The government “shutdown”

Now that it’s over (whatever “it” is), I guess I should say something about the government shutdown.

We should begin by establishing what the heck actually happened. The government employs roughly 4.5 million people.

(This figure has been broken down in lots of different ways, but I’ve never seen any argument against using the total number).

The shutdown began by sending 800,000 of them home, but after a few days, about 400,000 came back to work. A breakdown of those furloughed is here (note the number of furloughed employees looks huge here because huge parts of the government aren’t shown at all).

So, about 400,000 out of 4.5 million people didn’t come to work for a couple weeks. Let’s say that the “shutdown” of government means that about 9% of its workforce doesn’t come to work.

We’re coming out of a recession in which lots of business (that are still going concerns) laid-off a much larger fraction of their workforce. We never considered those places “shutdown.”

It’s also worth pointing out that these employees in many cases kept working, may get paid twice (indeed, even the Outer Party was eager to have it known that it wanted to pay employees to not work), and got paid to do a lot of fun stuff.

We’re left to conclude that nothing was really “shutdown” and no one really has much to complain about.

Besides the freak-out over the “shutdown,” I was also struck by the freak-out about the idea that government “isn’t supposed to work this way.” I find that surprising because – if the shutdown was an honest disagreement as opposed to political theater – it strikes me that if powers are really separated, the shutdown is exactly how government is supposed to work.

If power is really separated, everyone should be grasping eagerly for it. If it’s all a show, we should see one party constantly agreeing to the demands of the other (so much for separation of power – hey, it was a good idea in theory). It seems like we see the latter.



7 Responses to The government “shutdown”

  1. Handle says:

    ‘… but after a few days, about 400,000 came back to work.’

    Yep, and think what that implies. Even though the government knew it was headed towards shutdown for months (OSD has a set of contingency plans going back to June), it hadn’t occurred to anything that any civilian, let alone nearly the entire DoD civilian workforce would be exempt under the Pay Our Military Act law.

    It was only after we had already sent everybody home that someone thought they could deploy the … ahem… clever interpretation that nearly every single civilian that works for DoD is absolutely vital and essential to the minimal functioning of the military. They guy who stacks shelves at the commissary, the guy who mows the grass, the girl in human resources, everybody

    Why didn’t this occur to anyone before? Why did we wait a week?

    The answer is what you’d expect. DoD had thought of it, and, by plain reading of the law’s language dismissed the possibility. But, you know, if you break the law, and Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution, “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law;”, it still takes someone with standing to sue to actually make you accountable. And it was clear to the OLA liaisons that neither party in Congress was going to lift a finger, so DoD made its move.

    All one can do is shrug his shoulders and sigh at this boring nonsense.

  2. cassander says:

    4.5 million is a massive understatement, as it completely leaves out the massive and growing number of outside contractors. I’d love to have numbers for them, but it is official OPM policy NOT to keep track of that number.

  3. rightsaidfred says:

    So the House passed individual spending bills…but the Senate wouldn’t pass those bills…because they wanted to tie Health Care Act funding to the general spending bill.

    So…the alleged Health Care spending could not pass on it’s own, but the inner party was able to thwart democracy and implement their agenda despite popular opinion.

    So, the inner party is proud that they thwarted democracy, and they are bragging about it. And our duty as citizens is to lie here and take it. Who-whom indeed.

  4. It annoys me (and I am a DoD Civilian “worker”) that the SECDEF discovered he had the authority to order all the civilians back to work, and pay them, but drew the line at paying death benefits. It was as if they were looking for ways to make the whole thing as absurd as possible.

  5. rightsaidfred says:

    Let’s say that the “shutdown” of government means that about 9% of its workforce doesn’t come to work.

    One implication here is that Congress only controls 9% of the government. Seems about right.

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