As of this writing, the federal government remains in partial shutdown mode. If I understand correctly, that equates to about 30% of the workforce being deemed “non-essential” to the functioning of the republic.

Much ado has been made about how some of our (i.e. We the People’s) employees are not receiving paychecks. I think they’ve missed out on one so far. Now, for many, I can understand how that can definitely be a hardship, especially with Americans often living from paystub to paystub. But, frankly, for those of us who toil as freelancers or contract workers, it’s par for the course. Amazing as it may seem, what with the well-known kindness inherent in most corporations (as evidenced by countless compassionate customer service representatives), there are some companies that think nothing of sitting on a freelancer’s invoice for weeks and even months. The requested work had to be done immediately, of course, and delivered ASAP. However, when it comes to paying for such services? Slow boat to China is the oft-used route.

But that’s another topic. As to the present dilemma, if I were a government employee, I think my self-esteem would plummet upon finding out my job was considered non-essential. And, honestly, doesn’t such a label give rise to the question, “Is the job really needed at all”?

If you harken back to the economic tsunami of the late 2000s, you’ll no doubt find countless examples of companies that had major financial crises hit at once. Those collectively resulted in the cutting of many non-essential positions throughout corporate America.

As the economy began to rebound, lo and behold, companies found out many of those non-essential posts actually were just that. Astoundingly, those who still had jobs continued to get all the necessary work done. And since people were afraid to leave their employment for fear of not finding anything else, fewer doing more became the new norm.

The following thought is not meant to cast aspersions on any government workers in particular. There are, of course, countless dedicated employees in all branches of the federal system. But has anybody thought about that “do more with less” strategy as a template to be used for the federal government? Candidates for Congress routinely campaign on some platform of cutting spending. To be sure, there are different ideas on which departments in Washington need to be pared down, but few office seekers openly suggest adding a few trillion dollars more to an already ballooning deficit.

What if we actually let this shutdown play out awhile? With non-essentials sitting at home, Cabinet Secretaries and even elected officials in Congress and the White House have a perfect opportunity to see just who may have been slacking off in their respective departments. There just might have been a couple of folks phoning in their tasks on a daily basis. Maybe we could reduce the payroll a bit.

As I said, there’s every reason to believe most of the non-essentials are really quite needed. So chances are, we wouldn’t be able to cut all 30% of those on furlough. But even 10% would be a huge economic windfall for taxpayers. Or how about 2%?

Based on the $4.4 trillion budget for 2019, that means roughly $8.4 million tax dollars are being spent every minute of every day. A 2% reduction in non-essentials would save around $88 billion a year. That ain’t pocket change . . . at least to those of us who live outside the D.C. beltway. As the late dulcet-toned Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois once supposedly intoned, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Believe me, I really don’t want anybody who’s pulling his/her weight to lose a job. But just think about anyplace you’ve worked. Unless you’re a tenured college professor and can’t be fired (except for wearing a MAGA hat to class), in most cases, you either do the job you were hired to do or you’re shown the door. Not even unions can protect their members as they once were able to do.

Running a leaner operation can lead to better productivity and even innovation. Working smarter, not harder, isn’t a new idea in industry. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at applying some successful private tenets to public entities.

Then maybe we can work on everyone in the government submitting monthly invoices for their services. I’m sure we could arrange for the Treasury Department to pay them within a few weeks – a month or two (or three) at most.


©MMXIX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer