Friday, January 25, 2019

Dear Mr. President and Congress. Do Your Job. No Work. No Check.

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men."                                  --John Adams

Federal workers going without pay since December 22, 2019: 800,000

Lost wages per workday: $200,000,000
Average yearly pay for a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) employee: $17,890

Poverty level for a family of three in the United States: $21,000

Average yearly salary for Federal Bureau of Investigation employee: $37,118l

Average yearly salary for the Bureau of Prisons: $59,580

Yearly salary of the President of the United States: $400,000 (plus $50,000 for expenses, $100,000 for travel, and $19,000 for entertainment)

Yearly salary of the Speaker of the House of Representatives: $223,500

Yearly salaries of the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders: $193,400

Average net worth of a United States Senator: $3.2 million

Average net worth of a member of the House of Representatives: $900,000

They work for the common good, the common good: the 800,000 furloughed and/or unpaid employees of Uncle Sam who have gone without a paycheck now for more than a month. Everyone from Park Service rangers who protect America's backyard to IRS agents who help ensure the solvency of the U.S. Treasury to Coast Guard employees who protect our borders to the TSA employees who keep us safe as we fly the friendly skies.

They don't work for the private sector, but for the public--for you, for me, for all of us.  They don't work for profit. They don't work for prestige or power either, most of the time.  No: the majority of them are clerks or administrators or managers, folks right in the middle of the job world, paid well but not paid all that much. Like lots of Americans many of them live paycheck to paycheck. Those who are dismissive or suspicious of government like to label these workers as "bureaucrats", a pejorative used to stereotype the thousand of folks who do the basic work of government.  But I see them as good folks, just trying to do their jobs well and then get paid, like any other workers.

They answer our questions about tax returns and handle Medicare bills for our aging parents.  They represent the United States overseas for the State Department and are scientists too at NASA, real rocket scientists. They distribute food stamps to the hungry and aid to farmers.

They are not "them". They are us.

But the problem is that their ultimate bosses, the Congress and the President: these folks are incapable of getting people back to work, where they belong.  Our political leaders are more committed to posturing and preening, blaming and tweeting, arguing and throwing tantrums, than actually doing what they are supposed to do too: work for the common good, America's common good.

So here's a modest proposal. Until those 800,000 folks get paid and return to work, not one of our Senators or Representatives or the President should be paid either. Let them feel the squeeze for awhile. Then maybe, just maybe they will heed one simple request to address and fix the longest government shut down in United States history.

Just do your job. No work, no check.  It's only fair and just.  And while you are at it: can you please remember you are supposed to work for the common good too?  It's about time.

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