Posts Tagged ‘government shutdown’

Not Good Enough

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Two places you don’t want to be: where the buffalo roam and might get riled up, and in a congressional corridor as members of the House and Senate elbow one another out of the way in a rush to call the press back home in the district with major announcements.

That a compromise on the government shutdown had been reached? No.

That House Speaker John Boehner had scheduled a vote to end the shutdown? Are you kidding? Allowing such a vote would irritate Tea Partiers, and probably cost Boehner his speakership in the short run and his very seat in Congress in the long run. Can’t have that. Calling such a vote would take courage, principle and virtue.

The prevailing urgency of our representatives is to demonstrate that they’re ordinary folks and are suffering like the rest of us during this wretched shutdown. In doing so, of course, they avoid the question of how this shutdown came about.

They are not like you and me and 300 million other Americans. They are not about to be told by a supervisor to stay home, stay furloughed. They are not wondering where the money will come from to heat the house, to buy school supplies for the kids, to make a mortgage payment.

When they talk about the sacrifice being made by the public, they never mention that their sacrifice is a little less severe than ours. That’s because they receive individual salaries of $174,000 while the average household income for the rest of the nation is about $51,000.

Still, our esteemed representatives are engaging in a spirited game of Let’s Pretend.

Let’s pretend we have even an inkling of what our constituents are going through, and the way we’ll do it is to write a press release stating that we’re giving up our salaries – they come to $3,400 a week – as long as those 800,000 government workers remain off the job.

Sounds high-minded, noble, and sincere, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to The Washington Post, we have more information about more than 200 representatives who are patting themselves on the back.

We understand your suffering, Congress says. Actually, what Congress understands concerning the people they represent could fill a thimble.

Here’s what The Post has reported.

–Some members of Congress are foregoing their pay for as long as the shutdown continues; no strings attached. Such strange bedfellows include Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Ami Bera (D-Calif), and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo).

Not good enough. At a time when federal employees have been forced off the job, the nation needs a specific guarantee that representatives giving up their paychecks now will not go to the treasury to claim that pay once the shutdown is over.

–Another group in the House and Senate are accepting their paychecks but informing anyone who’ll listen that they intend to give the money to charity. These include such people as Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) who is giving her shutdown pay to “a New Hampshire charity,” whatever that is, and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del) who’s giving his salary to “a Delaware charity” whatever that is.

Not good enough. If some members of Congress are going to pretend to understand what the nation is going through, they must be prepared to identify the charity they’re giving to so that we – the people – can know for certain that a “New Hampshire charity” or a “Delaware charity” doesn’t translate to a reelection committee.

–Other senators and representatives sending their pay to charity are specific. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) says she’s sending her pay to the Consortium of Catholic Academies and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is donating his pay to the Mormon Church. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is giving his paycheck to the March of Dimes, and Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) is supporting the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and the Rhode Island Good Neighbor Energy Fund.

Not good enough. Such pledges must be accompanied by promises that the representatives and senators will not list such donations as charitable contributions on Schedule A of their income tax returns.

–Finally, since this shutdown has much to do with the Tea Party’s demand that the Affordable Care Act be repealed, the really sincere members of this fringe ought to consider giving up their health insurance for themselves and their families. They ought to sample what life is like for people who can’t afford to insure the health of their children.

That might be good enough.