It is Tuesday morning as I am writing this column, and the federal government has been shut down for approximately eight hours. It is hard for me to fathom the irresponsibility of Congress in allowing this to happen. Personally, I am sick to death of hearing each political party blame the other for what has happened. As for those in Congress who are glorying in the shutdown, all I can think is that they don’t belong in government.
I find it even more ironic that while hundreds of thousands of federal workers will go without pay because of the shutdown — and may never receive this lost pay in the future — members of Congress will continue to be paid. A few congressmen and women have said that they would send back their pay during the shutdown, but, so far as I am concerned, every single member of Congress ought to lose all of their pay and perquisites during the period of the shutdown. How dare they remain exempt from the pain that they are causing others for very little good.
I heard on the radio yesterday that roughly 27,000 federal workers in the Kansas City area will be sent on furlough during the shutdown. Many of these people, both in Kansas City and throughout the nation, are hardworking folks who live paycheck to paycheck. The vast majority of federal workers do not earn the large salaries that are earned by our leaders in Washington. Further, every dollar that federal workers lose in pay means that others who sell goods and services to those workers will also lose income. In many instances, the overall losses to the economy will be far greater than the actual amount of federal salary income that is lost.
Perhaps even worse is the fact that our economy is only now slowly recovering from the “Great Recession” that began in 2008. Scores of economists have, over the past few weeks, warned that a federal government shutdown could seriously endanger a continued recovery. The longer the shutdown lasts, the greater the danger that our country will again fall into recession.
I recognize that I am getting a bit older and, undoubtedly, a bit old-fashioned in my thinking. But I have always understood that the purpose in being elected to government is to govern. To my mind, one cannot govern when one shuts down the government. At this point, I think that the members of Congress need to think about why they are in Washington in the first place and then figure out a way to talk to each other and find some common ground so that they can do what they were elected to do. Otherwise, they ought to resign and let the people elect some folks who will.