Just over the last week or so, one ridiculous policy – Republicans’ sequestration cuts, approved two years ago – has undermined the federal government’s capacity to battle wildfires, hurt the federal court system, undercut job growth, and even canceled 4th of July events. The political world shrugged, if it noticed the effects of the sequester at all.
With this in mind, I don’t imagine Pentagon furloughs will generate much attention, but they should.
More than 650,000 civilian workers in the Defense Department will be taking their first of 11 furlough days this week.
The Pentagon’s 11 weeks of furloughs kick in on Monday, which result in a 20-percent-weekly pay cut through September for 680,000 of the Pentagon’s roughly 800,000 civilian employees.
Those are a lot of numbers, so take a moment to look beyond the statistics and think about the human element: a whole lot of Americans are about to take a huge pay cut for a few months, not because they’ve done a poor job, but because congressional Republicans support unnecessary spending cuts for no apparent reason. This will affect their ability to pay their bills and purchase good and services, which means undermining the economy.
There was a time – I believe it’s a period of American history known as “last year” – when the right was outraged by the very idea of cutting Defense spending.
And yet, 680,000 Pentagon employees are taking a steep pay cut – and being told to stay home without pay – because of a policy that was designed to hurt the country. Congress isn’t rushing to prevent these furloughs; Congress isn’t even talking about these furloughs. It just a rolling disaster on auto-pilot.
To reiterate a point from last week, the political world seems to have moved on, and it’s fashionable to suggest the sequester is meaningless, but these cuts continue to take a real toll on real people. Congress has the ability to end this pain and turn off the deliberately damaging policy, but for now, it’s not even an option being considered in Washington.