe 4 shutdowns in my 28 year career. The first one was under Reagan. The longest was under Clinton. I think that lasted about 5 days. We were days away from one in either the last years of the Bush administration or the early years of the Obama administration. Hell, I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up.
Closing down a Federal agency is not easy. Individuals were told who were considered "essential" and who were not. Full disclosure: I was never deemed "essential." I was cool with it.
Cases, the legal work that the taxpayers were paying us to do, and which was the reason for our jobs, had to get long range planning about a month out. Which meant that if you had a case load of 200-250 cases, as I did, you picked the 4-5 biggies that had discovery deadlines or God-forbid actual hearings, and made sure that you had them covered by whoever at Justice was deemed "essential."
By the way, I ran into an Assistant United States Attorney buddy of mine today in the grocery store. She is furloughed. She had a deposition scheduled for last Friday. One of the guys from the Criminal Division covered it for her. Which is, of course, crazy.
The closer you get to the day of the furlough is when you get the "talking points" from Washington to give folks if you are asked why you were spotted on the driving range during working hours. You were given a script to use for your voice mail greeting and the "out of office (and boy were you fixing to be out of the office)" reply on email.
The support staff secured the office. Instructions were gone over. No you can't volunteer to work. That's actually against the law. And the rule back then was that you couldn't accept any other outside employment. My thought was "the hell with that." If the shutdown we were preparing for lasted more than 5 days I was going to instantly become "of counsel" somewhere until sanity was restored.
Then there was the issue of the actual, well, paychecks. I was privileged to be making a lot of money for around here in the practice of law. I could handle the hit at least for awhile. But there's a difference between a GS-14 attorney and GS-7 documents examiner. The idea of not having a paycheck was terrifying to a lot of good people who did nothing to deserve it.
I realize that nobody cares about Federal employees. So let's talk about the taxpayers. People expect government services. They expect the parks to be open. They expect to be able to get their farm acreage certified. They expect to get their passports. They expect to have their applications for Social Security processed.
But they can't because the United States Government, the same government that built the Hoover Dam, brought electricity to the Tennessee River Valley (You ever dealt with anybody from the Tennessee Valley Authority? What a bunch of assholes.), invaded Normandy and put a man on the moon is out of business.
Not sufficiently absurd for you? How about this? The United States Government is out of business but Chrysler is up and running.
This is beyond ridiculous.
Like I said, I got out while the gettin' was good.