“Weaponizing” a government shutdown

This time out, I have 2 stories both suggested by listeners.

Brandon had some questions about the current government shutdown and how it compares with previous ones.

And Phil wanted to let me know of a bill that will take power away from unelected bureaucrats and give it back to our representatives in Congress.

Mentioned links:

Garbage, feces take toll on national parks amid shutdown

Manufactured Pain in the Government Shutdown [my blog post from October, 2013]

#MillionVetMarch Assembles Peacefully, Pulls Down Lincoln Memorial #Barrycades.

Everything you need to know about the government shutdown

Senators Reintroduce REINS Act

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Show transcript

I got an email from listener Brandon who asked if I would comment on the status of what is now the longest ever government shutdown. As of this recording, it’s still going on. He was noticing reports that national parks were not getting cleaned up during the shutdown because those employees were considered non-essential.

That’s all true, but I do want to emphasize the difference between this shutdown and one by Obama. Brandon remembered that during one particular shutdown in 2013, the Obama administration tried to fence off open-air monuments and parks, but that’s not happening now. Why is that not happening now? I think the answer is simple, and Brandon hit the nail on the head when he asked, “[D]id the Obama administration purposefully try to make the shutdown hurt the average citizen more?”

Oh yeah, they almost certainly did. That’s because doing things like putting barricades in front of the Lincoln Memorial or around the World War II memorial required additional effort on the part of government. I was blogging back then and there’s a link to my post at the time where I called this “manufactured pain”. These things had never been closed during a government shutdown, and only Republicans came out to support protesters who took down the barriers. You’d think that wouldn’t have been a partisan issue, but apparently it was. I read someone referring to that action as “weaponizing” the government shutdown, and that’s a great description of what happened. Obama was going to make sure you felt it, and try to blame Republicans.

Trump, on the other hand, made sure to avoid that. The upside is that we can still visit national monuments and parks during the shutdown. The downside is that, unfortunately, this does create a maintenance problem. Garbage pick-up and bathroom cleaning are not being done, and that can be a real problem. Some of that is a problem with abusers of the parks, but most of it, I would think, is just due to the fact that the employees have been furloughed. It’s not a good situation.

I could say something at this point about the potential of private companies being responsible for the parks, and thus not be affected by a shutdown. I could suggest that we’d probably need a way to keep them accountable for it. I could say that…but I just did.

None of this is to say that the government shutdown isn’t being felt by many people, inside and outside the government. The sooner it opens back up, the better. I think the Democrats should be willing to open up the government in support of a position on a border barrier that they took just 5 years ago, and who’s cost is about 1/8th of 1% of the budget, but that’s just me.

Regarding essential employees, federal prison guards and TSA screeners are still supposed to be working, but many are calling in “sick” because they aren’t getting paid presently. They will get back pay, but these federal employees have decided that they’d rather make their fellow workers pull double shifts instead. I wonder if the privately-run jails are experiencing this. I could say…Naaah.


I have yet another suggested story idea, this one from listener Phil. He pointed me to a press release from Senator Rand Paul about a bill he proposed. Let me start by giving some context to this.

Last episode, number 239, I talked about how the IRS has decided to not bother with verifying that a Social Security number goes with the name on a tax return. The IRS has quite a bit of regulatory latitude on this. And in the episode before that, episode 238, I covered a story that listener Barb sent me about operation Choke Point where the Obama administration gave latitude to bank regulators to pick and choose what otherwise legal businesses they could deny access to the banking system. No law needed to be passed, no Congressional action needed to be taken. Instead, a faceless bureaucracy was granted the power to change the rules on a whim. The regulatory state is a law unto its own. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

With that as the background, Rand Paul as well as Senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Todd Young, Ted Cruz, and 29 other cosponsors have introduced the REINS Act, “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny”. The press release, linked to in the show notes, says this:

The REINS Act would rein in unelected federal bureaucrats by requiring that Congress affirmatively approve every new “major rule” proposed by the Executive Branch before it can be enforced on the American people, as opposed to the status quo, where regulations ultimately take effect unless Congress specifically disapproves.

(As an aside, this sounds like what is known as a “backronym”; coming up with an acronym first, and then coming up with the words to fill it in second. I think a lot of laws follow this pattern.)

This is actually being reintroduced because, while it passed the House a year ago, it went to the Senate and was never heard from again. I really like this idea because it puts the power back in the hands of the people through their actual representatives.

We are becoming less a nation defined by the rule of law and more of the rule of men. This is a long-understood distinction between a government where the laws are consistent, understandable, and applied equally to everyone, versus laws that come and go and change at the pleasure of the king (or the bureaucrat, man or woman), and they get applied unequally. Congress needs to pass this and take back the representative power they willingly gave up.


This podcast episode is brought to you by Gillette, because if your toiletries company won’t tell you that sexual harassment is wrong, who will?

Filed under: Budget & SpendingGovernmentSmaller Government