Without delving too deeply into the politics of the government shutdown, one inescapable fact came to my attention: Some things deemed "non-essential" might need reclassification.

Without delving too deeply into the politics of the government shutdown, one inescapable fact came to my attention: Some things deemed "non-essential" might need reclassification.

Mind you, this isn’t a call for crazy-quilt piecemeal make-do budget fiddling, just an observation that some of the chaff may in fact be wheat.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife works for the federal government. We have the luxury of a cushion that many federal workers, all equally non-essential, do not.

Of course, this quickly gets to a fundamental Animal Farm point about being essential. To paraphrase Orwell, all federal employees are essential, but some are more essential than others.

Apparently, funding the continuation of clinical trials for gravely ill children isn’t essential. Continuing to fund House Speaker John Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health insurance coverage is. Good to know.

There is a tiny Georgia town, Glynco, that just figured out how non-essential they are. As recently reported in the Los Angeles Times, Glynco is home to the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. As the Times pointed out, it’s so big it has it’s own ZIP code. Not only are federal agents trained here, but so are law enforcement officers from around the country — approximately 70,000 last year.

Ninety-one federal law enforcement agencies use FLETC, including the U.S. Border Patrol, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as do state, local, tribal, territorial and international agencies.

As the Times states, "On Wednesday, about 45 of more than 1,000 employees were at work, with the rest officially furloughed. The dormitories, mess halls, laboratories and other parts of the vast complex — plus nearby hotels, beach resorts and shops that depend on it — were mostly quiet. All courses were suspended."

Instead of bustling commerce, shops sat empty. There were no high-and-tight haircuts to be given. There was no coffee to be served. Students were sent packing. Some of them had less than two weeks to graduate.

So while congressional nitwits try to blame President Obama for circumstances surrounding the shooting of an obviously disturbed woman by Capitol police and Ted Cruz gets fitted for a new tricorn hat, the rest of the country suffers. Not only does it suffer the immediate effects, it is being set up for long-term consequences.

The shuttering of FLETC is emblematic of the problem yet to come. Some of the best trained and most professional law enforcement officers in the world are patrolling your city streets and watching over your family right now. Facilities like FLETC are essential to the furtherance of that training — training that will not take place as long as we permit this government by clown car.

All of this leads me to what I believe is an equitable resolution to the present mess and a prophylactic against future messes: All members of Congress should forfeit their pay and benefits for all of next year as a punishment for letting this happen. Moreover, I believe that wholesale campaign finance reform is the only way this never happens again. With fat corporate and special interest money, Congress is free to ignore all you non-essential people and your little problems.

They lack incentive. Campaign finance reform could provide it.

If we continue down the current path, it’s only a matter of time before we have the Bank of America Senate Armed Services Committee or the Tostitos Washington Monument. The purchase of congressional indulgences via campaign contributions will eventually devolve into the plot of the film Idiocracy. It doesn’t have far to go.


Matthew Pate is a former law enforcement executive who holds a doctorate in criminal justice from the University of Albany and who has advised police agencies around the country. He writes from Pine Bluff, Ark. Contact him at pate.matthew@gmail.com