The Scrapbook has taken note of the federal government’s political use of the shutdown: the National Park Service closing down popular attractions and open spaces, scare stories about medical research and air traffic safety, and so on. In the words of Rahm Emanuel, the onetime Obama White House senior aide, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
The reductio ad absurdum of this trend, however, emerges from the private sector, where the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University, across town from the White House, has announced it is offering six free courses to furloughed federal workers. “We saw there was a need to really stay connected and engaged,” Dean Walter Rankin told the Washington Post.
Really? It is estimated that more than half of the federal government is still operating at full speed, and a fair number of public employees seem to be engaged (at taxpayer expense, of course) in dramatizing the Democratic spin on the fiscal impasse: erecting ever-larger barricades, for example, to keep aging veterans from visiting the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, among other “essential” tasks.
What most intrigues The Scrapbook about Georgetown’s gesture, aside from its self-serving, publicity-seeking character, is the implication that a few days, even a couple of weeks, of vocational idleness requires emergency measures to “stay connected and engaged.”
Does Georgetown think bureaucrats never take vacations, or that officially designated “non-essential” workers never get the flu and stay home? There have been 17 federal shutdowns since 1977, but we have no recollection of traumatic disconnection or disengagement—whatever those terms might mean—among furloughed workers.
Indeed, the only thing more preposterous than Georgetown’s offer of free classes for furloughed bureaucrats is the classes themselves: “Ready, Set, Reset Your Social Strategy” is one, along with a health care course called “Patient Navigation,” and (irony alert!) “Innovation and Leadership in Government.”