“If you don’t give me your Milky Way, I’m telling Mom what you did on the way home from school yesterday!”

C’mon, admit it. At some time in your life you’ve employed that action to get something you really wanted. I believe a court of law would call it blackmail. Or extortion. Basically it amounts to demanding something (usually money) from a person for “not revealing compromising or injurious information about that person.” But candy bars work just as well.

In older detective movies, private eyes were hired to take pictures of people in compromising situations in order to show convincing evidence to the person being blackmailed. In today’s world, texts, emails, and other social media are employed to do much the same thing. Many times, blackmail is a personal thing. Unless you’re part of the Mob. Then it’s business.

It will come as no surprise to realize another group that tends to utilize the principles of blackmail is the U.S. Congress. Both parties are equally guilty. The solons out of power seem to delight in demanding something in return for their support on something else.

This year, with the Republicans in control, it’s been the Democrats’ turn to say the Republicans could have their Milky Way, but it would cost them. When the roles have been reversed, only the names changed, not the strategy.

What’s of particular interest to me is that, last time I checked, blackmail was still illegal. Oh, but wait a minute, I forgot. Rules and regulations by which American citizens have to abide don’t apply to Congress. Silly me. Lost my head there for a moment.

Given the fact that not one Democrat was arrested over the weekend for threatening to shut down the government if the caucus members didn’t get their way, apparently they’re immune from blackmail prosecution. (Ditto the Republicans, who in years past have pulled the same stunt.) Now, if you or I had tried to, say, get a free dozen donuts from the local bakery or we’d post on Facebook the fact the confectioners used arsenic in their glazed toppings, we’d be eating beans behind bars instead of devouring chocolate crullers.

With no threat of repercussions (other than some possible citizen disgust), the political party out of power will no doubt continue to use whatever means it deems necessary to get what it wants. Even if that means shutting down the government.

And on that subject, I’m wondering if turning off Uncle Sam’s money spigot for a bit of time might not be a good thing. Now, bear in mind, that shutdown doesn’t include the so-called “essential” employees. I really don’t want those military masterminds who sit in in some underground Colorado bunker monitoring things like rockets and fighter planes that are potentially invading our air space to be relieved of duty for even a nano-second.

But for all the “non-essential” jobs, perhaps a shutdown would be a good time to see if those tasks truly are needed. As is reported in the news virtually every day, one company or another is going through a “re-org.” That usually means an entity has gotten bloated with bureaucracy and needs to pare down its costs in order to compete in the marketplace and please shareholders with profits. It’s definitely a very painful process, especially for those who lose their positions. But it can also be very beneficial for the economic health of the company. Those who remain often learn that the eliminated jobs were indeed superfluous.

Virtually every politician will at least pay lip service to the fact that our national debt is unsustainable and that we have to cut costs. Letting the government shut down in a couple of weeks is the perfect opportunity to see just what We the People miss and truly need or don’t miss and don’t need.

I’d say give the experiment a month. Chances are, yes, we’re going to want our national parks open and things like that. And a little adaptation might be in order. “Essential” employees may have to pick up a bit of the slack. The public may have to make some accommodations. Passports may take a little longer to process, for example.

At last count, there are something like 2.8 million federal employees. Many have already been deemed “non-essential” by the government itself. How many are truly needed after all? Here’s a thought: If we can cut costs, maybe we don’t need so many people, for example, printing money. This is as good a time as any to see what (and who) works and what (and who) doesn’t. Let’s find out.

©MMXVIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer in Atlanta