No average citizens would realize that the US government is “shut down” this morning if the media hadn’t informed them. The mail will be delivered and the air traffic will be controlled. In about a month, military pay might take a hit if nothing happens. But for now, the Coast Guard is on duty, prisons are still housing prisoners, and most national parks are open (the Statue of Liberty is not).
And every member of Congress will continue to receive his or her salary, although many federal employees are laid off and will not receive a dime.
Most members of Congress are sped through TSA, don’t wait in lines for mundane things like theater seats or ball games. They don’t personally feel the pain they too often impose.
Yesterday evening, waiting for my wife outside of CVS, a man walked over to the SUV next to me where his wife was waiting. We nodded to each other, and I realized it was former Governor Don Carcieri. There is no governor’s mansion in this state and he once lived a half-mile from me while in office. In a few minutes, he pulled out, going about the business of an average citizen, probably to dinner, as were we. There were no state police, no security. It’s common in this tiny state to be in a restaurant or public event with the Bishop of Providence, police chiefs, business CEOs, judges, you name it. They tend to wait in lines like everyone else and don’t get the best seats! (I often serve Communion to one of our Congressmen and have the urge to give him some advice while I’m doing so!)
If you’re going to impose a burden on the populace with your vote, you ought to be shouldering the same burden. That has an almost elixer-like effect of ensuring that one becomes bi-partisan, consensus-building, and solution-oriented. And usually with some alacrity attached. I don’t know about shutting down the government, but I do know that when Congress is shut down every year, no one is inconvenienced or cares.
No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session. —Gideon J. Tucker, New York State Judge (1865)