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Hand holding thermometer showing high temperatures.
Even federal workers at the very top of their fields are feeling discouraged and pessimistic about their workplaces and the very future of public service, thanks in large part to sequestration. In a conversation between 54 federal workers receiving a top award, one reported that, to save money, her agency had raised the building temperature to 80 degrees for the summer, with the rising temperature leading to sinking morale.

Building temperature aside, morale is low, and, with hiring freezes, "we’re not training a complete generation of leaders" to do the work of the government. Meanwhile, the ridiculous, gotcha-style oversight from Congress and the constant budget adjustments have deep costs. One award winner said, "I wish someone could put a price tag on redoing who knows how many budgets, who knows how many times, this year alone. How many dollars have we spent across the federal government because of sequester considerations?...I wish we had a way to quantify and tell that story." According to another:

"There’s difficulty in hiring, limits on training our existing workforce, a media tendency to blow up scandals leading to a risk-averse culture that piles on so many extra layers of oversight that you have to go through six people who are each trying to figure out what the next person up the chain is going to be looking for, before you can get anything approved!" She went on to add that on a typical day, she feels as if she has "been given a really important mission and is encouraged to carry it out—as long as I don’t actually hire anyone, fire anyone, train anyone, travel anywhere, spend any money, ask the same question of at least nine people, award any contracts, or, God forbid, issue any reports."
Meanwhile, as federal agencies try to jump through every hoop Congress sets up, "we’ll be damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we avoid any big problems, then it looks like, ‘oh, five percent cut, no big deal,’ but if the problems do occur, there will be the casting of blame." But, see, for congressional Republicans that's a feature not a bug. The goal is absolutely to create excuses for cutting federal services and federal jobs, and how they get there—by using agencies' success at cutting without too much short-term pain against them or by using their sequester-induced failures against them—just doesn't really matter.

Maybe most telling of where our government stands now comes from the discussion moderator's attempt to close on a high note:

Zimmerman related that he had recently received an email from a former student who is a Pakistani police superintendent, asking for some advice with some issues facing him in his job, and said "we’re still in a heck of a lot better situation than Pakistan!"
So let's raise the temperature to 80 on the floor of the House and Senate and, while watching our elected representatives literally sweating it out on C-SPAN, drink a toast to being better off than Pakistan.

(Via Huffington Post)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 09:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  People in HUD housing don't get A/C (13+ / 0-)

    Why should Congress?

    As a matter of fact their pay should be on par with food stamp payouts to reflect their dedication to austerity. I get 31 a month they think that is enough for one person so they too can live with it.

  •  My experience is similar. US Attorney's Offices (9+ / 0-)

    all over the country are hiring "Special Assistant United States Attorneys" — people with JDs and years of experience who are working for free.  The agencies tasked with ENFORCING FEDERAL LAW are operating with unpaid, highly-skilled labor.  

  •  Death by a thousand cuts (6+ / 0-)

    Since they have not yet been able to drown the government in a bathtub, they are trying to kill it by a thousand "small cuts" or starve it like that pictures of the dead polar bear in a different diary.

    And people are not event talking about the sequester much anymore, almost as if it has become an fact of life.  We can be such short sighted fools sometimes.

    "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

    by CorinaR on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 09:49:48 AM PDT

  •  I strongly support this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I heard that the sequester Defense Department cuts were spared because the Republicans gutted the transportation budget, so I can't be happy about that, but if the sequester means that federal building temperatures must be set at 80 degrees in the summer, this is wonderful news.

    Tokyo’s airport is a bit hotter and dimmer than usual these days, part of Japan’s continuing forced experiment in energy conservation. After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, Japan lost much of its power supply. As signs around the airport explained, to prevent blackouts, businesses and government offices were asked to decrease electricity consumption by 15 percent.

    Airports, we know, are customarily cool, dry and bright. But after shedding my sweatshirt, my spirits were buoyed: Narita Airport seemed, well, climate-appropriate, nice even. It was around 80 degrees, with a touch of humidity. It was August after all.

