We’d like to tip our hat to the 250 or so US representatives and senators of both political parties who as of last weekend had passed on their salaries during the shutdown… but we can’t.
It was an empty gesture, whether motivated by guilt or by the desire to be one with the people lawmakers’ collective inability to deal with their basic responsibilities have left jobless or otherwise harmed.
A couple weeks of unpaid work — or unpaid posturing — has cost members of each chamber $6,692. That would hit most Americans pretty hard over the course of a year, never mind two weeks.
But when you make $174,000 a year, as rank-and-file members of Congress do, the pain isn’t so acute. And if your net worth is $6.5 million, as it is for the average representative — the average senator’s net worth is almost twice that, at $11.9 million — forfeiting $6,692 is akin to giving up pocket change. They might, however, begin to notice it if the shutdown were to continue, though the impact on their constituents would be vastly more severe.
Many of these millionaires, quite secure in their jobs, have had no problem cutting billions of dollars in food assistance for millions of Americans who are still either out of work or whose jobs don’t pay enough to cover their bills. Maybe working out in the congressional gym — this was just a partial shutdown, remember — provides lawmakers adequate distraction from folks clamoring for an end to the shutdown and a deal on the debt ceiling.