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March 1996
Volume 14, Number 3


Life With Morrie
Jeffrey Tucker


During the "shutdown" of the federal government, bureaucrats were divided between "essential" and "non-essential." The designation caused enormous turmoil within agencies. People with lifetime jobs and gigantic pensions were deemed nonessential, while those holding short-term, highly paid, political positions--so-called Schedule C employees--were deemed "essential" and showed up for work every day. 

Lifetime bureaucrats in the agency laugh at and generally despise the Schedule Cs. In fact, they attempt to make trouble for them--in subtle and mostly anonymous ways--from the day their mugs begin to decorate the walls of the agency and the old managers' pictures are desecrated. 

No need to feel sorry for the C Men. They know virtually nothing about the agency they are allegedly running. Their job is to be a political enforcer for the party in power and its special interests. They are gone in a few years anyway--off to a new career in lobbying or consulting, selling information gleaned from their few years in "public service." 

The essential/nonessential distinction, combined with resentment against the Schedules Cs, caused an uproar at FEMA. Its head, James Witt, promised in the employee newsletter that "we are researching the use of other terms to designate those employees who work through a furlough and those who do not." 

Sometimes conflicts between C Men and everyone else get brutal. Whistle blowing and scandal mongering in agencies, for example, is usually a conflict between these two groups. That also explains why our offices got some interesting letters after I wrote an article about a menacing phone call from FEMA's top spokesman, a Schedule C man. 

Here's the background. Lew Rockwell had a piece in the LA Times decrying FEMA's tendency to dump federal dollars on any community it deems a federal disaster area. He also pointed out that the money is used as a subtle form of political blackmail. 

Furious, FEMA's Morrie Goodman phoned us and effectively threatened to cut off our government subsidies. One problem: we don't get any government money, a fact that left him stuttering. I reported this phone call in The Free Market as an illustration of the way the government does business. 

My article circulated at FEMA. It turns out that Morrie is not beloved in his own agency. "Your description of the workings of Leviathan's various public affairs offices is quite accurate," said a letter I received. "I howled with delight over your description of Morrie Goodman's strong-armed tactics because, if truth be known, I too am a microbe in the bowels of Leviathan. 

"As for Goodman, his highest priority is to make our Director--James Lee Witt--look good. Lee is a friend of Bill's and former director of Arkansas Emergency Services. Constitutional niceties are not James Lee's strong suit." 

And charm is not Morrie's strong suit, as I learned from his second phone call. He too had read my article. If you were wondering what these high-paid "essential" employees were doing while everyone else was furloughed, consider this message left on my voice mail. 

"Jeff, Hi. This is Morrie Goodman from the idea police here at FEMA. I think you are a very sick and dangerous human being to write the article called 'A Phone Call From the Idea Police' [TFM, 12/95] that discusses the phone conversation that I had with your agency. 

"I just think that this is humorous, and it would be more humorous, it would be a real belly laugh, if it wasn't, wasn't so sick. But being a free believer in the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, I think it's wonderful that you are able to write this kind of stuff. I just think you guys are very, very sick. And I'm the communications director at FEMA." 

There's "essential" government work for you. Insult your critics and intimidate them with vague threats, but never discuss the central problem, which is that he and the agency he speaks for are exercising illegitimate power over the lives of the American people, passing out favors to their political pals, and doing it all at our expense. At least when Morrie worked for the television industry, he was only a private pain-in-the-neck.


Jeffrey Tucker edits The Free Market.


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