|As an employee of the federal government, I'm the recent recipient of an 11-week 20% time and pay cut known as the furlough. Thankfully I don't live a lavish lifestyle and I'm not over my head in debt, so a pay cut won't hurt too much. And quite honestly, I could stand to work fewer hours. I'm glad this is happening in the summer, so I can at least enjoy the weather.
However, the fact that things have reached this point are a damning indictment of the inadequacies of an impotent, incompetent government. Yes, the Democratic president originally suggested the furlough as a threat to make the Republican Congress reach a deal regarding the federal budget. And it's ultimately the fault of the Republican Congress that no deal was reached. Both sides are at fault. The politicians get to keep their jobs, despite their utter failure to do them. It's unfortunate that the only real losers in this game are the citizen workers, who receive the privilege of earning less money, all while the politicians point their fingers at each other and think of a new country to bomb.
To be honest, I'm in favor of cutting government spending. The government consistently breaks the first rule of budgeting (after the "zeroth" rule of actually passing a budget): Don't spend more than you make. And I think everything should get trimmed, not just the untouchable programs. Trim the military. Trim social security. Anyone who's ever worked in a large organization knows there's always a certain amount of dead wood. Cut it. Don't punish everyone for the mistakes of the few.
But my other main gripe is that this is such a stupid solution to a serious problem. It's a band-aid for a bullet hole. Instead of giving individual organizations within the government the option as to how they'd like to make budget cuts, the cuts were applied across the board. What that means on the ground level is that there's no incentive to actually save money. I can think of a few ways to save money in my own organization (including having everyone take the same day off during the furlough, instead of keeping the building running for only half the normal number of employees). But there's no reason for me to make that change, since I'll get paid the same amount regardless of what I do or don't do, and I'll also have my pay cut the same amount regardless of what I cut or don't cut. A very simple seminar in economics or psychology would tell you exactly this.
And of course there's the issue of employee morale. I think we sometimes think of government workers as charity cases that have jobs as a kind of gift from the American taxpayer. That's true to a certain extent, but these are also human beings with car problems, mortgages, and dentist appointments. I guess I've never been on the receiving end of an across-the-board action, but what's not obvious is that individuals are affected, not organizations. And when you treat individuals as if they're worthless, they'll act worthless, or they'll leave for greener pastures. Don't expect great things to come from a forced pay cut, especially when those pay cuts don't affect the top brass.
There's talk that the furlough might be renewed next year. My only question is, when will this stop being a reactionary measure stumbled and bumbled out by an ineffectual government bureaucracy, and start being an actual piece of intelligent fiscal policy? Also, fuck the furlough.