Congress has thrown thousands of Federal Aviation Administration employees into limbo, even forcing some of them to go to work without pay and charge their travel expenses on their personal credit cards. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that if a congressional super committee fails to reach agreement on federal spending reductions, troops and civilians could be looking at reductions in force and furloughs.
What President Obama has taken to calling "dysfunctional government" has hit an all-time high, hasn't it?
Not so fast.
Apparently, in the post-Civil War period, the situation was even more chaotic. Here's what historian Stephen Ambrose wrote in his study of Civil War Gen. Emory Upton, Upton and the Army (Louisiana State University Press, 1964):
[The Army] was unseen, unpopular, or unknown. Northerners were disinterested in it, southerners disliked it, westerners no longer needed it. In 1877, as a result of political manipulations centering around the end of Reconstruction, the officers and men of the United States Army went a full year without pay. Officers despaired of promotion--many held the same rank for twenty or thirty years.
Which just goes to show that as bad as things are, they could be worse.