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Nobody should be surprised that the federal government is doing a poor job shutting itself down. The attempt is providing plenty of drama and long-winded speeches, but some the best lines are coming from comics, not politicians. David Letterman, for example, observed that too many non-essential government workers would seem to be the problem. Yes, it would certainly seem so.
The Federal Department of Education proclaimed 95 percent of its employees non-essential. That calculation was 5 percent off, said George Will on Fox News, and that was more than a quip. Education is the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. The federal Department of Education has only existed since 1980 and was a payoff to the National Education Association, the teacher cartel that endorsed Jimmy Carter for president in 1978. That has been forgotten in the Age of the Tweet, but ED holds no monopoly on non-essentiality.
At the federal Environmental Protection Agency a full 90 percent of employees are non-essential, and that estimate doubtless falls far short. As we recently observed in the case of John Beale, one may get hired at the EPA on false premises, claim to be working simultaneously for the CIA, fail to show up for years, and still get fat paychecks along with retention bonuses and full government pension. But the EPA holds no monopoly on non-essentiality.
It also turns out that some 90 percent of employees at the Federal Communications Commission, Securities and Exchange Committee, and the Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development are considered “non-essential.” At NASA it’s 97 percent. So why does the federal government hire and retain so many non-essential employees?
In government, the incentive is to expand the number of employees under one’s control. The employees become the basis for bureaucratic budget increases and also tend to support politicians who want to raise taxes in order to expand government even more. Non-essential employees may be incompetent, wasteful and abusive to taxpayers, but they remain essential for expansion of the ruling class.