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If Obama can negotiate with Iran, "maybe he's not the problem." --Jon Stewart
Escalation from ineffectiveness to destructiveness
"Enough," is what I tell my dogs when they are barking incessantly at nothing.
"Enough," is what parents tell their tantrum-throwing children, which get them no closer to their goal.
"Enough" is what we should tell Congress, particularly the ultra-conservative faction of the Republican party, who rather acting on the behalf of their constituents, act like petulant children, kicking and screaming, all in efforts to eat that cupcake before dinner, staying up past their bedtime, defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (legislation that Congress passed, the president signed, and the Supreme Court upheld) after 41 failed attempts of repealing it.
Not surprising, Congress was unable to reach a budget agreement by midnight of September 30th, resulting in the partial federal government shut down October 1st. As Jon Stewart of The Daily Show astutely observes, it is "the tireless efforts of a few brave House Republican morons," who have caused the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal employees, without pay, including tens of thousands of active-duty military members who will be going to work, perhaps with retroactive pay, rather than a paycheck. According to ABC News, those who are deemed "essential" will work, but their paychecks will be delayed indefinitely.
According to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, and former member of Congress, "' 800,000 federal employees, including many here in Washington state, would be furloughed. This would be a blow to our recovering economy here in our state," via KCPQ 13 News, the Seattle affiliate to FOX. Governor Inslee continues, "At Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), it's estimated as many as 10,000 civilian workers would be immediately furloughed without pay' [as] Another 46,000 active-duty soldiers would still go to work' but might get government IOUs instead of paychecks'" The Puget Sound Naval Station (PSNS) in Bremerton is Kitsap County's largest employer, where a fourth of its 13,000 workers would be furloughed without pay, on top of the sequester (which took place this past summer) furlough which cut their pay by 20 percent. The hardest hit would be those working at PSNS and JBLM.
KCPQ 13 News continues with interviews conducted with people on their thoughts of the government shutdown; sentiments included, Congress should go without a paycheck for a couple of months. As Alex Bacon with Coffee Strong, a support organization near JBLM, states, "Folks who are enlisted in the military don't make a ton of money. A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck and not knowing if they're going to get paid on the 15th is going to add to a lot of stress for people in the community." As Governor Inslee states, "The bottom line is' [this] is not a responsible way to govern'" urging members of Congress to work together in order to pass legislation to keep the government functioning.
These are things the stubborn faction of the Republican Party does not understand. Simply, they will still receive their paychecks. According to thedailybeast.com, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution protects members of Congress, stipulating the salaries of both the House and Senate cannot change until a congressional election has come and gone; the amendment was ratified in 1992 in efforts to prevent senators and House representatives from raising their salaries before an election; however, it also protects them from not receiving their salaries, as "' the reality is that Congress is now the only class explicitly protected by the Constitution from financial pain in the event that they themselves fail to fund regular government operations." As stated by NPR, members of Congress will get paid since they fall under the category of "essential personnel," as "non essential" personnel are forced to go home, with an uncertain financial future. According to the dailybeast.com, members of both the House and Senate currently make $174,000.
As hundreds of thousands of federal employees, who are paid through annual appropriations, are furloughed without pay, and millions more, including the active-duty members of the military are required to report to work without a salary, a handful of Democrats and Republicans have stepped forward, claiming they will not accept a paycheck. As Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) believes, she shouldn't get paid if members of the military don't get paid. Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) states, "Michigan families work hard and when they don't go to work, they don't get paid. The same should hold for Congress." Service members and federal workers have been paid retroactively after past government shutdowns, the House and Senate must approve the back pay, which is not a guarantee.
Representative Pete Gallego (D-TX) introduced a bill to designate members of Congress as "non essential employees," where they would not be paid along with the other federal employees deemed "non essential." Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation in January in efforts to prevent members of Congress from getting paid in the event of a government shutdown; a similar bill passed the Senate unanimously in 2011, but the House never voted.
