I’m apparently a hippy…

As one of my furlough cost savings measures implemented last summer, I cancelled my trash collection contract, opting to spend about 1/8th as much money and take my trash to the dump myself. As I loaded the truck this morning in preperation for the monthly trash run, I couldn’t help but notice that it included two bags of actual “trash”, but four bags and a 45 gallon can of paper and plastic recyclables – no metals because I can cash those in separately at the scrap yard down the road from the dump. I have to admit I was surprised by how the volume of trash to the volume of recyclables has shifted. Ten bags of trash a month was the pre-furlough norm.

I didn’t start any of this because of any actual altruistic motive, rather I did it because separating trash from recycling saved half off the “regular” dump fee – more furlough savings. Now that it’s part of my regular routine, though, it seems to have become a self sustaining habit. Add that to the edibles/biodegradable items that get chunked out under the bushes in a makeshift compost pile, and apparently I’m a tree-hugging hippy… for all the wrong reasons, of course.

Money for nothing…

I appreciate the bone that House Republicans are throwing at the 800,000 federal employees who spent most of the past week sitting at home waiting to go back to work. While I won’t presume to speak for 799,999 of them, all I can say is as much as I appreciate knowing I’ll receive money_for_nothing_and_chicks_for_free_tee_shirts-rd194f0e52ea54c9789c11f90415607c6_804gs_512back pay for the time spent locked out, it’s just a handout. What I really want, what I expect of my “leaders” at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is that they will take action to actually put the federal government back to work. As hard as it might be for the political class to believe, I want to be allowed to work for a salary rather than receive a fist full of dollars through the largess of Congress.

A cynical person might say that Congress is trying to buy the silence of 800,000 people who are directly impacted by their actions in the Capitol. While I’ll cheerfully take you money, and it will pay my rent and buy my food and pick up the tab for Monday’s root canal, what it won’t buy is my silence. It won’t buy my willingness to be complicit in your halfassed power plays. Money for nothing almost always comes with strings.

The historic response of Congress to any problem they encounter is to throw money at it. I suggest at a time when it’s becoming more and more clear that our financial well is running dry, it would be better for all involved to actually pass a budget or a continuing resolution and put the 800,000 back to work instead of handing us money for nothing. Then again, I’m just a guy who’s been sitting home for the last five days growing a beard, so what do I know about it?

P.S. I am however, very interested in your Chicks for Free program. Go ahead and sign me up for that one.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

I contemplated giving WAJTW a pass today, but it’s Thursday and 93 weeks of tradition are a hard habit to break. Without further introduction, here are the top three in no particular order:

1. Speaker John Boehner. The man who surrendered the Republican Party to the radicals. He has the votes for a continuing resolution that would clear the House with bi-partisan support, but he won’t bring it up for a vote because it would effectively end his speakership. 800,000 federal civilians could go back to work, the United States of America could have an operational government, and Speaker Boehner could have been a hero in the eyes of moderates. All he has to do is make up his mind that being a statesman is more important than being Speaker. I won’t be holding my breath.

2. The budget. Much like Congress, I’ve spent the last few days doing my own budget drills and deciding what’s essential and what isn’t. I’ve got my list of what needs to be discontinued and over the next few days I’ll be slowly turning those things off. When you see the blog no longer being updated, you’ll know that essential services like cell service and high speed internet are starting to get cut. I’ve been contemplating issuing blanket IOUs to companies I do business with. After all, if Congress can make people work without paying them, I should be able to do the same thing with the Delmarva Power, AT&T, and Toyota.

3. Waiting. It seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that we won’t be back in the office tomorrow. At least the weekend will feel like business as usual. The most frustrating part of the shutdown/furlough/congressionally imposed asshattery, is the waiting – the uncertainty about when we’ll get back to work, the uncertainty about whether there will be back pay, wondering if it isn’t time after all to start casting a line at other career opportunities. The waiting just plain sucks. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. And the real pity in all of this is that for a generation of good and loyal servants of the republic, morale and the feeling that what we do is important will never actually recover.

On leaving the party…

As of about 7:25 this morning, I am no longer a member of the Republican Party. The brand of Republicanism I grew up with – of small but effective government, of sound fiscal policy, of a strong national defense – has been shouted down by a wing of the party that seems bent on no government, fiscal policy based on brinksmanship, and treating the defense of the nation as a “nice to have” option. Add those failings to No GOPthe social conservative faction that wants to know who I’m sleeping with and treats privacy in general like an inconvenience along the road to a quasi-police state and I feel that I have no choice but to withdraw my support and my small voice in this nation’s political discourse.

