Paid members of Congress the real nonessential workers

The following opinion column is part of a student discussion on the recent government shutdown.


The federal government shutdown would be a joke if it weren’t so serious. The evening news is littered with stories of broken people who are struggling to get by without an income. People who have spent years in public service as a government worker are now labeled as “nonessential” and told to sit at home and wait. Countless children are witnessing enormous pressure on their parents as a direct result of government action. For the first time in their lives, some people are realizing how government can matter. And it’s not for the better.

This is a very strange tact to take for the party of “hard work” and of “picking yourself up by your own bootstraps.” The Republicans in the House have kicked the furloughed federal workers out of their offices, ripped off their government-issued bootstraps and tossed them into dead-bolted conference rooms dotting the bureaucracy. They have stagnated progress and put lives on hold for nothing.

Well, not nothing – just trying to stop a law passed three years ago by both houses of Congress, signed into law by the president of the United States and then reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. And by the way, that law? It only expands health insurance to millions of Americans. No you’re right, stop paying our soldiers and stunt our scientific development because of spilled-milk tears.

The workers don’t want to be at home, waiting to be essential again. They don’t want to be another face of the taker class, some chump in the “47 percent.” But that’s how many on the right view them. A life in public service is nothing more than a step up from a homeless shelter resident or an Obama phone plan member (not real, by the way).

Get rid of the Department of Education, the EPA, the IRS and all the rest, except for the Department of Defense, of course. Oops. They want to drown the federal government in a bathtub of gridlock and back pay. For guys like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, a shut down government is a good government. That’s the fundamental disconnect. While most Americans don’t like the government, they want it to run well and do good things. It seems that the majority of Republicans in the House don’t want it to exist at all, except for the parts that mail them their checks.

“Whatever gets them good press,” Congressman Paul Terry, R-Neb, said when asked, if he would join other members of Congress in donating his salary during the shutdown. “That’s all that it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

Yes, congressman. You’re right. That’s not going to fly because you don’t deserve a dime from the American people. The fact that we allow those we elect to serve us in Congress to collect a check when nearly 800,000 other government workers can’t is a travesty. It makes us look weak and out of touch around the world. How could the greatest democracy in the world allow such drivel’s to spew from an elected member of its people house? Maybe for the next shutdown we can let the real “nonessential” workers go without pay. We call them Congress.

Rich Robinson is a junior majoring in telecommunication and film. His column runs weekly on Tuesdays.


  • Mark Jamba

    There’s no denying that a federal government shutdown is a bad thing, but your column doesn’t add anything substantive to the discussion and is actually a symptom of the same partisan politics you claim to be decrying.

    For one thing, Congress passed and the President signed into law HR 3210, the Pay Our Military Act. This continues the pay for active duty military personnel during the shutdown and is an instance where the Democrat-controlled Senate and the President quietly accepted one part of the GOP’s piecemeal approach—calling into question the Democrats’ sincerity in opposing other bills crafted to mitigate the shutdown’s pain until a compromise can be agreed to.

    You are blunt in your assertion that the GOP is only interested in funding the Department of Defense, but you either choose to ignore—or you are unaware—that the House has passed bills to continue funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Head Start early childhood education program, and nutrition services through the Women, Infant and Children program. These bills have been brick walled by Senate Democrats.

    Either you ignored these facts because you are unaware of them— in which case you shouldn’t be writing on this topic—or because they do not fit the narrative you have tried to create. I suspect it is some combination of the two.

    My comment is not intended to be a full-throated endorsement of GOP strategy on the shutdown, but I hope to illustrate that the political situation is not as simple or black-and-white a matter as you imply.

    You wrote a cliched column that has been written millions of times over that ignores important facts and boils down to a mere platitude: “Congress and Republicans = Bad”. I recommend you try something more original, thoughtful and honest next time. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    Roll Tide and beat Kentucky.