As a result of the possible (probable?) government shutdown, I learned this morning that the various agencies, including the military, are reviewing their work force to determine who will be furloughed and who will continue to work. “Essential” workers will continue to work and “non-essential” workers will be furloughed. What? Non-essential employees? How do you say “bloated government?” Why do agencies have non-essential workers? Who are these people and what does it do to their self esteem to be told “you don’t need to come to work tomorrow. You are “non-essential”? (What jobs do they have? Non-essential in charge of filing staple guns?) Imagine approaching your company CEO, your firm’s managing partner or the owner of the small business where you work and asking for approval to hire a non-essential employee for your department or office. You explain the person is not necessary to the performance of the operations of the company or department and the non-essential will be provided with benefits and a salary in the tens of thousands of dollars. Will you be rewarded for your clear thinking and societal concerns for the unemployed, or will you be asked to join the ranks of the non-essentials?
If the government had to get along with only essential employees, how much lower might the cost of government be? If we weren’t paying non-essential workers, what would the unemployment figures be? Which is worse, higher unemployment or higher governmental costs? ( I know, we have to pay unemployment benefits to the unemployed non-essential worker, etc. and we have their self esteem to worry about. But, is an unemployment check harder on self esteem than working in a non-essential job?) If a non-essential were not hired by the government would he or she figure out how to become an employed essential in the private sector? Would lower taxes be derived from not paying non-essential persons? Would tax savings result in more consumer spending, which would create more essential jobs in the private sector? Would some of the out of work non-essentials use their ingenuity and innovate new products and services creating more essential jobs? These Econ 101 arguments simplify the continual debate among economists. But, not unlike the argument against deficit spending which says that the government should balance its budget and quit (at least reduce) deficit spending as we have to do in our homes and private businesses, sometimes simplified versions of the economic dilemma makes good common sense.
Maybe, like sequestering turned out to be not such a terrible thing, shutting down the government for awhile may not be so terrible either. After all, the essential jobs will continue to be performed and, apparently, only the non-essential frills will be postponed.