I’ve always considered Washington, D.C., to be the birthplace of spite. Those in Congress and many who work for the federal government have raised spite to an art form. I assume they ask Alexa to play the O’Jays hit song “Back Stabbers” as their morning wake-up tune: 

(They smilin' in your face)
All the time, they want to take your place
The back stabbers 

Never was this spite more evidenced than during the 2013 government shutdown. Sure, we expected things like the Smithsonian to close, but when barricades went up around the Lincoln Memorial, it became that year’s entry for the Nobel Prize of spite. 

The Lincoln Memorial is outdoors. All you have to do is walk up to it. So those in charge “closed” a spectacular monument, just to make those responsible for the shutdown look bad. If there were a PhD in spite, those who gave that order would have one. 

But there’s something I learned during government shutdowns. I assumed that when federal employees were told to stay home, they would have to manage without a paycheck. They did … until the shutdown ended and some actually got paid retroactively. Who knew? 

Let’s see … what would you call a period during which you did not have to go to work but got paid? I’ll wait. (Hums Final Jeopardy instrumental) 

A vacation! 

The key in this revelation is that “some” employees were retroactively paid. But wait, there’s more! You didn’t think our members of Congress would let this slide, did you? That only “some” people would get paid? Ah, grasshopper, you have much to learn before you may roam the earth. 

A law was passed a few years later called, get this, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, which sounds like it would force managers to treat members of the rank and file equally. Nope, it required “all” federal employees to receive retroactive pay after a government shutdown ends. 

Paid vacations for everyone! (Alexa, please play “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s) 

I can only imagine these workers hoping the shutdown lasts a long time. (Fed employee wakes up, anxiously turns on TV. “Shutdown still going? C’mon, c’mon … yes! Another paid day off!”) 

This raises the very obvious question: What exactly is the point of sending these people home if they’ll get paid anyway? The reason is … wait for it again … spite. Make those responsible look bad. 

Meanwhile, social media comments about a possible shutdown during the past few days indicate Americans don’t think much of the way our government is running (or running things into the ground.) Basically the feelings can be summed up with sentiments like “fine, stay home” and “go ahead, shut down, then you won’t be able to screw things up even worse.” 

Bad enough that every so often Congress goes on “recess” (that thing we had in kindergarten) because they’re so exhausted from being overworked. And yeah, they get paid for that too. 

Are there government employees who show up every day, do a great job, and work hard? Of course there are. (Many are known as cops, firefighters, and teachers.) But this clever bit of fine print that’s used in a government shutdown casts a bad light on anyone who gets a paycheck from the government. 

Meanwhile, the phrase “your tax dollars at work” may as well be “your tax dollars on vacation” whenever there’s a government shutdown.

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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