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Mandatory Pay To Not Do Imaginary Government Work

Government Employees










Our friends Daniel Horowitz, senior editor of Conservative Review, and Jonathan Bydlak, President & Founder of the Coalition to Reduce Spending recently posed a couple of thought-provoking questions worthy of putting before CHQ readers for comment.

In a recent column for Conservative Review, Daniel Horowitz asked, “Why is the main harm of a long shutdown the pay of the workers and not the actual work?”

Horowitz then set-up an important subsidiary question:

The political and media elites are border deniers. They are also debt deniers. This partial government shutdown has finally forced a national dialogue over the most ignored national security problem of this generation at our border. But oddly, the fact that so many agencies and departments have shut down for three weeks and nobody cares has not spawned a national discussion over the purpose of having some of these jobs, other than to pay the employees.

What IS the purpose of many of these jobs, other than to pay the employees?

The answer is, there may be little or no purpose to many of them, yet through some weird Kafkaesque logic, Democrats, in light of the shutdown, have now passed a bill (S. 24) to take all federal employees’ salaries, which are currently discretionary and subject to the appropriations process, and make them mandatory spending.

Thus, says Horowitz, irrespective of whether Congress passes appropriations bills, under the Democrats’ scheme all federal employees – whether essential or not – would be guaranteed pay for not working during an appropriation lapse.

And there are a lot of non-essential employees in the federal government, says Horowitz.

Obviously, there are some important agencies, such as ICE, Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard, that are subject to this lapse in appropriations and are seeing their pay delayed. We should always ensure that the essential workers are paid. But because they are essential, they are still working. What about the 95.4 percent of HUD employees, 86 percent of Commerce, 83.3 percent of Treasury, 66.5 percent of Agriculture, and 76 percent of Interior, employees who are not working because they are deemed unessential? Education and Labor are already funded this time, but if they were subject to the shutdown, 95 percent and 81 percent of their respective employees would be deemed nonessential.

One can make a case that some nonessential workers are necessary in the long run and are just not indispensable at the moment. That is certainly the case at Justice and Homeland Security, where roughly 85 percent of employees are deemed essential, so naturally you will need a certain number of nonessential, yet necessary, employees to support their work. But if such a high percentage of a department is deemed nonessential, shouldn’t we have a discussion on whether those positions should exist or whether states, which actually have to balance their budgets, should take up the slack?

What’s even worse than the idea of taking government workers pay out of the appropriations process is that only seven brave conservatives voted against it – so much for Republicans holding the line against the new Democratic majority in the House.

Which brings us to Jonathan Bydlak’s commentary.

Bydlak sent around an email to supporters observing that it can be tempting to celebrate government shutting down for any reason. After all, said Bydlak, reminders that life goes on without federal funding are always welcome for fiscal conservatives. We should not be tempted, however, to think the shutdown is saving us money.

For one, notes Bydlak, most federal employees will eventually be paid (for work they mostly weren’t allowed to do). For another, some taxes and fees like national park entrance fees won’t be collected. And let's not forget says Bydlak, that most of the government is up and running just fine.

Bydlak closed by observing that, for most Americans, the sky is clearly not falling due to the partial government shutdown. But this latest impasse is just another reminder that government by crisis does not work, and politicians should not be allowed to let the status quo continue for the next generation.

True – government by crisis does not work, but the problem is that the two crises Daniel Horowitz outlined are the creation of politicians of both parties in Congress who are living in imaginary worlds where neither a spending crisis, nor a border crisis exist.

It is probably too much to ask of Congress to solve both crises at once, but we must try. The toll-free Capitol Switchboard is (1-866-220-0044), we urge CHQ readers and friends to call their Representative and Senators – especially Republicans – to tell them now is the time to ask the tough questions about what parts of the federal government are essential to the constitutional order, and why are we paying billions of dollars for it if it isn’t?

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Mandatory Pay for NOT Working

Insanity in government guarantees more insanity.