If nothing so focuses the mind as the prospect of being hanged in the morning, then being declared non-essential in a government shutdown must do the same thing for federal bureaucrats.
The horror of the "non-essential" label was so great in fact that the Office of Personnel Management, which manages the 2.1 million member federal workforce, stopped using the term a few years ago. Now the official terms are "excepted" and "non-excepted."
But "essential" and "non-essential" more precisely capture the essence of the process for how officials decide which government workers must report to work during a shutdown because America cannot do without their services. And who can be spared.
A subversive chart
Which brings us to Government Executive magazine and its truly staggering chart of essentials and non-essentials by major federal departments and agencies, according to those same departments and agencies.
Fully 95 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency's employees are non-essential. It's 96 percent at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 95 percent at the Department of Education, and 90 percent at the Department of the Treasury. The overall average for the government is 43 percent.
If these career civil service employees aren't doing essential work in government, why are the American people spending more than $100 billion annually to pay them? That's precisely the kind of question that a government with a $17 trillion national debt literally cannot afford not to ask.
The right question:
Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie looked at those numbers and GOP plans to introduce a series of individual bills for restoring full funding to federal agencies not related to Obamacare.
Then he asked this: "What sort of teachable moment is it when freaking Republican 'anarchists' (Harry Reid's term) are tripping over themselves to restore full funding for the departments of Interior, Educatiion, Commerce, and Labor? Or blithely re-upping the Transportation Security Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the FCC?"
Back to you, Messers Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
In Today's Washington Examiner:
Just Sign Here: Reckless spending goes straight to the top at federal agency
Noemie Emery: Obamacare is the Zombie law of the land of entitlements
Sean Higgins: Supreme Court may land big blows against Big Labor
Diana Furchtgott-Roth: A common-sense path out of the government shutdown impasse
Byron York: The Obamacare fight is no longer about Obamacare
David M. Drucker: GOP and Dems no closer to resolving the shutdown
Joseph Lawler: No signs of shutdown worries on Wall Street
Michael Barone: Obama's fecklessness leads to America's decline
In Other News:
The Wall Street Journal: Capital digs in for the long-haul shutdown
The WallStreet Journal: A broken process in need of a broker
The New York Times: Opening rush to insurance markets runs into snags
USA Today: Venezuelan diplomats expelled by the U.S.
New York Post: Federal workers booze it up
Talking Points Memo: Red-state Democrats quick to blame Tea Party for shutdown
Huffington Post: Congress has no clue how to end shutdown
RedState.com: Hold your ground and shut John Cornyn up
The American Spectator: The Pope they've been waiting for
National Review: How Ron and Tip dealt with multiple shutdowns