One of the nice things about a potential government shutdown (or, for that matter, a big Washington D.C. snowstorm) is the clarity it provides about which government workers are "essential" personnel, who come to work even in a shutdown, and which are "nonessential" personnel, who don't come to work. The question that naturally arises is, if they are nonessential personnel, why are the taxpayers funding their employment to begin with?
Mike Allen's Politico Playbook has details on some nonessential personnel in the Congressional branch of government:
Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser: "Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, whose office oversees the Senate's doorkeepers, said elevator operators would be among the nonessential staff furloughed … House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood confirmed that the gym would close, stranding the dozen or so Members who sleep in their offices and rely on the facility's showers."
Elevator operators? It's infuriating, especially during a month in which lots of Americans will be writing checks to the IRS to fund this sort of stuff. Are the senators and congressmen incapable of pressing elevator buttons themselves? We've had self-service elevators in America since 1925. You'd think Congress might want to catch up with the times. But when it's not their own money they are spending but the taxpayers', there's no particular urgency about saving money. An online job listing for an opening as a Capitol elevator operator from 2009 says the job pays between $14.19 and $16.55 an hour and includes "A variety of health insurance plans; retirement system with investment options; paid holiday; paid sick and annual (vacation) leave; life insurance; incentive systems; subsidized transportation; training and development opportunities, etc."
Likewise, a case can be made that the many Americans whose benefits at work don't include an on-site gym shouldn't be taxed to provide one for the exclusive use of members of Congress. Let them work out with the general public and pay a market rate for it like ordinary Americans do. It's the sense of entitlement, on display again.