Government Shutdown Provides Inadvertent Lesson in Downside of Contracting

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Government Employees Protest Shutdown

Yay — government employees will be getting back pay for the time they spent furloughed!  (Of course, people doing the same or similar government work that was outsourced to government *contractors* probably aren’t.)

If you feel happy that government workers, barred from work through no fault of their own, are getting back pay — well, prepare to feel a little less happy.  Much government work is now done by contractors — and at the discretion of their private industry bosses, those working for contractors are probably going to be left holding the empty bag.

Federal workers may be eager for that next paycheck, and they have more reason to be than government contractors that won’t be reimbursed for their days off.

“I’ve had people resign because of the vulnerability of the government,” Ewen said.

CEO Shiv Krishnan, who also went without pay, doesn’t blame the handful of employees who couldn’t take the uncertainty anymore.

And while federal employees are expecting their back pay at the end of this month, that’s when government contractors will get their reduced paychecks.

So let’s tally things up: government workers get treated right — and they stick around.  (So does the expertise and institutional memory that they possess.)  Employees of government contractors get screwed — thanks again, Ted Cruz and Ed Royce! — and they leave, taking that expertise and institutional memory with them.  And the quality of government services — at least those not provided by actual government employees — inevitably goes down.

The lesson of the stupidity of government shutdowns has been well aired.  This less obvious lesson of the week, of the downside of outsourcing of government jobs in a time of nutty extremism, is worth noting as well.

About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.