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HORIST: Spare the sympathy for our federal workers

HORIST: Spare the sympathy for our federal workers

The major component of the sympathy spin for the federal employees who will be staying home during the government shutdown is that it is Christmas.  What a terrible time to put workers off their jobs.  The media paints Dickens-like vision of no goose on the holiday table. No gifts under the tree.  Oh, the sorrow of it all.  How will they survive this crushing blow?

Bah humbug!

Spare the empathetic agony, folks. because all that pitiful commentary may fit in a Dickens novel, like the Christmas Carol but it is wasted in terms of the reality.  Let’s look at a few facts.

First of all, the government shutdown only affects 25 percent of our massive federal bureaucracy.  All essential services will be functioning as usual. Ninety-nine percent of all Americans will not ever be aware of the government shutdown as they go about their normal daily lives.  Our soldiers will still be fighting our enemies. ICE will still be apprehending MS13 gangsters.  Our border patrols will be doing the best they can to minimize illegal border crossing and keeping felons, terrorists and drug cartellians from entering your neighborhood.  Veterans will still have access to the VA hospitals, seniors will still be getting their Social Security and Medicare. Even the Mueller probe will continue without pause.

Keep in mind that government shutdowns occur at midnight on a Friday.  That means that the first two days – and they rarely last longer than that – are non-working days for all those non-essential employees anyway.  Furthermore, it runs into the normal Christmas holiday.  This means that the actual next working day for all these employees is Wednesday, December 26 – and after three days, another long holiday weekend.  There are only three working days between now and the New Year’s Day holidays – making January 2 the first day that any real impact can hit workers.

This means that in the first 10 days of the shutdown, there are only three full working days – and that does not take into account the thousands of federal workers who have scheduled 10-day or two-week vacations bridging the two holidays.

In addition, for the impact to be felt by any individual federal employee, he or she would have to be scheduled to receive their monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly paycheck on the first working day of the shutdown – and that is almost no one.  Soooooo … if this shutdown ends any time before the second of January, they will not even miss ONE paycheck because all those federal employees WILL get paid for all those non-working days when the government is officially funded.

When the media plays Dickens with specious and mendacious spin of the hardship befalling all these paycheck-to-paycheck workers, we should remember that more of these furloughed non-essential federal workers are in the well-paid middle and upper ranks of the government workforce.  The vast majority can withstand a skipped payday or two with no problem – and even that will not happen.  And as a footnote, we should also remember that these federal workers are among the best paid working class in America.

For sure, the media will find one of those needles in a haystack – one unfortunate soul who may actually suffer a bit of a financial problem because of the layoff — but they are VERY few, if any.

This makes the Christmas season layoff a gift – a paid vacation during the holidays.  That is worth saying again.  These folks are getting a paid extended vacation over the Christmas holiday.  AND … that is not uncommon since tens of thousands of federal workers take unauthorized extra days or time off during the holiday season – as do state and municipal employees, and millions of private sector workers.  For our federal workers, there is no better time for a shutdown than during the primary American holiday season.

To heap woe upon woe, the media cries croc tears for contractors whose checks MAY be delayed.  Like the federal employees, they are likely to miss a check from Uncle Sam, which often does not pay them on time for very long periods, anyway.  They will not notice any change in policy and practice.

Every day, federal employees work when the government lacks the money to pay them.  How can that be, you say?  It is because we borrow more than 40 percent of the money the government spends every day on those workers.  We pay them with money that we are expropriating from our grandchildren and beyond.  They are the Tiny Tims upon whom we heap a Scroogian financial burden – literally taxation without representation.

So, if you forgot to wish your federal worker neighbor a MERRY CHRISTMAS, do not feel bad.  They are already having one.  And from this commentator, God bless you every one.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. paul filing

    Well, I would suggest we could fire 25% of the Federal employee’s and we would be better off and richer. Put the work load they perform on the other 75% remaining and maybe we could get an honest days work from those remaining. Let us keep in mind that the majority of federal works are unionized liberals. We could put those folks, to work, building the WALL. Win, Win for the American taxpayer.

  2. Robert Rosser

    As I see it it is the Government that plays Ebenezer so well, it always has its hands in our pockets, and nearly every Government employee is nothing more than glorified welfare recipients, from the lowly cop to our Congressmen and women. There is no accountability for their actions nor punishment fitting their misdeeds. Meanwhile the rest of us are at their mercy (of which they have none), with no one looking out for us, they are controlled by the corporate world and are no better than an aristocracy that can not be deposed.

    So Merry Christmas to all, and may God bless and protect us from those who took an oath to uphold and protect our Constitution but do neither.

  3. Robert Richey

    I just finished reading an article about the Democrats being against border security, what’s wrong with these people? These people should have to remove any fences, gates, walls, and doors from their homes and leave the keys in their vehicles. I grew up in a time when immigrates came to our country legally and went through the rigors of becoming Americans and we didn’t lock the doors to our houses and we could leave the keys in your car.

    • Nguyen

      I am 100% agree with you. They are no brain.

  4. Jim Root

    Why on earth do we have any “non-essential” federal employees?

    • B .B .Stanfield

      Non essential for critical services. They left out that bit in most reporting. Sounds better and gets you to ask the question. More manipulation of your thinking in a very subtle way.