    •  Whether the right number is 80 or 79 or 78, (6+ / 0-)

      it's still a lot better than many people working in restaurant kitchens and warehouses.

      Using a little less energy is not a bad thing.

      My workspace is usually right around 80 in the summer, 68 in the winter.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:21:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What transportation budget? (7+ / 0-)

      If DoD was spared sequester it is news to me and my civilian workforce who has already taken 6 sequester days.  News to my military folks who, despite guidance from the SecDef not to, have been making up for civilian shortages.  We simply wont let the mission fail because congress failed.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:35:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why don't you try working in a steamy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cordgrass, Bronx59

      building in the DC heat.  Ass.

      "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

      by Apost8 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:40:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have been, at least the Boston heat. Fuckwad (0+ / 0-)


      •  80 is steamy? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not really.  Our home thermostat is at 75, and that is a little on the cool side.  I certainly wouldn't imagine that an extra 5 degrees wouldn't still be comfortable.  It's also worth pointing out that 80 is essentially off for the last 2 weeks in DC.  I live ~100 miles north of DC, but roughly the same weather and it has been a rather mild summer except for a couple of days the beginning of July.

        Perhaps you shouldn't be making people where suits in 80 degrees, but there is no harm in relaxing the dress code.

    •  No, it's dumb. (6+ / 0-)

      People do actually study these things, and at an 80F indoor temperature a majority of people will be uncomfortable and more importantly, since it’s workplaces we are talking about, less productive. It’s classic penny-wise and pound-foolish behavior. For $1 they save in electric bills they lose at least $5 in productivity.

      Alternately, you get behaviors where the thermostat is turned up and everyone brings in personal fans to run at their desk…and there goes the energy savings from turning up the thermostat.

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

      by Joe Bob on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 02:11:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What studies are these? Plenty of people... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cordgrass, Joe Bob

        want the thermostat at 80 and above. May not be the majority but it's a good chunk of office workers. The ones with the sweaters on when the temperature is set at 72.

        Not to mention those that wear wool suits in a heat wave.

        Fans use much less electricity vs air conditioning by the way.

        •  Upper 70s is usually OK (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MPociask, Notreadytobenice

          Low 80s is OK with decent humidity, fans, and open windows.

          I can't think of anybody in the humid Eastern U.S. who is comfortable with an air conditioning thermostat at over 80 degrees in a typical office building with unopenable windows.  

          Our top-floor office is sometimes 82 or 83 degrees in the afternoon sun, with high humidity.  Little productive work gets done, and people tend to disperse with laptops to cooler parts of the building.

          Maybe that works in Phoenix with low humidity, where the low 80s is over 30 degrees below outside temperature on a normal summer day.  

        •  These are common engineering standards (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The baseline for most HVAC design is 75F and 50% RH. The applicable standard is called ASHRAE 55 – Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. Part of the standard is based on a long history of survey data that allows you to predict what percentage of people will report being dissatisfied with their environment in a given set of environmental conditions.

          Given a set of environmental variables, you can make a good prediction of how (un)comfortable a building can be. We have a given of a thermostat setpoint of 80F. We don’t know anything else for certain but, since we’re talking about federal employees let’s assume conditions based on Washington, DC in August. RH outdoors can range well above 80%, and since we won’t be running our air conditioner very much we will have poor dehumidification, so assume an indoor RH around 65%-70%.

          I can plug those numbers into the calculations and tell you that for a large part of the workday between 40% and 65% of people will be uncomfortably hot given the conditions. Generally, an HVAC system is considered to be ‘not working right’ when more than 20% of people would report being dissatisfied.  

          As for your second point: Yes, a fan uses less energy than an air conditioner. But if we’re talking about an office building full of people, dozens, scores or hundreds of inefficient little fan motors are going to negate or even exceed the energy ‘saved’ by dialing back the central systems.

          Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

          by Joe Bob on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 04:21:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  40-65% uncomfortably hot is acceptable. (0+ / 0-)

            People remember times when the outside air exceeds the system's design day or something breaks or the operator farts.

