“You’re What the French Call ‘Les Incompetents.'”

You disagree with the Affordable Care Act? Terrific. It is the constitutional right of every American, and therefore every Congressman, to oppose and work to overturn laws they find unjust or immoral or unwise. But trying to overturn or defund an existing law by tacking a rider onto a spending bill without which the entire government will shut down is like a toddler holding his breath so mommy will let him watch another hour of TV.

Government shutdown isn’t just some abstract thing. It means servicemen and women might not get their paychecks. It means regions that depend on tourism to their national parks are losing that revenue. It means federally-funded research hospitals have to stop doing their research. It means “essential workers” still have to go to work even though they aren’t getting paid. Oh, except for congressmen — their paychecks are written into permanent law and not dependent on the stopgap spending bills they’ve been passing for the last two years because they can’t seem to pass an actual budget. No WIC during the shutdown — sorry moms and kids! No federal civil trials — sorry, citizens’ right to a speedy trial! No DHS immigration checks — sorry, business owners who want to verify citizenship of prospective employees! Oh, and sorry, taxpayers; it’s going to cost you way more money to fix this than if the government hadn’t shut down, because once this debacle is over, we not only have to pay all the back paychecks that would have been paid anyway (ahem, that is, if Congress feels like doing that), we also have to find a way to fund the fines for contract delays and other administrative fees that are inevitable after a circumstance like this.

This should not be happening. So what do we do about it?

I heard two suggestions today that I really like. The first is that, if congress allows a government shutdown, their pay is immediately suspended for the duration of the shutdown, and they face serious fines if the shutdown continues past a certain date. The second is that, after a certain date, states may call emergency elections for all seats in the House, Senate, or both, depending on who’s dragging their heels. How much do you want to bet they would try harder for a solution if they know THEIR paychecks were on the line, not just the paychecks of 800,000 hard-working Americans?

Dear Congressmen: The functioning of the agencies and arms United States of America is not a bargaining chip. When it comes to laws, you are free to disagree, negotiate, bargain, play “Let’s Make A Deal” into the wee hours of the morning. But I did not send you to Washington to let the government shut down. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on ““You’re What the French Call ‘Les Incompetents.'”

  1. The fundamental problem is voter apathy/ignorance, combined with districts Gerrymandered within an inch of their lives, and a two-party/primary system that virtually guarantees the reelection of the incumbent. Pretty recently, Congress’s approval rating was in the teens. And yet, incumbents were re-elected last fall at an over 90% clip.

    I really like the second option above. Let’s scrap the whole Congress and start over.

    • I agree that incumbency is a huge problem (though I wouldn’t say “the fundamental problem” — I think systemic issues in how Congress approves bills are a factor). I also think this is self-perpetuating — bitter, frustrated people are not typically the most politically involved.

      • I really think that the problems with Congress in general would be solved with term limits, preferential voting, and hard cap donation limits per congressperson (as opposed to per donor).

        also, FYI: I don’t know where you are getting the info about WIC shutting down, but WIC is a state-run program (with some Federal backing). Jenn just got off the phone with our WIC consultant person, and she said they are absolutely not affected by the shutdown unless it goes on for months.

        • Preferential voting! Like in Australia hooray! Also: I read something interesting about the ban on earmarks and how those little concessions actually helped things move along much more smoothly, rather than congressmen feeling like every bill is a hill to die on.

          I dunno about term limits, though — I think incumbency is a big problem right now, but I also worry that shorter terms (ETA: DERP, not shorter terms, shorter time in office, sorry for the misspeaking) mean shorter-term thinking, which is already a HUGE issue. We need people who are thinking about the next 50 years, not the next 50 weeks, you know? So I’m torn on that.

          Re: WIC, yeah, state-run with USDA assistance. It was in the Washington Post and several other sources I looked at. From a USDA spokesman: “The Department of Agriculture will cut off support for the Women, Infants and Children program… The USDA estimates most states have funds to continue their programs for ‘a week or so,’ but they’ll ‘likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period’ — emergency funds may run out by the end of October.” It could be that Colorado is just in a better place with their WIC funding.

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