  5. B. B. Stanfield

    This is inaccurate, incorrect, misleading, and just simply wrong in so many aspects it isn’t funny. I’m a retired military AND Federal Civilian Employee. Many of the points made in this article are just simply incorrect. You can say what you will about Federal workers, but most are anything but lazy or welfare equivalent recipients. As for salary being “up there” as it were with other income for the same work, they are about the middle of the pack. Not high, not low. Although there are some extremely low paid employees, there are ways to move up in the system properly.

    Having worked two full careers all my retirement income is in one way or another sourced from the Federal Government. Given what I put into it this is a double edged sword. First, if anything happens to the ability fo the government to pay the earned pensions, I’m without any backup to pension income. On the other hand, the pensions are paid regulary, are not exhorbitant and if anything less than what I could have earned in the commercial world. I’m not rich by any means and worked in spite of the occasional budget issues.

    On the point of taking leave over the holidays, well, yes, like anyone people take earned holidays, weekends off and so forth. Federal rules dictate a lot of how that’s handled. Unfortunately, too many Federal employees do live paycheck to paycheck and they are considered non-essential to priority positions. Oh, and even those working essential employees won’t actually get paid on time during the shutdown. They are promised back pay when the government is funded for their agencies, but that could be some time. They still have thier bills to pay, groceries to buy, etc. Like everyone else, they are told to set funds aside, but in reality, too few actually do that.

    OAKY, so say I’m a working Federal employee, I’m considered essential, such as an air traffic controller. Pay day comes around. Oops, no paycheck. So, I have saved, I pull from that. Depending on how deep my pockets are that is going to run out at some point. Not only that but funds going out the door continue such as mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc. Oh, and on insurance and medical stuff…….guess what, that comes from your paycheck, including social security, income tax and so forth. Guess what happens when you get that back pay? Well, the Federal pay tables are rigged against you. Instead of getting a paycheck of say $2,000 less taxes and other automatic withdrawals, you gat one for say $6,000? Taxes for one come out at the rate of $6,000 every time, not a one-time thing. So, instead of paying say $300 in Federal taxes you get hit for $$1,500. (15% of $1,000 = $150. $2,000 tax = $300. Um, a $6,000 tax withholding should then be $$900 right? Noooo, it’s a LOT more.) You say well, it’ll come back to you when you file. December 22 to 31 is 9 days. You get that back when? No, no when you file April 2019. It comes out of your “paid” salary withholding for 2019. You won’t have a chance of seeing that money come back to you until your refund hits sometime in 2020.

    Now you say, it’s only $300. You’re right, and while not a lot, is cumulatively for those on furlough a lot of money the Federal government does not have to pay out very fast nor return it via tax refunds.

    As for the poster referring to laying off the 25% number of “non-essential” employees, well, if you want the government to stop providing services of some kind, then go ahead. The problem with that is the government has taken on more and more functions for society in general that these so called non-essential positions are not providing those services. You might not notice it for a while but at some point you want your ailines to continue flying, the income taxes and assocaited revenue to flow and so forth to continue.

    I could go on and on but this article is disingenuous (sp?), and designed to incite or at the very least, cater to those already convinced ot the “facts” noted in the article.

    I’ll bet if you actually talked to some of the employees, (and no, most are NOT liberal union members). You’ll find they are normal people just like you and I, but happen to be employed by the Federal government. (I know, unions in the government are expansive but there are a large number that for one reason or another will not, or cannot, be in a union.) As for their political affiliation, you might be surprised at how many are actually conservative. Why would you say liberal union members? Has someone actually polled the entire Federal employee population and determined that fact? I would suggest that before making such sweeping statements you have some means to vet your “facts”.

    Remember the commercials, “It has to be true, I read it on the internet.” “Hi, I’m a French model.”? I’ve become much more reticent to believe pretty much anything put out in any public venue unless I have my own independent source, (as in I know for my own knoledge/saw it or heard it for myself), before I believe it without reservation.

    Oh, and stating that the holiday period to be on furlough is a “gift”! Really? How so exactly? These are earned benefits. You aren’t entitled to a day of annual or sick leave. They are part of the full package of empolyee EARNED benefits. The Federal government is actually very conservative with personnel benefits. They are also a lot more cinsistent. (Maybe not as fair as they could be, but far better than some employers.) There is a lot of waste in government. Employee benefit and salary waste is not part of that. Again, I could comment on many of these things but that should make the general point.

    Inflammatory media comments essentially margainalize the credibility of all future material put out there on these topics. Sadly, I miss guys like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. They simply reported what they had as facts and left the editorial and opinion arena to those who stated as such clearly. Today we cannot truly know and trust that what is stated as fact is actually fact. Remember back in school those exercises that taught you that? <—They still teach that right?

    Sadly, we don’t demand accurate reporting and make up our own minds. We listen to others of like mind and do a lot of self-talk convincing ourselves and rationalizing to ensure we feel good about everything we do afterward. Truth is not getting in the way of feeling comfortable or agreeing with those of like mind. I hate to tell you, easy to do with just the facts and without all the opinions and editorializing.

    My two cents worth.