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Posts tagged ‘government’

Can I have some Cheese to go with this Whine?

Bye daddy

Whining is so unattractive.

Ah but this is a vintage whine, so bring me some aged cheese.  Preferrably blue-veined Stilton, with Bosc Pears and some nice crackers, please.

I’m caught up in too many important issues all demanding my utmost attention:  2 banks; 1 WV permit inspector; a dozen noisy neighbors; 1 untenable work situation; menopause; diabetes; hypertension; weight gain; insomnia; 3 cranky, geriatric pussycats; 1 dead lizard (sorry, Victoria Heather Gold); migraines; and, then there’s trying to be helpmeet to Chad Blair, who deserves to have me share his not inconsiderable burdens.  I’m not supposed to whine.  I’m supposed to <<pause and remember it’s 9/11>>.  I’m supposed to be thankful I’m (relatively) healthy, have a (relatively) secure job that pays the bills (even though I hate it and have to commute 3-4 hours a day).  I’m supposed to look on the bright side, be calm and keep a stiff upper lip.

Right.

A wise person (or perhaps several) once said:  “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Those are easy words to say, but how many people can actually execute that sentiment?  Or as the song goes:  “Nice work if you can get it, and if you get it..won’t you show me how?”

The reality of modern, urban life is you have to pay the bills, and through the years, we get suckered into the expectation of what “life” is supposed to be, including the home, the 2 cars in the garage and all the stuff that goes with it.  We fill our lives with hobbies and all the bits and junk they entail, but somehow never get around to using up.  We spend according to (or beyond) our income.  We may, if we are diligent, save a bit for the future, but mostly, we dress fancy, drive sporty and live high.  Until diabetes and cranky knees catch up to us.  Until that job we had to get to support that lifestyle (even though it turned out to suck the hell right out loud within six months) turns out to be a no-escape nightmare.

Why are some jobs so difficult to escape?

I work for the federal government and live in the western suburbs of Northern Virginia (we call it NoVA), out past Dulles Airport.  It was as clost to the city as we could afford, and it provided my husband a reasonable commute to his job in the local school district.  At the time we bought our home, every mile closer to Washington, DC added $10,o00 to the price of a home.  It pretty much still does, 10 years later.  We also, due to a lot of circumstances, had to buy in 2005, and refinance in 2007 at the peak of the real estate boom.  Now we’re stuck, with a mortgage package that is still underwater by about 5-7 % considering seller closing costs.

So we can’t move because we can’t sell our house for what we’d have to pay out at closing.  It will take another 2-3 years to make that much at the rate the sluggish local market is going.  Two years of tea-party conservatism, government shutdowns, and other attacks on the federal budget mean the local economy is beginning to slump at a time when the rest of the nation is growing.  Since we can’t sell or refinance our terrible mortgages, I can’t afford to get another job that pays less than the GS-14 position I occupy.  These jobs are at the highest eschelon of government staff.  They are usually offerred to in-house, hand-picked candidates, therefore my chances of landing another job in the government are slim to “ain’t gonna happen.”

Work outside the government is contract, temporary, and nobody is hiring now since all the contractors are in layoff mode.  Working as a consultant in my prior field means constant travel, potentially overseas, and with my health issues is ill-advised.  So I’m stuck with a bad job situation in a house I’m beginning to hate in a neighborhood I hate even more.

What’s so bad about the place?

I suppose…I should love it.  Except the house next door is 15 feet away.  The lots are all 500o to 11000 square feet (ours is the largest on a corner), and the neighbors all find it necessary to occupy every weekend day using 3.5 to 5 hp gas weed trimmers so loud we measured 85 decibels standing at our own doorway.  I’m not exaggerating and we have the video to prove it.  This symphony starts at 7:30 am and lasts until dusk most Saturdays and Sundays.  Then there are the children.  They scream as if they are being murdered.  For hours.  In postage stamp lots just a hundred feet from my deck.  Try and relax from an horrid work day and 2-hour commute to the sound of tantrums and screaming.  I dare you.

