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Furlough Raises Moral Questions

posted by Nathalie Martin

Snaking up a mountain road toward our favorite trailhead yesterday, Stewart and I realized we’d face some moral dilemmas when we arrived. Assuming we could get into the National Forest at all, would we pay the fee, even though no one would fine us if we didn’t? Yes, we concluded. Fair is fair. Would we use the restrooms even though we knew they were not being cleaned?  As we left civilization, the answer to this one became increasingly “yes.” Would we throw our breakfast burrito wrappers in the bear-proof garbage cans? You bet. Those could attract bears even if left in the car.  Little furlough
 As this photo shows, the feds didn’t leave these questions up to chance. The fee box, the restrooms, and even the garbage cans were all sealed shut. These are obviously just silly questions, but some questions raised by the furloughs are not so silly.  Non-essential federal employees are not being paid, even those that are low paid and barely paid, but Congress is?  How is this possible? I have heard that there is a law against not paying them for a current session (wonder who came up with that one), and also that some congresspersons are giving their pay to charity (nice choice to have). In any case, this strikes me as seriously wrong. 



In terms of a law forcing Congress to be paid, there's the newly ratified 27th amendment to the Constitution:

"No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

That might be interpreted as forcing Congressional pay. Since the Constitution says that the President's compensation cannot change during his term of office and that the compensation for judges cannot be diminished, I imagine both the President and Federal judges continue to be paid.

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