Each time there is a government shut-down, or the threat of one, a term comes up that gets people thinking.  That term is “non-essential government employees.”

Now, none of us want the term “non-essential” next to our names.  After all, it’s a subjective designation.  Somebody we don’t even know decides which jobs are essential and which ones aren’t.  I can a person who works very hard at their government job being insulted by being called non-essential.  I would be too.

To be honest, the two times I’ve left jobs in my career – one my idea, one not – I was a little disappointed that things continued on without me.  That didn’t mean I wasn’t valuable to those places, but I was clearly not essential.

The framers of the Constitution had some definite ideas about what the Federal government should look like.  They were mostly concerned with national defense and facilitating relationships between the different states and other countries.  Nobody envisioned the behemoth that we have created.  Nobody thought that so many would rely on the Federal government for their livelihood, health care, housing, and much more.

As this most recent shut-down started, the Federal government had shrunken to only 2,723,000 non-active-duty military employees — the lowest number since 1966, due in part to a hiring freeze over the past year.  That’s more than the population of Chicago, in case you wondered.

We have gotten into the habit of asking the Federal government to do a lot of things for us, and there are people who feel that much more government involvement would be an excellent idea.  Others would like things to evolve back towards what our founders had in mind, with a majority of needed government activity taking place at the state level.

It’s also true that the courts have determined that there are many “constitutional” functions for the Federal government that seem to them like things the founders probably would have approved.  Others vigorously dispute those rulings.

Fraud and corruption happen at every level of government, just as it does in private companies, non-profits, churches, and even families.  I would contend that the bigger the organization, the greater the corruption. 

That being said, who among us is even shocked to read about millions and billions in fraud in government programs?  The good news is that some of those 2, 723,000 were involved in discovering the fraud.

Time will tell whether government gets bigger or smaller.  I would bet bigger, but maybe at a slower pace.  If more of us are working and taking care of ourselves, fewer services will be essential to us.  And that’s not a bad thing. 



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