Public will feel pain of furloughs
February 26, 2013 4:02PM
THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Updated: March 28, 2013 6:07AM
In previous budget battles, federal agencies fought against cuts to their funding by a ploy called “turning out the lights on the Washington Monument.” The theory was that a public aroused by the capital’s great monuments gone dark would demand Congress resolve the problem and get the spotlights back on. It usually worked.
Federal agencies are preparing a variation of the same strategy if Congress goes through with an $85 billion across-the-board cut in federal spending starting March 1. The effect will not be felt immediately because federal regulations require that most government employees be given 30 days’ notice of furloughs or layoffs. That would buy time for most of the month of March for the White House and Congress to come up with a solution.
Pentagon officials said 800,000 civilian employees worldwide would be furloughed one day a week for 22 weeks, an effective pay cut of 20 percent. The uniformed military is exempt from the sequester, but cuts in training, maintenance and equipment replacement will result in what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called “a serious erosion of readiness across the force.”
The public will be affected in ways it might not have expected. The law requires federal inspectors to be on duty at meat and poultry plants. With the inspectors facing 15-day furloughs, many of the nation’s 6,000 meat-production facilities may have to close down temporarily, affecting the supply of meat and chicken.
Although it’s idle talk so far, you do hear that the Department of Homeland Security would disproportionately furlough Transportation Security Administration inspectors at Washington’s three airports, meaning long lines and missed flights for members of Congress. It would anger both the flying public and the lawmakers.
That might prove even more effective than turning out the lights at the Washington Monument. Just in case, allow extra time if you’re flying to and from the capital.
Scripps Howard News Service