A friend on Facebook posted this quote from Thomas Sowell:
Back in my teaching days, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: 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.
He didn’t specify, but he didn’t have to: he’s talking about the political efforts to make the government shut down as painful as possible in order to score points for Democrats. Look: I can’t get all outraged about politicians playing politics. It’s what they do, and we’d be kidding ourselves to think otherwise. But I do think it’s important to try and keep a level head and track what’s really going on.
And here’s the story: in prior government shut downs the parks and memorial services have not been forcibly barred against visitors. Now? They are. The Obama administration is spending more money than would be spent on regular operations to add additional law enforcement and barricades to do things like preventing World War II vets from visiting their own memorial in the hopes that everyone will blame the Republicans. Well: the Republicans sure helped the shutdown along. But during Clinton-era shutdowns the Democratic President didn’t feel the need to spend supposedly non-existent federal dollars to prevent World War II vets from, for example, continuing to give tours at Pearl Harbor. (Daily Caller)
What’s more, the Obama Administration is currently trying to shut down even private parks, just to make sure everyone is as outraged as possible. (Breitbart) This is standard operating procedure for the Obama Administration, which deliberately worked to try and make the sequester painful once it went into effect for much the same reasons. (Washington Times)
Again: I don’t think there’s anything particularly pernicious about Obama or Democrats. In my mind, I’m just documenting one more sad step in the sorry state of current American politics. This isn’t really anything more than humans responding to incentives. If someone’s power and prestige hinge on the power of the organization they run, then that’s the lens through which they see the world. It isn’t partisan, and it isn’t new. (See: Washington Monument Syndrome.)
I do think it has relevance, however. In the short run, of course, it’s important to try and keep track of the endless partisan spin even if both parties engage in it. In the long run, however, this is actually a stark example of a central tenet of classical liberalism. Don’t trust the government, because they don’t have your best interests at heart. The folks who run a government agency depend on their budget for status and prestige. They don’t actually depend on your welfare, directly. They wills sacrifice the one to protect the other.
And they will do it with a smile if they can try and tell you and themselves that it is only for the greater good.