The Plight of the Non-Essential Government Worker

So, here we are in the middle of a budget war. At this point, even if Congress get its act together and agrees on a budget and avoids a long-standing federal government shut down, it might be a little too little, a little too late. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see federal workers get their paychecks and law-abiding citizens get their tax refunds, but let’s examine a little of what we lost in this vicious, partisan, bureaucratic feud.

Capitol © by rpongsaj

We have lost the dignity of some of our federal employees by labeling them “non-essential”.  Scoff if you want, but John or Jane Doe goes to work every morning. Okay, it might be a boring government job, but they work their hours and deserve their pay. Then, the powers that be in congress can’t reach a budget agreement, and all the non-essential employees are told they will not be able to come into work.

The first thing that happens in a budget standoff is that all the workers in the government offices look around to see who is non-essential. Call me oversensitive, but it has to hurt when everyone in the room is looking at you. Sure, it’s only a government workforce term, but you know it’s going to carry over into your social life too.  The non-essential workers will soon find themselves on the non-essential list for weddings, parties, backyard barbecues and the coed softball league. Face it, the non-essential moniker is virtually impossible to shed once it has been assigned.

When and if the budget crisis is over, the government will need these non-essential workers back at their jobs. I think it should be ready to pony up some money to pay for therapy bills to treat the Non-essential Worker Inferiority Complex or NWIC. (I coined this syndrome myself. I wonder if one gets royalties for naming diseases.) Anyway, NWIC will be delved into on Dr. Phil and countless other psycho-babble TV and radio talk shows. It is easy to predict that the non-essentials will have deep scars in need of healing and who can do that better than Dr. Phil – well, now that Oprah is gone. The government should also be ready to foot the bill for some aggressive PR campaigns designed to get non-essentials back on society’s A-list again. Hey, look what PR did for  Bristol Palin – $250,000 for talking about how she got knocked up and a stint on Dancing with the Stars to boot. Never underestimate the value of a good publicist.

In this budget crisis, we have also lost all common sense because instead of worrying about their daily tasks, the government agencies are frantically looking to find precedence on how to handle the workers use of technology specifically their emails, government-issued blackberries and laptops. The government is looking to an 1884 law known as the Antideficiency Act to figure out what government employee actions will not be allowed during the shut down. This century-plus-old law prohibits the performance of any kind of work-related act which today includes checking emails.

So, in a shut down, all those who have  government-assigned technology tools, would not be allowed to turn them on nor would they be allowed to check their work emails from their home computers unless they want to risk breaking federal law.  So, if no one is allowed to check emails, some agencies are worried how will all the workers know to come back to work when the shut down is over.  Personally, I think the government should hire a town crier — I hear Glenn Beck needs a job and he does have a really big mouth.  The crier can stand in the middle of Washington D.C. – maybe by the Jefferson or Lincoln memorials, ring a bell and scream “Yes, the shut down is over!  Return to work!  Return to work!”  If that doesn’t work, the grammar school snow emergency list might do the trick too.

I know this is a serious situation, and hundreds of thousands of people could be without paychecks except for the President and Congress who continue to get paid.  So, for this reason, if there is a shut down, I think that John Boehner and his cronies would have to live in the home of a middle class family for the duration.  I would offer my house, but I’m afraid I would sick my dogs on them. Let them see the struggles that middle class America faces today and let them see how government services are needed. If that doesn’t warm their cold, cold hearts, I say we bring back the guillotine and place it in the Capitol Rotunda. Nothing spurs on compromise like the threat of a public beheading.

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