Thoughts on the government shutdown – November 2013

The federal government shutdown is now in folk’s rear view mirrors and what’s ahead is the rounds of finger pointing over whose fault the whole process was.  Did the Republicans cause it?  Did the Democrats?  Did the President?  Something evident was there wasn’t a very good process to establish what was a priority for the federal government.

One thing that is interesting is the number of people who weren’t impacted by the government shutdown.  I heard about a recent poll that said 80 percent of the people were not aware that government had shut down.  Of course this is something very few of the politicians and government bureaucrats want to hear, because no one wants to think their job is not important – well most people anyway. 

However, it is interesting to note some of the actions of federal bureaucrats towards the shutdown.  Immediately upon shutting down, barricades were erected around the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.  The memorial which is an open air affair that people could come and go 24 hours a day 7 days a week (according to the web site) was blockaded by Park Service employees.  The reason provided by the head of the Park Service was because even though the memorial is out in the open, the agency is responsible to keep the sight from being vandalized such as what happened to the Lincoln Memorial earlier this summer when vandals splashed green paint over it. 

Even though the Director didn’t mention it, his spokesman brought up the possibility of a terrorist effort thereby playing the vandal and terrorism card at the same time.

Meanwhile in Wyoming the Park Service barricaded the entrance to Yellowstone Park and in South Dakota Mount Rushmore was closed.  But to add insult to injury, the citizens in South Dakota were upset to learn that a pull off on a public road that people could stop to view the monument had to be coned off.   One cannot help but wonder if the whole purpose was to try and convince the public that a government shutdown was a bad thing for them because they could not walk through a monument or drive through a park or even look at a monument because of a shutdown.  Under the Park Service thinking, people have to be watched in order to keep them from harming a national park or monument and even people must be kept from looking at those monuments if at all possible.

I think there was some hope by these folks that people who were turned away from monuments and parks would be upset enough not to question why some of these places were shut down to begin with.

But the Park Service isn’t the only agency which can’t establish priorities.  Apparently the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has spent over half a million dollars on artwork while the Department of Health and Human Services has spent $56 million on conferences over the past year.

The upshot of a lot of this was that we now know that many in government either don’t know what is essential and what isn’t or they think it’s their role to create as much disruption as possible to make a political statement.  Or perhaps they fear that if the public finds out that life can go on without them, the taxpayer will ask for less services in exchange for less taxes.

Irregardless of the motivations, there is one thing that I felt was a definite benefit about the shutdown.  That was the slowing of proposed rules in the Federal Register.  If a shutdown would do nothing but slow down that flow, I would advocate for a one year shutdown.  Maybe then I can catch up with the stuff that came out last year.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President

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