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.
On Wednesday, the Cleveland Indians play in the wild card playoff game. Before that happens, I want to throw a few kudos at Tribe manager Terry Francona.
I’ve been tremendously impressed by Francona this year, and not just because he managed the team to the post-season. When you hear him interviewed he gives thoughtful answers, rather than the mindless twaddle that tends to come from the mouths of every other coach in professional sports. He’s amazingly humble and quick to give credit to others, both players and team management. He never seems to rip his players, or get too excited or too depressed about the team’s last game or series. He’s got just about the perfect temperament for a high-profile job that requires a unique basket of skills.
I can’t speak to Francona’s managing abilities from a technical standpoint. I don’t know whether he pinch-hits at the optimum times, or calls for the hit-and-run when it’s warranted, or positions his fielders properly — although the Indians’ unexpected success this season suggests to me that Francona has a pretty good head for inside baseball. What impresses me more is his interpersonal skills. He seems to be an uncommonly shrewd judge of people, and particularly how to motivate them and raise their spirits. He has taken a bunch of players that no one else wanted and welded them into a unit that improbably won 92 games, including its last 10 games of the year. He stuck with players like Jason Giambi when fans were calling for their heads — and they ultimately delivered. He and his coaching staff have made a pitching staff of cast-offs and retreads into an extremely strong unit that really carried the team to the playoffs.
Too often in professional sports, coaches and managers are judged on their last game, and if their team loses the season is viewed as a failure. That’s not fair, and I hope that doesn’t happen to Francona. He has done a fantastic job in the manager’s seat this year, and I hope every Tribe fans recognizes that — no matter what happens in the playoffs — Cleveland is lucky to have him.
Of course, the inability to agree on a continuing resolution is only the immediate cause of this latest “crisis.” The issues cut much deeper. From spending, to taxes, to the Affordable Care Act, to a host of other issues, our two political parties have fundamental differences of opinion about what government should do and its role in our everyday lives.
I’m not going to write today, however, about those policy differences. It’s all been written before, by countless people, and there really isn’t anything fresh or compelling to be said. I would simply point out to our political leaders that, when you constantly lurch from one “crisis” to another, the state of “crisis” eventually becomes the norm. We’ve gone through the brinksmanship and the dire warnings again and again, and we’re still here. Sequestration took effect . . . and the sun rose the next day. After a while, the constant cries of wolf fall on deaf ears.
If this latest “crisis” provokes a partial government shutdown, how many Americans will even care? They’ll find refuge in the final episodes of Breaking Bad, or the baseball playoffs, or something else of more immediate interest and impact on their lives. Sadly, our political leaders may actually have let the country drift to the point where most people don’t even give a crap that our government is totally dysfunctional.