It pays to make the rules.

In fact, right now it pays about $174,000 per annum — not too bad for a job that allows you to be a complete slacker and screw up more than you fix.

See, Congress has shut down the government, yet members of Congress still get paid.

Now that might seem unfair, but that's the way it is — the Constitution tells us so. And you know who voted for that amendment?

That's right. Congress.

This hardly seems fair, seeing as how it's their fault — well, at least 40 or so of those pandering grandstanders.

However, this quandary does have one benefit: It allows us to see which politicians have some savvy, and which are dumb as stumps.

Even before the shutdown, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Mark Sanford said they would donate to charity any pay that comes in during a shutdown.

So what's happening with the rest of the South Carolina delegation?

Well, they've been getting a few phone calls.

No fair

Since the shutdown — or the “slimdown,” as Fox calls it with a straight face — several South Carolina lawmakers have followed Graham's and Sanford's lead.

Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy say they will give their pay to charity, and Reps. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson and Mick Mulvaney have asked the government to just not pay them.

Mulvaney said he's gotten a few calls.

“Many of you have asked how it is that I can continue to receive my paycheck while so many federal employees are furloughed,” Mulvaney wrote this week. “I happen to agree that it's wrong for members of Congress to receive pay while other federal workers are not.”

You think?

Folks in both parties are doing the same thing, but it is the Republicans who need to look more contrite — because they are deservedly taking most of the blame.

Look at it from a completely nonpartisan point of view. What if the Democrats had done this in 2007? If Nancy Pelosi had threatened to hold up the budget unless the Bush tax cuts were repealed, the right would have exploded.

The Dems would have been called traitors, economic terrorists, and accused of trying to enforce the will of the minority on the majority.

And it would have been a fair point. It's also a fair point this time.

And it only looks worse if the fat cats in Congress are still collecting a check.

“Members of Congress should not be given preferential treatment, period,” Scott says.

He's right, and is doing the right thing.

But what about the other guys? Reps. Jeff Duncan and Tom Rice did not respond to the question. Guess their staffs, and political radars, are on furlough.

Duncan at least leaves a hilarious message on his Washington voice mail, blaming the shutdown entirely on the president and the Senate.

Nice try, Bubba.

Cover your back

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House minority whip, is not forgoing his pay — in fact, he wants furloughed federal workers to get their pay back when this foolishness is over.

“I want the House Republicans to do their job and put federal workers back on the job,” Clyburn says. “Donating their pay does not absolve them of the responsibility to perform their sworn duty.”

And that's the entire disconnect here. It's easy to forego a week or two of pay when you make $174,000. But most folks can't dash off a hasty press-released promising to give their pay to some unnamed charity.

They need the money to live.

It is to the credit of Graham, Sanford, Scott, Mulvaney, Gowdy and Wilson that they recognize how bad this looks (or at least are smart enough to cover their, uh, flank).

And shame on the ones who led us down this path. With any luck, this show of brazen nuttiness will come back to haunt them next year at the ballot box.

Then they can donate all their pay — to their successors.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com