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Practical Advice

January 14, 2019

Those of you wondering whether the president or the people managing government agencies have any empathy for their employees can wonder no longer. They don’t.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Those of you wondering whether the president or the people managing government agencies have any empathy for their employees can wonder no longer. They don’t.

It’s bad enough (as of this writing) that 800,000 or so federal employees aren’t getting paid, but some of their employers have been giving them some less-than-useful advice about what to do in this situation.

You’ve probably read the news stories. The Office of Personnel Management advised employees to do painting or carpentry work for their landlords.

The Coast Guard suggested garage sales, babysitting, mystery shopping, and turning “your hobby into income.”

I have no idea what that last one means. I go to the track as a hobby. It almost never turns into income.

Now picture a government accountant painting your house or doing carpentry — and falling off the roof.

Hilarious, but also tragic.

Do we need an additional 800,000 babysitters? Maybe we do, but you don’t want children getting attached to them because they’re likely to leave once (or if) the government reopens.

We need better and more innovative ideas for helping these people: 800,000 people suddenly cut off from their income is a humanitarian crisis. The Red Cross and FEMA should be working on this.

I have some suggestions:

The Gig Economy: Uber, Lyft, Postmates and TaskRabbit all offer quality, flexible employment. Just because you’re, say, a federal judge, doesn’t mean you can’t drive a car or clear out a backyard. Imagine how much more interesting your drive to work could be if your driver is from the State Department or the FDA.

Patreon: This might be the hobby thing. There’s no reason why 800,000 people shouldn’t be able to find patrons who want behind-the-scenes access to arguments with spouses and updates on stamp collections.

GoFundMe and Kickstarter: Yeah, I know, we already pay taxes for government services, but if you really want, say, a national park without piles of garbage, it makes sense to contribute money to people who can clean it up. If there are particular government services that appeal to you, a voluntary fund drive to get them up and running makes sense.

Revolution: I know this sounds like a terrible idea, but you do have a potential 800,000-person strong and hungry army here. They don’t have to take on the American government. There are lots of other options. Invading Canada is one of them. You scare the heck out of the Canadians and then suddenly surrender and ask for asylum.

A telethon: If 800,000 people were driven from their homes by a hurricane or an earthquake, we’d definitely have a celebrity telethon. So why not now? I think it should be hosted by either Martin Sheen or the Property Brothers.

Form a wall: If all the unemployed government workers stood along the Mexican border, the president would have his wall and then they could go back to work.

If you can’t say anything nice …

If someone says you can say anything to them, do you think they really mean it?

The answer is no.

For a classic example of this, check out a 42-page ruling issued last week by the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, called Davison v. Randall, in which we also see yet another example of how Facebook can get you in trouble.

We should note here that this is a case that was heavily briefed — there’s a lengthy list of lawyers and amici who offered arguments. So this must important, right?

Well, maybe. The issue was whether a county official could block someone on Facebook — from a page on which was written: “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, complement or just your thoughts.”

But she didn’t really. I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next.

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