Our house is 16 years old, so it needs a few things touched up.  We’d love to schedule them as we have time and money, but our HOA inspects every house, every year, and gives us a punch list and 30 days to comply, or they will fine us.  What they will ding us for this year will likely cost between $3 and $10 thousand dollars–that we don’t have.  All to “maintain property values” on a house that has been underwater since 2007.  I wonder if anyone has ever successfully sued their HOA for failing to uphold property values?

We had an escape plan…

But that, too, is going to pieces.

We bought some land in West Virginia.  It’s on the side of a mountain with gorgeous views of the Potomac valley in the winter when the leaves are off the trees.  We hope to build a home there whenever we can sell our house.  We planned to put a small, pre-built log cabin on the land this fall, as an escape for the weekends and vacations.  That hope came crashing down this week.  We learned that the local building code inspector intractibly insists on viewing this cabin as a residence and falling completely under the International Building Code.  Compliance will be impossible.  If we can’t work this out, we can’t have our cabin, and we’ll likely have to sell our beautiful land in which we’ve invested our hopes, dreams, 2-1/2 years and over $60,000.

But wait, there’s more…

I’m also fighting with the servicing banks on both my mortgages, but I won’t go into that here.  I’ll just say that if you don’t have to do it, don’t.

Yes, I’m whining.  It’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to.

The shared cost of Congressional failure

The federal government’s fiscal year ends in five business days, on September 30, 2011.  Unless Congress acts to provide emergency funding (a Continuing Resolution), most government agencies will not have authorized funds to operate.  Much of the federal government will shut down.  When Congress fails to do their job, we all pay, and not just inside the I-495 Capital Beltway.

We’ve learned, however, that social security checks still go out, federal taxes get collected, and TSA airport screeners till show up for work.  There are, in fact, a few appropriations bills that have passed, and a few government agencies whose funds come, not from appropriations, but from income collected in fees and taxes.

Many Americans think that the shenanigans on Capital Hill don’t directly affect them.  After all, they don’t work for the government, right?  Why should they care?

Congress Has One Job to Do

Congress has a few exclusive powers under the US Constitution.  Among those very few exclusive powers is the authority to raise taxes and distribute revenue to the executive branch.  Revenue bills must originate in the House.

All the other blather, goings on and dealmaking in the House and the Senate are secondary to their main job of raising and distributing the ebb and flow of money into and out of the US Treasury.  This is their job.  

When Congress fails to do their job, under law the Executive Branch (and this includes the military) cannot spend money.  This falls under the Antideficiency Act, which makes illegal spending money before it is appropriated.  A government employee can go to jail for this.

Now to why you care….

Imagine for a moment you are a company that has bid a contract to do work for the government.  By the way, it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to put in a bid for the federal government.  It also takes a lot of time for the feds to get around to selecting the contractor and awarding the contract.  You don’t get paid for any of this; it’s a gamble you take and a cost of doing business.

Congratulations!  You are the winning bidder and will be awarded the contract…as soon as the budget is approved.  The project will start on the first day of the next fiscal year (if the budget calendar goes the way it is supposed to go).

It doesn’t go that way, does it?  Republicans “stand on their principles” and Democrats want to “tax the millionaires”, and now we have no budget, and we have a continuing resolution.  Under the rules of a CR, no new projects can start.   We NEVER had a budget in 2011.  The government operated on CR for the ENTIRE FISCAL YEAR.

Meanwhile, our poor contractor has hired workers, built an assembly line and stocked parts in anticipation of an October 1 startup.  He had to, because he was expected to be ready to produce if he wanted to keep in good graces with his government customer.

Avalanche Theory

Now he either has to keep all those people on the payroll or lay them off.  He either has to send back the parts or keep them.  He has no income to offset those costs.  For every month Congress bickers and delays a full spending bill, he loses thousands or millions of dollars, depending on the size of the business or investment.  This loss trickles cascades avalanches down through the supply chain and through subcontractors to affect businesses and paychecks all across America.

Raise your hand if you know someone who earns at least part of their living making or selling something for or to the federal government either directly or indirectly.  I bet their rainy day fund is pretty dry about now.

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