            Add those long memories to the "some like it hot and some like it cold" fights and you get a song full of complaints.

            Agree with fan energy use if everyone brought one in. Guarantee that doesn't happen by a long shot.

            Article linked in diary about airport et al is telling.

      •  a majority of people will be uncomfortable with (0+ / 0-)

        global warming famine, disease and civil war

    •  They weren't spared (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Notreadytobenice, brillig

      I know plenty of military workers who are on furlough days and getting 20% less because of it.

      They're not happy. At all.

  •  Time to kill the AC in the Capitol. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Well, too late now actually, no one's there. But they will be back in September and it will still be hot in DC.
    As for the poor bas+ards that work in government agencies who's AC has been rationed, time for Casual Workweeks. Jacket, tie, long pants, 80 degrees? Fu(k that! Bermudas, Aloha shirt, sandals and a beach theme for your cubicle!
    My dad was a Simple Serpent and all the way back in the 60's he declared Aloha Friday at his lab from Memorial Day to Labor Day. He may have invented Casual Fridays because that's how he rolled! The old USN/USL building in New London where he worked was a surplus barracks from WWll, no AC (lucky to have running water in the lavatories). So at least one day per week in Summer, he exercised his collection of Hawaiian shirts and modest shorts.
    Wasn't popular with the Military types in administration of the lab but his civilian co-workers eventually took his lead.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 10:33:40 AM PDT

  •  Anybody who believes sequestration isn't (16+ / 0-)

    severely damaging small businesses and thereby the economy and average Americans, is delusional.

    As the tiniest of tiny gov. contractors, I can tell you that even funded contracts are NOT being awarded simply because there aren't enough gov. contract officers/staff to handle the paperwork.

    Small businesses can't hold out forever. The vendors WE buy from can't hold out forever. And small business owners who haven't taken a dime out of their companies just so they can pay the few employees they have left, CAN'T HOLD OUT FOREVER.

    The only organizations that seemingly can hold out forever are banks, huge corporations, and Congress.

    People should be taking to the streets in DC to protest, but nobody can afford the bus ticket. Fat Cat Assholes have made sure of that.

    •  I'm guessing you didn't contract (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      with the DoD.  Otherwise, I'm guessing your contract would get through processing just fine.

      I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

      by mojo11 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:24:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Huh? (8+ / 0-)

        Contracts in the DOD have been at a STANDSTILL for almost 1.5 years!  The DoD contracting world is pretty bleak and there isn't much action out of the street.

        The sequester is the new Republican immigration reform plan. Make things so bad here in the US that no one will want to live here.

        by Mote Dai on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:29:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You'd be guessing wrong. (5+ / 0-)

        I can't speak for giant contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, and the like, but small contractors aren't getting squat.

        We still have troops stationed around the world that have needs, and it's short-sighted to believe that all government contractors are building drones and sophisticated weaponry.

        Mote Dai is 100% accurate. End of the year budget spending is helping, but very little.  

        I suppose the bright side is that when all the small businesses and contractors go bankrupt because of sequester, we'll at least be able to say we screwed the bloated DOD. Oh happy day...

        •  I stand corrected then. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          With the Pentagon being the sacred cow that it is, it would seem a logical that their pipelines would be similarly preferred.  I guess not.  My apologies

          I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

          by mojo11 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 02:10:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I can speak for one large contractor (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Mr. Brillig does defense contract work. One of his projects was cancelled outright, the other restructured into something no longer applicable to him. He's got other work til the end of the year, but this is the first time in 25 years at the same company that he's not paying attention when the headhunters call.

          "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

          by brillig on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 07:27:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Obwordchoicecorrect (0+ / 0-)

            I dont' work for, or speak FOR, anyone but me :). But I know that the big defense contractors are being hurt too.

