Is it not Congress and the President who bear the greatest responsibility for determining the scope of federal services? Whatever federal services exist, the President and Congress have deemed them so important they have passed laws requiring U.S. citizens to pay for them. If Congress and the President are willing to shut down portions of the federal government in order to create budget negotiation pressure, is there an underlying message that the services are not really needed? If so, let’s eliminate those services and balance the federal budget. If not, and the services are really needed, how do they dare withhold the services from the American people? (Aren’t they sworn to serve?)
Since 1976 when the current budget and appropriations process was enacted, there have been 10 separate instances in which federal employees have been furloughed. In every case, once employees were allowed to return to work, they received payment for work days missed. Effectively, their furloughs turned out to be paid vacation. I don’t begrudge the employees that back pay. They didn’t want the government to stop working; they were powerless to do anything about it. They were forced to take time off, their personal budgets were strained, and they lived with the anxiety that they would not receive back pay.
The effect of the shutdowns is federal service reduction while costs remain constant. In our current government shutdown, 380,000 government workers have been sent home. A rough estimate puts the cost for this at $380 million per week. Did taxpayers call for a government shutdown? Should taxpayers be saddled with the bill for inept Legislative and Executive action?
It is time we insist that the President and Congress make up for lost funding whenever there is a budgeting impasse. If Congress fails to present a budget, Congress must pay for all furlough costs. If Congress presents a budget and the President vetoes, the bill must return to Congress. All who fail to vote for an override, along with the President, shall then be responsible to cover furlough costs. Funding shall be taken from their salaries and holdings.
For some quick fun with numbers, there are 535 members of Congress and one President. If all of them are required to pay for a government shutdown, that works out in our current situation to $708,955 per week ($141,791 per day) per Legislator and President. I’m going to put myself out on a limb here and predict that the country never again experiences a budget stalemate.
Note: There is no provision for national referenda in the United States. But with the cynical degeneration of politics in America, particularly at the top, it is time for the people to demand that right.