What would happen if the burger guy stopped flipping burgers? If the truck driver stopped driving trucks? If the teacher stopped teaching? That's right. They'd lose their jobs.
So what should be the fate of our 535 voting members of Congress, who are about to shut down the government instead of doing the work we pay them a handsome $174,000 a year to do? Even if they somehow manage a last-minute deal to stave off disaster, this Congress must be punished. Now.
We can't wait for the next election. Americans have short memories, moving quickly past the mass shootings of children and innocent workers within weeks or even days. By Friday, everyone will forget how much they miss "Breaking Bad." (The season premiere of "Scandal" is on Thursday!) The threat of a government shutdown that would affect hundreds of thousands of federal workers and will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars will be a hazy memory come Election Day.
So I used social media to ask for ideas on how to punish our supposed leaders - and lots of people chimed in with suggestions.
A hotel manager in Maryland had the simplest and most direct answer: "No paycheck. If I can't do my job, I don't get paid," she said.
"They could collect trash for D.C. residents," a schoolteacher suggested.
Various methods of torture were advocated.
"Find someone 'in the know' to cut power/Internet/water/air conditioning to the Capitol," urged an IT supervisor from Virginia.
"Eyes taped open to watch a 24-hour webinar on the life of freshwater, brain-eating parasites," offered a Washington lawyer.
And an especially merciless idea from a University of Maryland journalism professor: "Billy Joel concert at Boehner's house, 24/7, starring Yanni, the Carpenters, New Kids on the Block, Seals & Crofts." Lawmakers already know that most of us despise them. Just 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing - an all-time low, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday.
This do-nothing Congress is set to become the least productive since we started measuring its productivity in 1948. Which is sad, because that's the title the 112th Congress earned last year.
So how do we give our representatives what they deserve? "No pay and must enroll in Obamacare," urged an investment banker.
One longtime friend, a French teacher, offered her Francophile solution: "Off with their heads." Mais oui.
On the street, working Washingtonians were no less brutal.
"Line 'em up and shoot 'em. I consider what they're doing treason," said a D.C. retiree who runs a T-shirt stand near a Capitol Hill Metro stop.
At the kind of Capitol Hill bar with dark windows and a 3 p.m. drinking crowd, the TV was tuned to "Shutdown 2013" coverage.
"They're acting like toddlers, and we should treat them like toddlers," said Mr. Gin and Tonic. "We need to put them in a big playpen and give them a huge timeout." At Le Bon Cafe, where plenty of members get their cappuccinos every morning, the 24-year-old manager said that Americans should flood the streets in protest.
"If I don't show up for work, I'd get fired," he said. "We need to fire all of them." One of my favorite suggested sanctions from a mother of three who works for the federal government and will be affected by a shutdown: "Turn off their cameras." Bingo.
Members of Congress get loads of perks. They get lifetime health care, lunches, child care, gym memberships and free parking at Reagan National and Dulles International airports.
They probably like those things. Get rid of all of them. And cut their unfiltered lifeline: C-SPAN should go dark. Take away the fuel for their ambitions, egos and grandstanding.
Let them see what a shutdown really feels like.
Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post.