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Refusing paychecks a good move

January 14, 2019 10:02 pm

The federal government shutdown closed the imaginations of most elected officials as well. Their response, for the most part, is let’s carry on with business as usual, and work around the roadblocks as best we can.

U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, however, took a different path. Delgado said Thursday he will not accept a paycheck until the partial government shutdown ends. His action makes us wonder why other elected officials didn’t think of it too.

Last Friday was the first day of the shutdown that many federal government employees did not get paid. Nearly 1 million government workers are furloughed, with no money coming in. Over the weekend, federally employed airport inspectors who have been working without pay began calling in sick in above-normal numbers. Airport officials fear security will be crippled as the number of unpaid inspectors dwindles.

Delgado asked the House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer to withhold his pay as long as the shutdown continues as a demonstration of solidarity with federal workers who did not receive paychecks Friday.

“As someone who grew up in a working-class family in Schenectady, I understand what a paycheck means for a family, whether it’s for paying for groceries or filling a prescription or paying the rent. No one should have to put their lives on hold because of our inability here to find common ground and reopen the government,” Delgado said Thursday.

The partial government shutdown over the weekend became the longest in American history, eclipsing the 21-day shutdown during the Clinton administration in 1993, and with no new negotiations scheduled, there is no end in sight as Democratic leaders refuse to yield to President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to complete a security wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Every day the shutdown drags on, the urgency grows exponentially. No government shutdown is desirable, but this one, gaining traction at the outset of the state’s legislative session, could not have come at a worse time.

Delgado’s display of solidarity with unpaid federal employees, if imitated by other elected officials, would show that lawmakers are willing to stand with the people who put them in office. And it would demonstrate that, besides being a great public relations move, it is a smart, hit-them-where-they live protest against an arrogant, insensitive government.