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Congressional Democrats strike a corrupt bargain

By Ryan Owens

Buried within the House of Representatives’ $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill—and the Senate’s Amendments to it — is a provision that gives federal workers $1,400 a week in paid leave until September 30 if they have a son or daughter in a school that still teaches virtually.

The kickback is nothing but an attempted bribe from Democrats in Congress to keep federal employees quiet about their closed schools.

Such government corruption must not stand. We deserve elected officials who will not turn our hard-earned money into their own political profit.

The provision at issue provides paid time off for “any employee of [an] agency who is unable to work because the employee” is “caring for a son or daughter…if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, if the school of such son or daughter requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model or requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.” (Note that the schooling does not have to be virtual—it simply has to be optional.) What’s more, such paid leave is in addition to any other paid leave the employee receives.

The amount of this kickback is breathtaking when compared to the average annual salaries of most workers. Each federal worker who participates will receive roughly $40,000 to stay home until the end of September if their kids attend school virtually. The average national income, however, is $53,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, Congressional Democrats want federal workers to receive 75% of the average American’s yearly salary to not work—all while the rest of America must work and pay for their kids’ schooling.

Compare the $40,000 kickback to the average yearly salary in Wisconsin. The average annual income in Wisconsin is $49,000. This means that Congressional Democrats want to give federal workers 82% of the average Wisconsinite’s yearly salary to stay at home for seven months and not work.

Imagine living next door to a federal worker whom you like and respect. You both have kids who “attend” the same online school that you have wanted to re-open for months, but powerful interest groups have prevented. You cannot afford to send your kids to a school that has opened. So you wait. And while you wait, and while you go to work every day, your neighbor receives $40,000 in public money by failing to work and failing to push for schools to reopen.

This is rotten corruption. It is nothing more than a political kickback to support those who desire to keep schools closed.

The kickback is precisely the kind of illicit behavior the constitution seeks to prevent.

When drafting and ratifying the United States Constitution, James Madison worried that political or social groups—what he called “factions”—might take over the reins of the national government and oppress those who disagreed with them, and favor those they liked. (Modern academics might refer to this as “capture and coercion.”) Madison’s hope was that the new constitution would prevent capture and coercion because the national government would incorporate a large sphere of interests that would fight for power. And this competition for power would prevent any one faction from dominating.

Sadly, Congressional Democrats have seen fit to ignore the best interests of the community and instead, give the public’s money to their political allies. They have so far been able to skirt the constitution’s structural anti-corruption efforts.

Elected office is a public trust. As individuals, we enjoy the natural right to be free. We therefore lend some of our natural rights to government only insofar as it constitutes a republican form of government. When the government takes our money only to hand it over to political allies, it has rendered itself unjust and those officials who propagate corruption must be removed. Our freedom depends on it.

Congressional Democrats should be ashamed of and punished electorally for their corruption.

Ryan J. Owens, J.D., Ph.D., is an attorney and the George C. and Carmella P. Edwards Professor of American Politics. He writes this in his personal capacity.

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