Shut Down – Shut Up!

by admin on April 10, 2011

I have very personal reasons for being delighted that the President and Congress managed to find a way to avoid shutting the Federal Government down. The fabulous Shirley and I are off to Yosemite next week and if the government was not open for business, neither would the park. So thanks Barack and Boehner for agreeing to disagree without inconveniencing me. At least for now.

Here in California we are unfortunately used to the idea of a government shutdown. For several years in a row the lawmakers in Sacramento have been unable to agree on a budget meaning workers have been put on furlough, or as the rest of us call it unpaid leave, and companies that have contracted with the state don’t get paid – even if they’ve already provided the service. The list of people affected by these kinds of shutdowns is long and includes everyone from state orĀ  government employees (and the lower down the food chain you go the more likely they are to be affected) to those vendors who sell cakes and coffee in the Smithsonian or even the vendors who sell t-shirts to folks who want to visit Alcatraz – after all if the island prison is shut down there’s no one going to be around to buy the stuff.

Now it’s always struck me as incredibly unfair that, while millions of people are made to suffer because of these government shutdowns, the people truly responsible for the problem are not inconvenienced in any way at all. Lawmakers in California don’t lose their salary or see their benefits or paychecks blocked when the government screeches to a halt. And members of Congress wouldn’t experience any inconvenience if their intransigence resulted in the Federal Government shutting down.

So, maybe it’s time to change that.

Maybe we need to make it so that the people responsible for the problem are the ones who feel it the most. How about some of the following if lawmakers fail to reach agreement on a budget within the time allowed by law;

  • We stop their pay until they reach agreement
  • Even after they reach agreement they don’t get back pay – the money we save goes into a fund to help the workers affected by the shutdown
  • No health benefits for the duration of the stalemate. If they or a member of their family gets sick and needs medical care they have to pay out of their own pocket and they don’t get reimbursed
  • A reduction in their pension benefits, say 1% of the annual amount, for every day delay in reaching agreement
  • No special perks like government or state-paid cars. They can walk or ride a bike or the bus
  • While we’re at it let’s suspend some other privileges such as “freedom from arrest”. They screw up, let’s have the cops go in and drag them off to jail right there and then. Now that would be fun to see on the evening news!
  • No free parking
  • No free lunches with lobbyists – you want to go to a fancy restaurant, you pay for it. Come to think of it we should have that in whether the government is shut down or not
  • No vacations or weekends. You keep working until you reach agreement.
  • No free travel, in fact no travel at all, you stay put until you have reached an agreement

In the Federalist Papers (#52) James Madison wrote: “It is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that [Congress] should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.”

Well said Jim.

So, what we need to do is make that dependence very clear, and create a truly intimate sympathy with the plight of people being forced to forego their wages and other benefits.

Maybe we should do this the way the Catholic Church elects a new Pope. All the Cardinals are locked in the Sistine Chapel and no one gets to leave or go home until a new Pope is elected. Maybe, and it doesn’t matter if this is at the state or national level, we should lock all the lawmakers in one room and not let them out until they have reached an agreement. The longer the impasse goes on the fewer bathroom breaks are allowed. That will get their minds focused in a hurry.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Davies April 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Love the vitriol!

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admin April 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Thank you, Laura! Time to get real!

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