The Government Gets It

August 5, 2013   2:46 pm

Sequestration made the news earlier this year, when our elected officials failed to meet the obligations for which they campaigned for the right to perform. (That description should let you know how I feel about that.) One of the ways the Department of Defense (among others) chose to enact the required budget savings was through a furlough of civilian employees. The initial announcement was for 22 days, but with some further budgeting, it looks like 11 days will be the final tally.

I want to look at that number 22. Why 22? Well, 22 days is the maximum number of days a Federal employee may be furloughed in a calendar year. Why is that? Part of it is a law protecting employees, though you have to wonder what sort of protection losing 20% of your pay for a third of a year really is; at best, though, it is a restriction on a government that would likely try even more if given the chance. But why 22? As it turns out, in all but a very few states, this is just under the minimum time an employee could be laid off before they would qualify for unemployment compensation. So, this law lets the government avoid saving money in one pot, only to have to spend it out of another. Unemployment compensation is typically paid by the states, so this also keeps the Federal government from imposing on the states.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, if you’re the Federal government, it certainly is. They get to exercise a little-known loophole in the employment contract of their employees, while leaving the employees no recourse (apart from finding employment during their furloughed time) to make up that lost income.

Is it any wonder that part-time work has exploded under the Affordable Care Act? Business is simply following the government’s lead, exploiting the loopholes in the law to allow the government to say “Look at all this wonderful health care we provided!”, while the businesses say “We are fully compliant with this law!”, leaving the employees to think that they must be blind, because they surely don’t see it. I feel for those trying to get a start in this economy; our leadership has certainly eliminated a lot of the opportunities from which they benefited.

Whether this is right is a discussion left for another time; it is as I have described it above. Personally, I believe that laws should be written simply, unambiguously, and with a clear indication of behavior that is considered compliant. Both the government and business are complying with current law.

Keep this in mind the next time someone casts aspersions on businesses for hiring part-time help, and wishes the oh-so-altruistic government would force them to increase hours or hire more employees. That government is the one that passed the law with those provisions in it. You are getting the change for which you voted twice; ironically, mostly courtesy of a legislative body that hasn’t changed much in 30 years. There is a way to bring about some meaningful change, though; I wonder if enough people know how, and have the guts to do it.

The government gets it; businesses get it; do you get it?

Categorized   Economic Policy     Economics    

Tagged    affordable health care act     department of defense     employment     furlough     government     loophole     sequestration     unemployment