            "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

            by brillig on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 07:28:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Same here (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cactusgal, brillig

      The small business government contracting world has taken a huge hit the last 1.5 years.  There hasn't been a lot of action, and the little that is moving is moving at glacial pace through the contracting offices.  I was doing some small business work mostly on DHS and DoD projects...and even the big guys were calling me up asking for leads and proposal ideas.  The last month things have improved, but that is because of the impending end of the fiscal year and the desperate need to get the little money they have out the door.  

      The sequester is the new Republican immigration reform plan. Make things so bad here in the US that no one will want to live here.

      by Mote Dai on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:34:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My complaint about this sort of stuff. (7+ / 0-)

    They cut pay, they cut staff but it never seems they cut what you have to do.

    In my mind if they are going to reduce the staff by say 10% then they need to streamline the work by 10%.

    Also with no pay raises you have quick turnover.

    I guess the idea is they want the gov't agency to fail so they can contract it out but we see how well that has worked in the National Security realm. Blackwater contractors certainly did a great job too.

    •  Speak truth (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      judyms9, Apost8, mmacdDE, cactusgal, Matt Z

      The DIA director told congress that he would do less with less.  No more doing more with less.  We have maxed out everything we can do with productivity improvements.  If you cut us, we will do less.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:31:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another side benefit of the sequester (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cactusgal, Bronx59, Matt Z

      From the rightwingnut point of view is that experienced federal employees are leaving government agencies in droves.  So much so, that retirement benefits and pension applications are being delayed three to six months for newly retiring federal employees.

      We getting close to drowning the remnants of government in a bathtub, to paraphrase Grover Norquist.

      "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

      by Ed in Montana on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:42:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  NOT JUST FEDS (5+ / 0-)

        In my state they can't keep people.

        Accounting for inflation the jobs all pay way less now than they did 15 or 20 years ago,  plus they have cut all the benefits for the new hires.

        The plus of government jobs was good benefits but now the pay is getting so low people are jumping ship to go cut hair, or do drywall.  

        If the Affordable Care Act really works I predict you will see craploads of people leaving the govt. Many only work there because you can get insurance and are totally tired of the high caseloads, no raises and continual crap they are given from politicians with their unfunded mandates and from mgmt.

  •  So, the government is running sweatshops. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    praenomen, cactusgal, Matt Z


  •  80° in the Senate chambers? No biggie... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, RichM, Matt Z

    they can just dress like Mark Sanford.

    "If you mean time-traveling bunnies, then yes."

    by here4tehbeer on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:20:15 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately (5+ / 0-)

    with Congress in recess, they won't be there to experience the 80-degree chambers.  Besides, with all the hot air in there, they're probably used to it by now anyway.

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:21:03 PM PDT

  •  I have to say that it's not just government that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RichM, Bronx59

    has developed "looking over your shoulder | avoid controversy at all costs | do nothing that upsets anyone" into a new organizational culture and model.  

    It's the same way in the private college where I work, and I hear the same from my friends in business

    (except for banking and insurance...they don't give a shit . . . heh . . . just kidding, only IMO, I love Wells Fargo . . . ).

    "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery these dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

    by Rikon Snow on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:24:03 PM PDT

  •  Losing people (10+ / 0-)

    I just lost one of my better terrorism analyst partially due to sequester.  He took his knowledge and training and went to the private sector to apply it to the mortgage business (not kidding).  5 years of knowledge we cant replace with a new hire.  Two more are actively looking for work and the remaining two are looking to move internally.  

    When sequester talk first started they assumed they would be deemed mission essential and shielded.  Given the 24/7/365 nature of what they do (we all work shifts) it was a good assumption but it turned out to be wrong.  So guys who work every holiday are told to take one day a week off without pay.  Kinda lets them know how essential they are.  I doubt I will have any of them this time next year.  The only impact is on detecting terrorists inside the US.  Thats all.  No big deal to have to start over with new people........

    As for the budget thing we have 3 full time budgeteers.  Probably half of their work load this year was sequester gaming.  Thats about $200K just to figure out what should be a steady state budget.  Oh yeah, LOVE sequester.  

