The use of the word furlough has been bugging me, and last night I figured out why.
I was watching a tv show, and a guy told his girlfriend he would come visit her once he got furlough.
You see, furlough can be used to describe someone, especially someone in the service, being granted leave.
It is a much nicer word than what is happening, which is that people are being laid off. Temporarily probably, but laid off none the less.
The shutdown has caused more than 800,000 people to be laid off, and there are probably more lay offs to come.
This is not "leave." They are not on vacation. And chances are good they will not get paid for the time they were laid off.
I know that in the past, even those who are not "excepted" got paid eventually, but that was under a different climate.
Now we live in a political climate that despises federal employees. That thinks it is okay to freeze our pay for three years and counting. That thinks it is okay to cut people's pay by 20% thanks to the sequester. That thinks we are parasites living off the goverment.
Consider what Fox's Stuart Varney just said about federal employees when asked if we deserved back pay. He said that we are "living on our backs, and taking money out of us, a lot more money than most of us earn in the private sector, then getting a furlough, and then getting their money back at the end of it. Sorry, I'm not for that. I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that's what I want to do."
That's right. He wants to "punish" us. For serving you. For keeping you safe overseas. For fighting wars for you. For keeping the museums and parks open for you. For finding cures for your diseases. For keeping your food safe and your environment clean. For serving you.
And let's discuss the whole "making more than most of us do in the private sector." Actually not true. The GOI found that while some at the lower end of the government pay scale do earn more than their private sector counterparts, this is actually not true for the majority of federal employees. Most of us earn in the neighborhood of 25% LESS than we could in the private sector, and that was before our pay was frozen for three years (and counting). But we make that sacrifice in order to serve the country. And we make it expecting job security in return.
We certainly don't have that now.
I am one of the lucky ones. I am "excepted," so I am still working, and still getting paid. (Much of my work continues to involve cancelling long-planned programs, and so is really demoralizing). There is no guarantee on how long that will last. Given my position, I will probably continue to be excepted even as this drags on, but the being paid and paid on time will become more questionable.
And while all of this is happening, our country is becoming less safe. Seventy percent of intel employees have been laid off. Gee, I hope there are no terrorist threats while there is no one to listen. Wonder who will be blamed if there are. And training for embassy security has been cancelled even as the Department continues to be blamed for not doing enough to protect our missions and consulates.
And while all of this is going on, members of Congress are still getting paid. Oh some are donating their checks to charity (you won't be claiming that on your taxes now, will you Mister Representative?). Others, like Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) said they would not be deferring her pay during the government shutdown.
"I need my paycheck. That's the bottom line," Ellmers told WTVD in Raleigh, N.C. "I understand that there may be some other members who are deferring their paychecks, and I think that's admirable. I'm not in that position."
Neither am I, Rep. Ellmers. Neither are any of the laid off federal employees who made considerably less than your $174,000 a year.
But we aren't given a choice.