Maryland doesn’t have an “Independent” option, so effective immediately I am registered as Unaffiliated according to the voter rolls of Cecil County. I’m not holding my breath that a party will come along that is moderate in its social views, sound in it’s fiscal policy, and strong in it’s support of the national defense. That use to be the Republicans, but there doesn’t seem to be any party or group that speaks to the issues that are important to me anymore. Both parties are too polarized to have room for someone whose views and opinions deviate that far from the extreme.

I’ve always crossed party lines to vote for whoever I believed was the best candidate. That we can’t expect the same approach from our elected “leaders” in both parties is damned near criminal.

Faith and good works…

I went to work for my Uncle Sam almost 11 years ago. I knew that the job was never a path to riches, but it was good, honest work in support of the republic. I had the idealist’s faith that I was doing good works mad-as-helland in exchange I’d be afforded a decent salary and benefits commensurate with my professionalism. Maybe that was true once… or maybe that’s a past world that only ever existed in my imagination.

This is going to sound strange coming from a cynic, but I still feel like I’m doing good works – that what I’m doing does, or at least should matter. What I’ve lost, though, is the faith that I’m doing the right thing for me and that my time and talents wouldn’t be better spent taking on some other challenge. That’s a startling realization after you’ve spent most of your professional life following what you thought was “the one true the way.”

After three long years of hiring and pay freezes, furloughs, impending shutdowns, an apathetic administration, and serving as the legislative branch’s favored whipping boy, it’s really a marvel of human endurance and fortitude that more people aren’t just walking away from the whole damned mess. I’m not on the cusp yet of having my “mad as hell and not taking it anymore” moment, but I’m sorely tempted on an almost daily basis.

I may have lost my faith, but like everyone else on the planet I have bills to pay and promises to keep… and that’s likely enough to keep me on the straight and narrow even when the thrill is gone.

Either or…

Yesterday, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) forwarded a memo to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies instructing them to prepare for a government-wide shutdown beginning on October 1st. Congress seems prepared to once again neglect one of the only specific duties it has by failing to pass a budget to fund the government into the new fiscal year. I only wish I could say that such asshattery from our alleged political leaders is surprising. I think at this point, I’d actually be more surprised if they could collectively manage to do something that was in the best interests of the country.

After enduring an ongoing hiring freeze, three+ years of frozen pay, furloughs, and no discussion of a plan to repeal nine more years of sequestration-driven budget cuts, an all out federal shutdown really just feels like par on this ridiculously stupid course. Add a dysfunctional legislative branch, an executive who would cut down every constitutional right in the book to advance his agenda, and an almost universally apathetic electorate, well, maybe we’re getting exactly the kind of “leadership” we deserve as a country.

On the whole I’m finding it more and more difficult to figure out if I’m a professional serving the world’s oldest operating constitutional republic or an extra just passing through an increasingly farcical two bit comedy.

What I Did on My Furlough Friday (Part 6 of 6)…

I feel like we’ve reached the end of an era together. Now that I’m sitting here writing at the tail end of Furlough 2013, I’d love to say I’m sorry to see it go… but in the perpetual war between free time and spending money, money has won out yet again. It’s just as well that next week will bring back the standard 5-day work week. Another five of six weeks of being a part time worker would have probably ruined me completely for ever having a full time job again. If you haven’t had the experience in your adult life, a 4-on, 3-off schedule is pretty damned easy to get use to.

Being philosophical doesn’t really tell you much about how I used my final scheduled off-Friday for the immediate future. The answer to that one is simple: I did all the stuff I would have otherwise done on Saturday – grocery shopping, banking, stopping by the post office, and enjoying a late lunch at Chiplote just to top off the day. Now I’m back home writing, editing, and trying to remember that English is my first language and I should really know how to use it. All things considered, it’s been a successful Furlough Friday… I just hope it’ the last time I have to use those two words together in a sentence. Somehow I can’t shake the feeling that it’s just an operational pause before we reach a whole new level of stupid when the new year kicks off on October 1st.

Be sure to tune in here tomorrow for “My Trip to Walmart…”, a Post By Request coming to you whenever I get around to turning it in to actual sentences based on the notes I took while shopping for groceries this afternoon. With a plug like that, how can you not want to come back and check it out?