Government Shutdown Theater: Making Cuts That Will Cause the Maximum Pain for Dramatic Effect

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In 1969, the Nixon Administration cut the National Park Service budget.  In response, George Hartzog, the NPS director at the time, closed all of the national parks for two days a week.  The closures included prominent landmarks like the Washington Monument.  Democrats and Republicans criticized Hartzog’s decision – but it was the flood of citizen complaints that led Congress to reverse its decision and restore funding (and fire Hartzog).

And thus, the term “Washington Monument Syndrome” was coined.  This is an old political game that is also known as the “Mount Rushmore Syndrome” and the “firemen first principle.”   The tactic involves making cuts to high-profile programs that will get the public’s attention – and tick them off enough to push them to support tax increases they would otherwise oppose.

Here’s how it works:  When the government is threatened with reductions in spending, they’ll make cuts (or threaten to) in programs and services that are important to the people.   It is a manipulation tactic that is designed to inflict pain, discomfort, and fear.

Thomas Sowell provides excellent examples of how the government uses these tactics:

Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.

At the local level, the first response to budget cuts is often to cut the police department and the fire department. There may be all sorts of wasteful boondoggles that could have been cut instead, but that would not produce the public alarm that reducing police protection and fire protection can produce. And public alarm is what can get budget cuts restored.

Observe the melodramatic rhetoric Obama uses to scare people in his speech prior to the “shutdown” (also note the dramatic “Shutdown Countdown” ticker in the corner of the screen – gotta love the mainstream media’s scare tactics):

Here’s what Obama had to say:

“In the event of a government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay. And several hundred thousands more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay – what of course will not be furloughed are the bills they have to pay.”

“Office buildings would close, paychecks would be delayed, vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, business and our economy depend on would be hamstrung. Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.”

“Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from the Yosemite, to the Smithsonian to the statue of liberty, immediately closed. And of course the communities and small business that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck. “

Government Shutdown Theater, in photos:

lincoln-closed-sign-jgonzalez

lincoln-memorial-shutdown-jgonzalez

usda-site-shutdown

wwii-memorial-closed-bcarter

And this is perhaps the best example of government histrionics so far:

white-house-site-shutdown

Cato Institute Cato scholar Tad DeHaven sums up the “shutdown”:  “Mandatory spending on entitlement programs is relatively unaffected. Moreover, exceptions are made for activities and personnel that are considered “essential” to protecting life and property. …In short, a government shutdown isn’t really a shutdown and it isn’t the big deal that politicians, pundits, and the media tend to make of it.”

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12 thoughts on “Government Shutdown Theater: Making Cuts That Will Cause the Maximum Pain for Dramatic Effect”

  1. Washington has mismanaged taxpayer dollars to the tune of 17 TRILLION so, why is everyone upset? It’s going to get worse as long as there’s Republican and Democrat Parties. NOW, is the time to vote Constitution Party. Yes, there will be differences BUT, it will never be as bad as it is now. The Federal Government was ONLY suppose to be lip service for the states. The states was suppose to have the power but, thanks to Abraham Lincoln, that all changed. The Founding Fathers warned the people to never let this happen……thus,…you see how it’s been run down today. So, people….quit complaining because you’re complicit in this mess too. YOU voted Democrat and YOU voted Republican now YOU deal with it.

    1. I didn’t vote for either! My father warned me back in the 70″s this shit was coming. All in our government CORRUPT! Forget changing it at this point and start trying to deal with what is coming. I am not a FEMA lover. Will take my own chances. And Barry and the NSA. Put me on your list. F U

  2. As long as this nation of people stay divided and don’t look to the true ruler we will see these people bring about things that have never been nor
    will ever be again. You want to be a nation under GOD then it is time stand in your words, you can’t have it both ways. The Father never said he was going to bring peace but judgment.

  3. I say be finance the gap between what we owe and what we have with the money Michelle-Marie Antoinette Obama spends on her vacation each month. Heck, if she didn’t go on vacation for just three or four months, the whole national debt could be paid!

    1. Yea! And she can take her Fracking Bangs and stick them. A whore is a whore no matter how she cuts her hair! What a ridiculous excuse for a 1st Lady.

  4. You’re right Bee. That’s why the Constitution Party IS the best way to vote. The Trinity IS the center of this party. We’ve become a Socialistic styled country and that’s NOT how this country started out but, look where we are now.

  5. Love the fact they couldn’t shut down the memorial for the HONOR FLIGHT! Bet that bit Barry’s ass! True American’s versus a Muslim. Barry butt bit the dust, as he should. Now if the rest of us American’s would just stand up and say NO MORE maybe we could get this parasite out of our country.

    1. He is not solely responsible.
      Other parasites to terminate with extreme prejudice:
      Senate
      House of Representatives
      Brass (Army / Navy / Marines / Air Force / Coasties)
      [If you have more Generals than enlisted, you have a problem.]
      The bureaucrats, all of them.
      Those on Welfare for more than 4 years. Arbitrary number, but if you wanted to get off – you would’ve found a way.

      With all of those permanently removed, hold elections again, with the States appointing Senators again (Repeal that amendment), and with the rider that no one who HAS served in the past, can serve again. Also enforce term limits, and an anti-incumbency rule (no office holder may succeed himself in said office). Also, no more than two elections in any position, during life. Should cloning ever be permitted, or mechanical life preservation – tough shit, you need the whole body – clones and machines don’t count. (Need to figure out how to handle “arti-folk” should they ever exist – need to articulate how no living person’s brain can be mechanically/electronically recorded and then re-run.)

      I know it’s weird to think of this – but what was in plain English 200 years ago is not comprehensible to most people today – the concept of language has devolved, and the understanding is nil. Subjective clauses? Misplaced modifiers? Predicate Nominative? Direct Object? Subordinate Clause? Complex Object? Complex SUBJECT?
      Does ANYONE understand these terms any more?

      I douobt it – so maybe we’d better assume the language will change, and we need to (a) be on guard, and (b) re-iterate meanings, every 50 years or so. To avoid those “Umbras and Penumbras” of the Constitution, which always seem to act AGAINST the citizens… And FOR the government.

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