Saturday, December 29, 2018

Furlough-di, Furlough-da!

Yes, I'm on furlough, one of those 380,000 or so non-excepted federal employees who have been told to stay home.  I went to my office the day after Christmas to do my orderly shutdown, which for me consisted of tying up some loose ends and writing notes for the one deputy in our office who is designated excepted and who, without pay, is charged with handling any emergencies that arise.

As a non-excepted federal employee on furlough, I am not permitted to do anything related to my job, not even as an unpaid volunteer.  Excepted employees, some 420,000 of them, are required to go to work and do their jobs, but they will not be paid.  Neither status is enviable, and I do wonder to what extent the average citizen will ponder the fact that TSA agents conducting security at airports are not being paid.  

I took the do no work instruction at face value and headed home to Maine two days after Christmas.  I will stay here for the duration.  From all signs the duration will be at least through the first week of January.  I, for one, expect it could go longer, perhaps much longer.
Evening View from my Maine Porch
I make no secret of my Northeast, urban, progressive views, and thus it is easy to guess where I come down in the debate over a border wall.  I believe the November mid-term election shows a plurality of the U.S. population has come down on the same side of the debate.  On this issue, as on many others, increasing numbers can no longer abide the current occupant of the White House who is coming to look more and more like a sore loser, even a cry baby who believes a tantrum will get him what he wants.  I hope that the coming weeks will finally disabuse him of that notion.

Much of my life both in and outside of federal service has involved support for improved human rights around the globe.  That's where the funding should go, not to the construction of a physical barrier that has never proved effective for those countries that have tried them through human history. 

Did I describe myself as someone of "Northeast, urban, progressive views?"  Make that more a "European style social democrat" who at some level believes Marx was right.  Ending mass migrations across national borders means, in the long run, raising living standards on a global scale.  In a perverse sense globalization has been a step in bringing U.S. workers down to the level of workers in other countries.  The golden age of the U.S. worker in the first two decades after World War II was a fluke brought about largely by the circumstance that the US was the only major nation where industry had not been flattened.  It was just a matter of time before the Japans, Germanies, Chinas, and Koreas of the world would make themselves known.  
The great failure in the US during the post-War decades was, in my view, its failure to invest heavily in education and retraining.  Those who want should be able to attend college for free or nearly so, and those who don't should have programs available that train them in the skills needed to work in a modern, information economy.  In this failure I include myself and most of my urban, progressive friends, all of us focused on our own lives and largely blind to a middle America that was coming to resemble the post-Soviet Russian landscape of abandoned, rusting, non-competitive factories surrounded by factory towns with no future.

That's my view, and it's more than just words.  I have been writing my letters since the election of November 2016.  I have been making my monthly donations.  I have canvassed door-to-door for the progressive candidate in my district.  My own efforts have been meager, I know, compared to those of others, but they are a start that I hope to expand after my official retirement next August.

In the meantime, as on this day, I'll look out the window of my small home at the beauty of a sunset and a snowy Maine landscape of white.  Unlike young federal friends who have mortgages, car payments, and families, I've got savings to weather the financial seas when my next paycheck does not come on January 11.  From what I know of many of those young, progressive friends, however, they too look at this as a key moment to stand firm.  To steal from a classic Beatles song,
Furlough-di, Furlough-da, furlough's on, girl!
Democracy it must go on!
Let that be our tune as we cross over into 2019. 

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