a chart of the levels of essential federal employees during the shutdowns of 1996 and 2013
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essential federal employees

a chart of the levels of so-called "essential" employees, broken down by department, during the 1995 and 2013 government shutdowns.

built using d3. based on a chart by Emma Roller in Slate. data guessed from that chart. forgive me for errors. i'm lazy.

read the blog post.

essential federal employees

The entire essential/non-essential breakdown is a fascinating semiotic window into national priorities. The official criteria for determining what services are exempt refer to ideas like the protection of human life and property. But the operational definition of these things is that if you have a gun and a badge and a uniform, you're almost certainly "essential" while if you merely feed pregnant women and newborn children you aren't. Whether it's genuinely true that the DEA's activities are more life-protecting than WIC's activities doesn't really enter into the calculation. It's more that the violence-oriented branches of government have higher social status in the United States than the helping-oriented ones.

from another article on Slate.