EDITORIAL: Shutdown theater intends to make the public squeal for more government

The federal bureaucracy has nearly 3 million employees. Collectively, these workers have so many overlapping responsibilities and regulatory powers that government shutdowns should be mandated every year, if only to slow the growth of the country’s $17 trillion debt.

Instead, shutdown politics mandate that the public suffers even more. So, no Red Rock Canyon or Lake Mead visits for you. Like John Candy said in “Vacation,” in his role as a Walley World security guard: “Sorry folks, park’s closed. The moose out front shoulda told you.”

National parks and open spaces across the country are shut down. How absurd is that? This is public land, and many parks are sustained through visitor fees. Yet, on orders from the Obama administration, the purportedly closed, unfunded Interior Department is spending money and actively working to block public access where no barriers previously existed.

Federal monuments were closed Tuesday, including the World War II Monument in Washington, D.C., even though no one truly “works” there and it’s an open-air attraction funded by $197 million in private money. To their credit, visiting veterans have removed or knocked open the barriers to monuments, flooding the attractions with visitors who would not be denied.

Similarly, in the days leading up to Tuesday’s shutdown deadline, bureaucracies would not be denied the chance to waste whatever money they had left from the fiscal year that expired Sept. 30. As reported by The Washington Post, the Department of Veterans Affairs led the “use it or lose it” charge in buying $562,000 worth of artwork last week. (Pay no attention to those years-long delays in benefit claims, veterans.) The Agriculture Department spent $144,000 on ink toner cartridges, and the U.S. Coast Guard spent $178,000 on cubicle furniture rehab.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s nationally televised Air Force-Navy college football game was canceled Wednesday, not because of a lack of federal funding — the athletic departments are independently funded — but because the Pentagon wants to create the perception that the teams and institutions are totally dependent on government. Thankfully, officials came to their senses by late Wednesday evening, and the game was back on. Canceling the contest would have cost the service academies millions of dollars.

We’re from the government, and we’re here to help!

All this theater took place because President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to negotiate with House Republicans over the debt ceiling and Obamacare. Mr. Obama is staking his presidency on the hope that Democrats will regain control of the House for his last two years in office, and he’s eager to use the shutdown as a midterm bludgeon. But he overreached on the heavy-handed park closures, and he agreed to a Wednesday night negotiating session with congressional leaders.

No less an authority than journalist Bob Woodward, whose work helped take down Republican Richard Nixon, stated on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Mr. Obama and the country suffer from his obstinacy. “The history books are going to say we had an economic calamity in the presidency of Barack Obama. … Go back to the Great Depression in the 1930s. I’ll bet no one can name who was the Speaker of the House at the time. Henry Thomas Rainey. He’s not in the history books. It’s on the president’s head. He’s got to lead. He’s got to talk.”

Compromise is a two-way street. Give nothing, and you’ll reap what you sow.

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