By Greg Glassner
My thoughts on the recent federal government shutdown have been bubbling for weeks, but I decided to wait until it was over before committing them to print.
First off, it was a misnomer since not a whole lot actually shut down, despite the fact everybody persisted in calling it that. In retrospect, “partial shutdown” or “selective shutdown” seems more accurate.
I frittered away a couple hours reading daily newspapers, watching TV news and Googling in my own attempt to determine what was actually shut down and what wasn’t. I determined that no one actually knew, which seems appropriate when talking about our federal government.
I believe about 800,000 government employees were furloughed during the recent Congressional foolishness. While a mind-boggling figure to someone who retired from a weekly newspaper staff with seven fulltime employees, 800,000 is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the feds.
I understand they will receive back pay for time they did not work, so the “furlough” translates into additional paid vacation for workers who already get more paid vacations and holidays than those in the private sector.
I am not sure if the people who work for civilian government contractors will be compensated for their time off – probably not. But, let’s face it, most of them are overcompensated as well.
While it is difficult for a country bumpkin like me to truly understand anything that goes on in the District of Columbia, I gather that this entire escapade was an ill-considered attempt by ultra-conservative Republicans to derail the Affordable Health Care Act after it had already been approved, signed into law and withstood a test before the Supreme Court.
That’s kind of like taking the football home to end a game because you don’t like the score – except for the fact it’s not your football and it isn’t a game. (Well it’s not supposed to be a game, anyway.)
The result of the partial government shutdown was that a few people were inconvenienced. Oh, a few teary-eyed vets escorted by their tour guide, Michelle Bachman, were unable to view the World War II memorial, the National Zoo’s Panda Cam was off the air, autumn-leaf viewing in the National parks was postponed and I had to put off my visit to the Smithsonian to see the new Muppets exhibit.
But we all will get over it.
Although I don’t think it was intended by the parties responsible, one consequence of the shutdown was that most Americans wouldn’t have noticed it, had it not been for the incessant blather on CNN, FOX News and CNBC. We really didn’t miss those 800,000 government workers while they were furloughed, did we?
I have spoken with two of those 800,000 shortly after the crisis was averted and in my humble opinion they are competent and dedicated public servants. I presume their jobs are of some value.
But I would hazard a guess that we could probably cut 200,000 of those 800,000 “nonessential” government jobs and do just fine. I also propose that we could also cut 10-15 percent of the millions of federal government jobs not affected by the shutdown and still survive as a nation.
Maybe Congress and the Executive Branch should put a little effort into that.
But they won’t.
As far as I am concerned, the only positive thing about this whole shutdown fiasco was that some idiot actually read “Green Eggs and Ham” into the Congressional Record.
That strikes me as appropriate, somehow.