Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Washington Monument Syndrome (or, 10 Things the Shutdown Spared)

It's official: The federal government of the United States has shut down. Well, sort of. 

You see, despite the media outcry, the partisan banter - and, yes, the 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed today - the federal government largely goes marching forward without a hitch from the perspective of the vast majority of Americans. While the tactics of either political party are debatable, and a less myopic solution is preferable no matter your political persuasion, it's quite clear that the things that are cut when the government shuts down are fewer than one would expect, not to mention rather arbitrary.

Or perhaps, these things are not arbitrary. "Washington Monument Syndrome" is a term which describes a phenomenon whereby government agencies faced with cuts will tend to cut the most visible and desirable elements of their programs in attempt to cull public support for restoration of funding. As this article describes it:
"When threatened with even modest cuts, cutthroat administrators can shut down only their departments’ most visible services and then sit back in comfort while they wait for legislators to capitulate. The syndrome has played a crucial role in making our government what it is today: a bloated monstrosity that is physically incapable of consuming less than it did the day before."