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:30:23 PM PDT

  •  100 TIMES YES!!! (10+ / 0-)

    I am so tired of being everyone's punching bag.  I work in an old TB hospital with a crimbling roof and my computer is almost 7 years old.  I haven't had a raise in 4 years and they just recently found cryptosporidium bacteria in our drinking fountain.  If there are Federal Employees living high off the hog, they sure don't work in my office.  

    All my friends in the private sector have much more perks.  I only stick around because I love the mission.  

  •  Great, so they're winning at breaking government (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    judyms9, Ed in Montana

    Heckuva job Mr. President.

    (Yes, I get that blame rests with the party o' nihilists. But what are you supposed to say when our guy leads in the wrong direction?)

    "There were questions that Governor Romney wanted to address to make sure people understood that he's not a felon" - Ed Gillespie (Romney supporter)

    by itswhatson on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:31:44 PM PDT

  •  Here in the capital city of Big Sky Country (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, cactusgal, MPociask

    Federal employees have been taking a hit of around two weeks without pay in the last six months, money which won't be spent in local grocery stores and businesses.

    This is beginning to trickle down to state government budgets, with big cutbacks in federal grants to state agencies to fund programs.

    Well, we really don't need clean air, clean water and wildfire management so much any more, did we?

    "I come close to despair because so many of the pieces of the country are broken, and when you see that, you have two choices: You can give up, or you can do something about it." Elizabeth Warren

    by Ed in Montana on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:34:41 PM PDT

  •  Throw the bums out (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One can only feel sympathy for the thousands of federal workers suffering through no fault of their own.
    The GOP in Congress is totally to blame.
    Those idiots refused to negotiate even though they knew thousands would be affected – and millions more, if you include us taxpayers.
    I feel so helpless … but then so does 83 percent of the population; Gallup recently reported approval of Congress at 17 percent. It should sink even lower.

    In the (K)now blog Http://

    by Warren Swil on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:36:14 PM PDT

  •  Meh, my wife has subjected me to 80 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    degrees for the past 25 years or so to save $$s

    Heck, the federal employees will eventually get used to it (personally, it only took me about 16 years).

    So color me distinctly non-empathetic about this.

  •  I agree, 80 degrees is unpleasant (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mmacdDE, cactusgal

    Guess how many schools don't have air conditioning at all and routinely exceed that?

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:36:36 PM PDT

  •  Yup. My agency has cut back on our A/C. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Very uncomfortable.  I wear polos to work now and only don a suit and tie when I absolutely must.  Thanks Congress!

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:37:30 PM PDT

  •  So now... (0+ / 0-)

    The government is really being run like a business.  This is the business model of America.  Rewards for cost cutting only - no money for future development or innovation - a completely risk-adverse employee pool - no idea is ever filtered through the question 'will it lower moral' - your best and brightest leaving to go work for your competitor - or moving out of country - but, hey, at least you have a job and you aren't working for some factory in Bangladesh.

    “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” - John Steinbeck

    by RichM on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:42:26 PM PDT

  •  Warm temps are very hard on servers and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    714day, mik

    computers as well as staff whose brains function optimally at 64 degrees F.  I'd tell my staff to do their best and what doesn't get done gets put in the overload pile.  (The process of triage is a time suck too.)

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 01:45:42 PM PDT

    •  Cogent comment. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think some folks are missing the point of the diary. It isn't about the fact that we all need to rethink how to go about energy conservation. It's more about how the plebes are expected to wave fans and peel grapes for their masters who mustn't be inconvenienced.

  •  80? Pff (0+ / 0-)

    Here in Texas, my a/c is on 81 and I'm sitting here in pants, socks, and a shirt. These guys can cry me a river.

  •  Turn off the air, and cut off the heat. (0+ / 0-)

    Reduce their salary to the levels of Federal workers, and see how long the @#$%?&^ last.  

    In the time it took Adam Lanza to reload, eleven children escaped. What if...

    by Sixty Something on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 04:49:00 PM PDT

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