So, in all the talk about how FAA tower controllers are falling asleep on the overnight job, where many work by themselves in dark towers with hours of nothing to do, you don't hear this one truth. This is a result of Reagan breaking the unions in the 80s. Before then, the unions fought for safe working conditions, like always having one supervisor and one controller on duty whenever a tower was open. After the unions were busted, the Reagan administration rewrote the rules so that controller was also the supervisor. It was a cost savings, you only had to pay one person overnight pay increases (something started by unions, now entrenched in business practices, but I expect that will also go away soon).
Welcome to MBA 101/Black Belt training (Six Sigma, for those who don't know the lingo) where every cent is squeezed to maximize profit. I'm sure someone along the line said, "This isn't safe." Probably someone left over it. I'm sure in the next week or two there will be a line buried four paragraphs deep about an investigation that will be buried on page 4 of the business section that details some emails and a quote of someone who is now a greeter at Wal-Mart instead of making $80k a a year as a traffic controller. But the truth of the mater is that employees have no power, management continues to roll on with what they want (it's a cynical part of Organizational Change Management, of which I was certified in once upon a time).
This is one of the things unions do, they fight for what is right. Are there some rules that seem silly at a distance? Sure there are. And I'll bet you that three months ago if you stood up in front of a TP rally and said, "You're government is wasting money by having two people on duty overnight at airports when there's hardly any traffic/work for one person," you would have gotten thunderous applause for pointing out that waste.
It's the same mentality of "Shut 'er Down!" Really. Who is going to process all those forms and requests that are legally necessary for new development? Who is going to make sure the government is receiving it's proper revenues? Who is going to approve all the shipping? Notice all the tornadoes going through the country right at the moment? Do you think the National Weather Service could do as good a job with half the staff (when the forecasters are also handling the day to day duties that need to be done by the staff that was considered non-essential)? Hell, you should have heard the bemoaning in the E&Y office when they announced a 3-month hiatus of the coffee service people (and I'll tell yeah, MBAs as a lot, are not the cleanest people on earth). A government shutdown means nothing new gets approved or done.
In the case of the FFA controllers, here we have a live experiment on what it means to run your government like a business. Happy with the results? Yeah, I'm sure, that wasn't the waste you all were talking about. It's easy to say that in hindsight, isn't it.