Government shutdowns are the new normal

Politics in America is a genteel affair arranged largely to maximize the convenience and preening potential of those in office. Partisan paralysis is in the best interest of both parties. Senators can pretend to have existential disagreements for a few hours on a Friday afternoon and then spend the weekend watching football because they are not the ones who will be worrying about their checking account balances on Monday morning. They have never been more theoretically at odds with one another or more practically in agreement about what really matters. The threat of deportation is not looming over moderate Republicans who praise the president even while glibly admitting that for Trump the shutdown is a minor inconvenience whose significance does not extend much beyond necessitating a change in his vacation plans.

Forcing these people to do what they have been elected — and paid royally — to do is kindergarten stuff. What we need to do is make their lives at least slightly inconvenient. We should consider docking congressional pay by 2 percent for every day that a federal agency goes unfunded and slashing away at their retirement packages. There are all sorts of other ridiculous office-related perks that could be made to disappear, like the Capitol gym, which shouldn’t exist anyway. Some sort of mechanism might even be established that makes it illegal to contribute campaign funds to any senator or congressman seated during a shutdown for at least one year. Imagine running for re-election with no money against an outsider with infinite screen time.