A couple of my friends are “nonessentials.” That's a noun, plural, for people who are not indispensable, a term for people who have been officially and publicly categorized by the federal government as unnecessary, superfluous, not vital and not needed.
That might seem like an unkind way to describe people, but the good news for the nonessentials is that they don't have to show up for work during shutdowns and they still get paid — or as Dire Straits put it, “Money for nothin' and chicks for free.”
That lyric was a favorite line of a cook I knew from Libya. Not fully fluent with English, he got one word wrong, repeatedly, singing “Money for nothin' and checks for free.” He was fun until the day President Reagan launched air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan sponsorship of terrorism against American troops.
In any case, the number of nonessentials on the federal payroll isn't small. A Wall Street Journal review of agencies' shutdown plans found that more than 818,000 dispensable workers would be furloughed. “In all, the federal government employs just under 2.9 million civilian employees.”
Additionally, the paychecks of these nonessential federal workers aren't small. “Federal workers earning double their private counterparts” read a 2010 headline of a USA Today article that summarized a comparative income study conducted by the newspaper.
“At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private-sector workers earn ...,” reported USA Today's Dennis Cauchon.
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