In an impressive display of Beltway mentality, the Washington Post invited federal workers to sing the blues about their possible furloughs, should the government shut down. These federal workers already have better pay and benefits than most of the taxpayers funding their jobs, and in the event of a government shutdown, those taxpayers come to find that much of what they’ve been funding is “nonessential,” according to the very government that employs these multitudes. But it hurts to be told you’re “nonessential,” and the Washington Post allows a place to vent. Some of those who contributed are officially “essential” and should be— they perform “essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property,” according to the Office of Management and Budget.
Others should probably stay quiet, lest loudly proclaiming their job descriptions makes taxpayers think, “Wait, what are we paying you for?” Like this guy:
And, lo, it came to pass that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental engineers were furloughed, and from that day forth, we were forced to dine on raw ox tails and dried lentils before we ventured out to light the tiki torches that ward off bands of marauding coyotes and looters but stand as a bleak reminder of better times, when we knew how to use fire to cook meat. But that was before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission environmental engineers were furloughed for 3-7 days, my child.
Most of the political danger of a government shut down, unfortunately, likely falls on Republicans. It’s not fair that part of the reason for that is a media happy to blame them and them alone, as Mark Halperin pointed out, but it’s the truth and one we must recognize as we’re gearing up to fight a message battle on that front. But there is danger for Democrats and liberals, too, just as there was with sequestration. A shutdown necessarily highlights many jobs taxpayers had no idea they were funding. Most of the pain from a shutdown falls within the Beltway, where as I mentioned, salaries are higher and the economy more prosperous than the rest of the country thanks to taxpayer money siphoned from them to serve the ruling and contractor class. And, in the end, it may be that people’s personal experiences don’t live up to the sky-is-falling expectations set by the media and Democrats. That’s what happened with sequestration, and it’s why the Continuing Resolution’s spending levels being set at sequestration level is a virtually controversy-free part of this fight. The fact that America doesn’t fall apart when small parts of the federal government are dismantled is a good thing, for the country in general, and for making conservative arguments. It’s less likely that a shutdown redounds to conservative benefit on this front than sequestration did but it’s worth pondering if we end up in this message battle.
What worries me is that fighting the shutdown messaging battle prevents conservatives and the rest of the country from focusing on another government function that doesn’t live up to the hype tomorrow. When those signing up for Obamacare run into the “glitch” that is the very nature of the program, it will constitute the public’s most concrete collision with the broken promises of the program. As with sequestration, real people will learn quickly that what Obama and Democrats said would come to pass simply didn’t, this time with far graver consequences to them and their families than in the case of sequestration.
Now, credit where credit is due. Thank you to the federal government workers with a sense of self-awareness. Like this guy:
Take some time to scroll through the gallery, and find all the things you had no idea you funded.
Mike Marsh is a federal employee who wrote to Congress this summer with an unusual proposal to save the government money.
Fire me, Marsh told lawmakers. And everyone I work with.
“I have concluded that [my agency] is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice,” wrote Marsh, who is the inspector general for the Denali Commission, an economic-development agency based in Alaska. “I recommend that Congress put its money elsewhere.”
This has been tried before. But not often. Old Washington hands could remember only two other federal workers who had lobbied publicly to have themselves defunded. One was a high-level Ronald Reagan appointee. One was a lowly weather observer.
Both failed. Meaning they weren’t fired.
Marsh seems likely to fail, too — even though his requests arrived in Washington in the middle of a battle to cut the budget. His agency seems protected by one of Washington’s most enduring customs: the defense of home-state giveaways, even in times of national austerity.
Marsh draws an important distinction in his fight: he doesn’t necessarily think his commission’s mission isn’t worthwhile, but that it doesn’t have to be performed at taxpayer expense. Liberals get away with obliterating that distinction at every turn. Government does not equal society. One can hope that truth wins out in the event of a shutdown, as it did in sequestration.
Update: Speaking of the generous benefits enjoyed by government workers, Megan McArdle destroys that silly “Breaking Bad” meme that suggests Walter White would never have had to cook meth if he lived in the health utopia of Canada:
The series starts with Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is diagnosed with lung cancer. His lousy health maintenance organization won’t cover a decent doctor, or treatment. So Walter is forced to turn to crime just to pay his medical bills and … whoa, wait a minute. You know who has excellent benefits, compared with basically everyone else in the country? Teachers, firefighters and cops…
Later, after Walt’s actions accidentally result in the shooting of his brother-in-law, a Drug Enforcement Agency agent, Walt’s wife takes a bunch of the meth money to pay for Hank’s treatment. On his government salary, Hank can’t possibly afford the treatment he needs, because, of course, his lousy insurance policy won’t cover more than a few visits to the physical therapist … and whoa, we just went from “unrealistic” to “ludicrous.” You know who has even better benefits than employees enjoying a compensation package collectively bargained with a local government? Federal employees in a low-cost state such as New Mexico. Moreover, extra benefits are available to people injured in the line of duty.