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Yes, Federal Workers Are Essential

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Source: The Nation

 
The National Park Service's Richard Trott places a sign barring visitors (JASON REED/REUTERS)

House Speaker John Boehner says of his government shutdown: "This isn't some damn game."

He is right.

When the federal government shuts down, as it has because of Boehner's decision to play politics with the traditionally perfunctory continuing resolution process, the people that Americans trust to serve the common good and the national interest are sidelined.

Yes, of course, politicians pick on federal employees in general, and public workers in particular. But even the most over-the-top members of Congress recognize that a civil society is made possible by dedicated public servants who manage our parks, maintain our highways, process claims for pensions, keep job-training programs up and running, investigate civil rights violations and do their best to protect a fragile environment.

Government workers form the human infrastructure that underpins a great deal of what is good and necessary in the American experiment. We the people care for one another, we take on great challenges, we achieve great things, and we do this by forming a more perfect union and asking some of our fellow citizens to do perform the tasks that are necessary to its maintenance.

Federal workers are essential.

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Those workers take on responsibilities that are required by law, in positions established by the Congress, in fields that have been determined to be essential to the maintaining of the American enterprise. Yet, they are now deemed "nonessential" -- sent to the sidelines so that John Boehner can play what he certainly seems to be treating as a game.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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