As a federal employee with the FAA, I can tell you one thing: It blows! I'm considered an essential employee because my work supports active FAA operations. If something goes wrong, I have to be available to fix it or it becomes a matter of public safety. Other federal employees are considered "non-essential" if their job does not immediately impact public safety. That doesn't mean their jobs aren't important. It just means that nobody gets hurt or dies as a result of them not being available to work. If their work is stopped long enough, it will be noticed. No improvements to existing software, roadways, federal architecture, etc.
I have no idea why our government is set up in a way that this is allowed to happen. Chalk it up to more evidence of the corruption of our people in power. Make no mistake. NONE of them are looking out for the people. They're all looking out for themselves and their political party's best interest.
We would like to vote them out and put better people in their place. The problem is, people who CAN do a better job typically don't want the job. The only people who want the jobs are those who want to use it for corrupt purposes.