Palomar College students react to government shutdown

Feb. 7, 2014: prepare for another pay-per-view masterpiece. No, it’s not Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus some no name fighter who doesn’t have a chance at winning. It’s not another classic UFC matchup, it’s not even Girls Gone Wild.

On this day, we will see President Barack Obama, Dem-Illinois square off against House Speaker, John Boehner, Rep-Ohio in the rematch of “Obamacare v. No Obamacare,” that is unless we can agree to raise the debt ceiling yet again by that time.

As I speak, the U.S. Government is back in business. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers will go back to having to earn their paychecks; veterans of our Armed Forces’ past and present will no longer have to tear down barricades to visit their favorite memorials and yes, for the time being, no footage of pizzas being delivered to the Senate while they bicker over who gets the biggest slice of the kickback pie.

During the shutdown (or “slowdown” as FOX News called it), many important functions went out of commission. Some of you may know: the Department of Homeland Security, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Government Ethics (irony at its finest) and plenty more.

Military bases had to furlough many of its workers, closing down commissaries (which are tax-free for those who live on base or are active duty), and leaving a lot of staff to fend for themselves. People who wanted to go on vacation and visit Yellowstone Park, were greeted with closed signs.

It makes no sense to me that the people who volunteer to risk life and limb for the pursuit of our freedoms couldn’t get their basic needs at a discount they deserve. The people who had to scrimp and save just to make their once-a-year vacation budget all of a sudden find themselves in a bind because 1) they’ve already filed for vacation at work, so it’s time lost (and pay for some who don’t have benefits) and 2) re-arranging a planned trip is no easy feat at the last second. So they are being inconvenienced, which only leads to more frustration and discontent.

According to a Standard & Poor’s analysis, the shutdown cost the U.S. economy about $24 billion. Yet, our beloved Congress continued to rake in their paychecks, netting just over $4 million collectively during the shutdown, according to CongressStillGetsPaid.com, who figured that the average Congressmen makes roughly $174,000 a year.

While some members have stated they will donate their salaries to charity, some had no remorse about collecting their pay. In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, basically mocked his fellow congressman. While the minority of them decided to do the right thing, Terry said, “God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

This is our Congress at “work.”

While a good majority of us have to work 40-50 hours a week just to pay the bills, Congress continued to rake in big dollars to do nothing. They got to go home on weekends to spend time with their families while most families sat at home stressing over how they may have to find work.

Mom-and-pop businesses sweated bullets because they may have to close their doors; and all they have to say is “Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it?” They have earned nothing. If even one citizen had to go without a paycheck, Congress should have set a precedent and vetoed their right to accept their pay.

If they want to make a difference, how about they donate their entire pay for a year toward the citizens who had to miss out on pay? A few calculations I did myself, led me to the staggering figure of $92 million as the cumulative amount of income members of Congress make in one year.

That kind of money could go a long way toward helping pay the bills for those who can’t afford the finer things in life.

What is most interesting is how both Republicans and Democrats tried to paint opposing sides as the villain in this escapade. But at the end of the day it is both parties who end up losing. You held the citizens of this country hostage, all because you couldn’t agree to disagree.

We can only hope that when February comes around, Congress will have enough collective common sense to say, no more games. Let’s figure out how to close this debt ceiling and get back to serving our citizens. Because if they can’t run our country, and our government, they run the risk of being looked at as the laughing stock of the world. America, the class clown of superpowers. Does that sound like a title you would be proud of bearing?

Author: Christopher Bullock

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