Boxer challenges the rationality, and moreso, the hypocrisy of the Republicans who did not support the bill. "They want to protect their own pay, they want to protect themselves' but they don't seem to care about the single mom who works as a custodian in one of our government buildings who is struggling to get by' These Republicans are willing to put the livelihoods of millions of American workers at risk'but not their own." As Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) observes, regardless of congressional action, federal employees should be paid. "They should not be punished because the president and Congress cannot agree," states Representative Wolf. As Representative Moran observes, the shutdown only hurts "the people who have no power to avoid it."
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is not among the members of Congress to take the step, as he has "no intention to [stop getting paid], telling an audience member at the Texas Tribune festival. The disconnect resonates among hosts of the conservative FOX News Network, making light of the situation, "the sky hasn't fallen." Host Sean Hannity even stated he didn't feel the effects of the shutdown, implying it wasn't a big deal. Stewart quips on The Daily Show, "How bad can it be if it doesn't affect Sean Hannity? It's not like they shut down Smith & Wollensky for private events. That would really be fucked up!"
The most appalling of the disconnect is the criticism from conservative Republicans upon the working poor, viewing social service programs, such as food stamps, as " entitlements." It is something simply for a television host, who has a job with a comfortable living, or a Republican member of Congress, who is making $174,000 per year (more, if he or she is in a leadership position) to remark. Current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. An individual working on minimum wage, 40 hours per week yields $290, compared to a member of Congress' $3,347 per week (assuming the member of Congress is working 40 hours per week).
The sad reality is that we have expected Congress to be ineffective, as contemporary politics have illustrated. Member of Congress have lost their respect for democracy, rather abusing the rule of law for their own political gain. Simply, they now regard their job as speaking for the lobbyists and interest groups, not their constituents, while espousing their love and respect for the Constitution and the ideals of which this nation was founded upon.
The most egregious example was the defeat of the "'best hope for meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence [the reaction to the mass killing at a school in Newton, Connecticut]," as described by The New York Times, despite the overwhelming public support for the bill. Patricia Maisch, a survivor of a mass shooting in Tucson of 2011, succinctly claimed for an outraged public, "Shame on you."
45 Senators (41 Republicans and four Democrats) voted against a logical step towards tightening existing lax gun laws, as their priorities resided with the gun lobbyists, rather than their constituents. Some used the infringement of the Second Amendment, "' the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," as their justification. However, the amendment itself is ambiguous, and therefore open to interpretation within reason. The New York Times continues, the bill sought to expand background checks on gun buyers at gun shows, the internet, and other commercially advertised sales, as well as increasing the penalties for illegal gun purchases; 20-40 percent of "all gun sales take place without a background check." What is more alarming, the Times had done an investigation, finding many buyers and sellers were criminals, where some guns were previously used to kill. Most people would agree it is within reason to restrict access of firearms to dangerous people, as the State has a legitimate interest in protecting human life.
It is a shame the ineffectiveness has escalated into destructiveness. As Representative Moran poses, "What are we doing this for? This doesn't make sense." The major problem is the disconnect from the stubborn Republicans who serve themselves, lacking common sense. As President Obama states, "They're shutting down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health care to many Americans' demanding ransom for just doing their job. This Republican shutdown did not have to happen," via ABC News. Dismantling the health care law has become the "centerpiece of their agenda," where President Obama will not yield in the "reckless demands by some of the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions'" urging for the passing of a budget to end the unproductive shutdown. According to CNN, 40-50 of the most conservative members of the House and four or five in the Senate, are the driving force behind the idea that blocking Obamacare is more important than approving a budget agreement. As CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, states, "Fifty-six percent of tea party supporters say it's a good thing to shut down the government. These are the folks them most conservative members of Congress are listening to."
These Republicans also have the audacity to blame the president, claiming it is President Obama who is unwilling to negotiate. However, according to CNN, polls illustrate the public blaming the Republicans more, for the government shutdown. Republican after Republican, stating President Obama was willing to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, North Korea, even Iran, but not House Republicans?
If Obama can negotiate with Iran, "maybe he's not the problem."'Jon Stewart, The Daily Show.
Louisa Lew, Contributing Writer: Louisa Lew graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Liberal Arts, double majoring in Political Science and Film. She is currently a Freelance Copy Editor and Writer, living in Seattle with her two dogs. (more...)