Reward for interns comes in experience

For decades and decades, congressional interns have worked primarily without pay, assisting their elected leaders and those staffers already on the burgeoning federal government payroll in Washington, D.C., offices. This week, U.S. Rep. Timothy Ryan, D-Howland, who is the ranking member of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, secured a provision in the legislative branch appropriation bill to provide $8.8 million in funding to pay the student interns in the U.S. House of Representatives for their work on behalf of the American people.

Ryan argues that congressional offices “could not run without the assistance of interns.”

Certainly these interns know when they apply for these highly sought-after internships that their reward will not come in terms of dollars and cents. Rather, it will come in the valuable professional experience and important relationships that they will gain from the job.

What’s next? Will the American taxpayers soon also be footing the bill to pay for the health benefits of these interns? Will the government begin contributing to their federal pension plans during this time of their temporary employment?

Lest we remind our local congressman that student interns are mostly undergraduates, lacking work experience and still working to complete their education. Certainly, if the interns demonstrate tenacity and are successful at their assigned duties, they will build relationships with professional connections and references, collect letters of recommendation and vastly improve their futures overall.

Such use of interns is not new and is not unique to the congressional offices.

In fact, many private companies utilize interns in exactly the same way. Interns provide an extra set of hands while gaining valuable professional experience making them more highly sought after by potential future employers.

So if working unpaid has been valuable enough for interns in the private sector and in the U.S. Congressional offices until now, why would taxpayers start supporting them now?

Ironically, the legislation came around the same time that President Donald Trump was announcing his plans last week to revoke federal workers’ automatic 2.1 percent pay raises this year. In light of the nation’s fiscal situation, Trump believes federal worker raises should not be guaranteed, but instead be based on performance and merit.

We agree.

At a time when our nation already is deep enough in debt, Ryan should be looking at ways to cut government spending, rather than seeking new ways to add expenses like this $8.8 million in dedicated internship funding.