As an employee of the Executive branch, I’m covered by what’s commonly known as the Hatch Act of 1939, otherwise known as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, or Public Law 76-252. The intent of the Hatch Act is fairly straightforward, even if the means and methods by which it is enforced are somewhat murky. The act, essentially, says that as a federal employee, I cannot seek election to a partisan office for the duration of my employment and more importantly that I can’t use my official position or government time and equipment for purposes of campaigning, fundraising, promoting, or engaging in political activity while I’m “on the clock.”
Old Man Hatch had a pretty good idea about establishing and keeping the core of the civil service reasonably non-partisan as we transact the day to day business of government. Personally, I’ve I’ve never seen an employee willfully undermining the executive branch while on the clock in my tenure serving under both Republicans and Democrats, but I don’t know if that’s because of the Hatch Act or because we started killing off the spoils system in 1883 with the Pendelton Act. Of course how “non-partisan” the bureaucracy is when it comes to which parties and candidates it supports in our spare time is wide open for debate.
The Office of Special Counsel, supreme adjudicator of all things Hatch Act, has a number of laundry lists filled with what various types of executive branch employee may or may not do. What most of them boil down to is “don’t advocate for a particular candidate or party on government time.” It seems like a reasonable rule. It’s why you find me posting at all during the typical weekday it’s a funny, funny meme or a news article. I try very hard to live within Hatch’s spirit and intent as well as within its letter.
I do, however, want the record to show that being Hatched makes sitting quietly on social media on days like today a monumental exercise in self restraint. Something for which I don’t think we get nearly enough credit every other November.
I appreciate the bone that House Republicans are throwing at the 800,000 federal employees who spent most of the past week sitting at home waiting to go back to work. While I won’t presume to speak for 799,999 of them, all I can say is as much as I appreciate knowing I’ll receive back pay for the time spent locked out, it’s just a handout. What I really want, what I expect of my “leaders” at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is that they will take action to actually put the federal government back to work. As hard as it might be for the political class to believe, I want to be allowed to work for a salary rather than receive a fist full of dollars through the largess of Congress.
A cynical person might say that Congress is trying to buy the silence of 800,000 people who are directly impacted by their actions in the Capitol. While I’ll cheerfully take you money, and it will pay my rent and buy my food and pick up the tab for Monday’s root canal, what it won’t buy is my silence. It won’t buy my willingness to be complicit in your halfassed power plays. Money for nothing almost always comes with strings.
The historic response of Congress to any problem they encounter is to throw money at it. I suggest at a time when it’s becoming more and more clear that our financial well is running dry, it would be better for all involved to actually pass a budget or a continuing resolution and put the 800,000 back to work instead of handing us money for nothing. Then again, I’m just a guy who’s been sitting home for the last five days growing a beard, so what do I know about it?
P.S. I am however, very interested in your Chicks for Free program. Go ahead and sign me up for that one.
According to the procedures established by Uncle Sam to furlough his civilian personnel, I am entitled to make a written or verbal response and request reconsideration of the decision. As you can see, I opted for the written response.