Chicago shut down most city offices on Monday in an effort to save more than $8 million by year's end amid the economic slowdown. Mayor Richard M. Daley has made several cuts to the city budget and has forced himself and some city workers to take a 15-day pay cut. In doing so, he recently suggested that President Obama and federal workers do the same.
"I hope every federal employee from the president all the way down takes 15 days without pay to turn that money back to taxpayers' use, because they're getting laid off, they're getting cut back, there are no jobs out there," Daley said earlier this month.
The mayor's office did not return several calls for clarification and comment (maybe because of the city shutdown?) but Chicago Sun-Times reporter (and Eye friend) Lynn Sweet notes that Daley "has often rallied against Washington, no matter who is the president."
Still -- is a 15-day federal government furlough doable? Not really, according to experts.
"As long as funding is appropriated, it’s not possible to force federal employees to take furloughs," said Donald Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and a leading expert on the federal government. "As long as funding is available, they couldn’t force people to do it."
Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service cautioned that a furlough is "exactly the wrong thing to do and it reinforces the misconception about how important the federal workforce is to addressing our problems." He noted that the 1995 federal government shutdown "horrified" Americans, because "they weren’t getting the services they needed and wanted."
"Government’s more important now than it’s ever been, because it’s central to solving so many of our problems," Stier said.