Only “essential” government workers are working. “Essential” versus “non-essential” was a poorly chosen and misleading phrase.
More accurate would be to distinguish between the “we can stop doing this for awhile before anyone notices” as opposed to “people will notice this right away” employees.
Fixing roads is a good example. We can stop completely for a week or a month. No harm done. But stop forever and we screw up our entire economy.
An awful lot of the government has that character: Stuff that makes the entire economy possible but which doesn’t require daily attention. And a lot of it works so well that we don’t even notice it until it isn’t there. And closing down for a few days or weeks gives the completely misleading impression that these “non-essential” employees could simply be dispensed with without consequence.
I know a lot of people who work for the federal government. Most people have NO IDEA how much harm we are doing with even a temporary shut down. And how much time and money we had to spend in order to shut down systems in an orderly fashion so that irreparable harm would not be done. You just DON’T lock the door on the way out. You have to figure out IN ADVANCE how to close down while doing as little long-term damage as possible. That takes staff meetings, planning and figuring out a host of contingencies. So we have been paying for this “shutdown” for a month or more already in terms of wasted staff time.
About 800,000 federal workers will go without a paycheck. There will be an economic ripple from that alone. And many of these at the lower ends live hand-to-mouth. They will feel real pain. But since the public image is that they live high on the hog feeding on the public troth, few will care.
But they are not the culprits in this mess. The wrong people are paying for this. If we outlawed paying in arrears for missed checks, how quick do you suppose this whole mess would get fixed if, rather than penalizing all of the people who ensure that the government actually runs, we required that the only ones who had to do without paychecks were Congress people and their staffs?