In light of the government shutdown that has seen 800,000 workers furloughed and vital agencies stripped of the resources necessary to function properly, some congressmen have decided to forgo their pay, and others have donated it to charity. Do not be fooled, however, by these hollow gestures of political showmanship. At the end of the day, Congress should be blamed for the shutdown regardless of how its members position themselves in the public relations war.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Congressmen Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, Jack Kingston, Austin Scott, Rob Woodall, and David Scott have refused compensation during the shutdown. Representatives John Barrow and Doug Collins have donated their salaries to charities of their choice.
Recent polls have shown that Congress' favorability rating is at an all-time low. At 10%, the list of things and institutions that people support more than Congress include traffic jams, colonoscopies, and Nickleback. And politicians are quite aware of this.
In this context, the "virtuous" actions of these congressmen are anything but. They are face-saving measures. It has become cliché (although certainly true) to complain about politicians and their egocentricity, but such complaints have gotten louder during the government shutdown debacle. The politicians are quite aware of this.
Of course, rather than resolving the underlying issues at the heart of the shutdown, it is easier to forgo pay, especially when you are not the one hurting. Congressmen forgoing pay in solidarity of a shutdown they created is like a landlord arbitrarily raising the price of rent, and then attempting to comfort tenants by saying you that he will cut down on ice cream purchases. At the end of the day, who cares? Rent is the problem, financially, you are worse off, and your landlord, the one who created these circumstances in the first place, apparently thinks his ice cream austerity may mitigate some of the angst experienced by you.
I suspect the face-saving ploy hatched by these congressmen will not move the needle of popular support, even among their own constituents. Distrust of Congress has become so widespread that "charitable" actions like these are public relation moves.