This week’s “shutdown” of government, for example, suffers…from the awkward fact that the overwhelming majority of the government is not shut down at all. Indeed, much of it cannot be shut down. Which is the real problem facing America. “Mandatory spending” (Social Security, Medicare, et al) is authorized in perpetuity – or, at any rate, until total societal collapse. If you throw in the interest payments on the debt, that means two-thirds of the federal budget is beyond the control of Congress’s so-called federal budget process. That’s why you’re reading government “shutdown” stories about the Panda Cam at the Washington Zoo and the first lady’s ghost-Tweeters being furloughed.
Nevertheless, just because it’s a phony crisis doesn’t mean it can’t be made even phonier. The perfect symbol of the shutdown-simulacrum so far has been the World War II Memorial. This is an open-air facility on the National Mall – that’s to say, an area of grass with a monument at the center. By comparison with, say, the IRS, the National Parks Service is not usually one of the more controversial government agencies. But, come “shutdown,” they’re reborn as the shock troops of the punitive bureaucracy. Thus, they decided to close down an unfenced open-air site – which, oddly enough, requires more personnel to shut than it would to keep it open.
So the Parks Service dispatched their own vast army to the World War II Memorial to ring it with barricades and yellow “Police Line – Do Not Cross” tape strung out like the world’s longest “We Support Our Troops” ribbon. For good measure, they issued a warning that anybody crossing the yellow line would be liable to arrest…In a heartening sign that the American spirit is not entirely dead, at least among a small percentage of nonagenarians, a visiting party of veterans pushed through the barricades and went to honor their fallen comrades, mordantly noting for reporters that, after all, when they’d shown up on the beach at Normandy, it, too, had not been officially open.
As I understand it, Democrats think that since voters are blaming Republicans for the shutdown, the negative effects (that is, the harm done to ordinary people) should be milked for all it’s worth.
A risky move.
Sealing up the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial—they are normally never closed—takes more federal manpower, not less. Democrats’ refusal to vote for Republican-sponsored bills that would keep the entire national park system open—as well as spending for the District of Columbia and veterans’ programs—what is that?
The answer came in a memo from White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell providing guidance to federal agencies and departments. Aside from prefacing this Sept. 17 memo with a political talking point (Congress is to blame, not the administration), she instructs agency heads not to consider whether the cost of shutting down a government website is more expensive than keeping it running.
And that, not Tea Party intractability, is why Yosemite’s website has been down since last week.
For me it’s the fact that they’re apparently deliberately preventing motorists from stopping at the side of the road to glimpse Mount Rushmore.
It’s petty, vindictive, and stupid.
It’s also a pretty good argument re: why we shouldn’t be trusting government with our health care (and our auto industry, and our personal information, etc. etc. etc.)
One would not be altogether surprised to find the feds stringing yellow police tape along the Rio Grande, the 49th Parallel and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, if only to keep Americans in, rather than anybody else out. Still, I would like to have been privy to the high-level discussions at which the government took the decision to install its Barrycades on open parkland. For anyone with a modicum of self-respect, it’s difficult to imagine how even the twerpiest of twerp bureaucrats would consent to stand at a crowd barrier and tell a group of elderly soldiers who’ve flown in from across the country that they’re forbidden to walk across a piece of grass and pay their respects. Yet, if any National Parks Service employee retained enough sense of his own humanity to balk at these instructions or other spiteful, petty closures of semiwilderness fishing holes and the like, we’ve yet to hear about it.
The World War II Memorial exists thanks to some $200 million in private donations – plus $15 million or so from Washington: In other words, the feds paid for the grass. But the thug usurpers of the bureaucracy want to send a message: In today’s America, everything is the gift of the government, and exists only at the government’s pleasure, whether it’s your health insurance, your religious liberty, or the monument to your fallen comrades.