USA Today Rips House Republicans To Confetti On DHS Shutdown Maneuver

USA Today weighed in on the controversy surrounding DHS funding with an editorial that carried a spot-on proposal for what Congress should do anytime they shut even part of the government down. The USA Today editorial board believes Congress is using federal employees as pawns in their antics, and there should be something in place that will make them think twice about playing these games.

Their idea? They said:

“To make lawmakers think twice about so carelessly using federal employees as pawns in their war with the president, we propose that any time Congress deliberately shuts down the government and throws people out of work (or makes them work without paychecks), Congress should automatically lose its pay as well. There’s nothing like a little skin in the game to make members realize their cavalier gamesmanship has real costs.”

There is argument about how much a DHS shutdown would affect our national security. However, there is no debate about how it would affect furloughed employees, and those who must continue to work for free. Depending upon how long they go without pay, the costs mount up, and they mount up quickly.

During the 2013 shutdown, banks such as JP Morgan Chase created stopgap programs to defer mortgage payments for government employees until such time that their pay was reinstated. Chase’s stopgap waived all late fees and associated costs and reporting for the entire month of October, so long as they paid their mortgages before Oct. 31.

While that sounds fantastic, had the shutdown gone on for a couple of months, as some employees feared, once they were able to pay their mortgages again, they only had 30 days to get caught up before Chase would decide they were in default. Making one mortgage payment is hard enough for many families. To have to make two, or more, in 30 days, without knowing when their back pay would be coming (or whether they’d get back pay at all, as was the case with furloughed employees), could have been impossible.

That’s just mortgages. That doesn’t include all the employees who couldn’t pay rent; landlords all over the country likely had different ideas of how to handle these people who couldn’t pay their rent, through no fault of their own. And this doesn’t touch other living expenses, like food, utilities, and possibly childcare. The Los Angeles Times ran piece back then that spotlighted the hardships rank-and-file government employees faced at the time.

For employees who still have to work during a shutdown, there are commuting costs. They still need their train tickets, bus tickets, gas money, cab fare, or whatever they pay for however they get to work. So, in addition to the financial insecurity of being unable to pay any living expenses, they still have to pay for their transportation to and from jobs for which they aren’t getting paid.

Back then, some members of Congress voluntarily gave up their pay in solidarity with the employees they were hurting with their actions. Then we had idiots like Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who insisted that she needed her paycheck. Government employees who heard that likely wanted to say, “Oh, boo-hoo. Our hearts bleed pink carbonated peanut butter for you.”

The House did introduce a bill that would halt Congressional pay if any part of the government shuts down, and put it into an escrow account until the shutdown ends. However, during the 2013 shutdown, several similar bills never made it out of committee. It’d be interesting to see if this one does. Having a personal stake in a matter like this could make them think twice about the fact that playing their stupid games badly affects real people.


Featured image by User:z22. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons