Here come the drama cuts. The Obama administration recently announced that due to the budget sequestration, it will be suspending tours of the White House indefinitely.
The White House’s decision has ignited a firestorm of controversy. Numerous op-eds criticizing the decision have appeared in major newspapers across the country. Speaker of the House John Boehner called the move “disappointing” and “silly.” And in a video posted on Facebook, the sixth-grade class at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa begged the president not to cancel their tour set for March 16th.
This surely must be the reaction the Obama administration was anticipating. What the White House has deployed is an old political tactic known as the Washington Monument Syndrome, also called the “firemen first principle.” This political tactic involves making cuts to high-profile programs that will be immediately noticed by the public. The idea is to get funding restored as soon as possible.
The term came into existence after the Nixon administration drastically curtailed the National Park Service’s budget in 1969. The Park Service director at the time, George Hartzog, responded by closing all park sites, including the Washington Monument and Grand Canyon, for two days a week. After Congress received a flood of complaints from the public, funding was restored.
The Obama administration’s move is clearly designed to put pressure on Republicans to lend an assist on rolling the sequester back. When visitors are turned away at the White House gates, the finger can be pointed at them.
But is the failure to reach a deal on sequestration any reason to close the White House to the public? Absolutely not. The sequestration is not about cuts in the current budget, it is about a slowdown in increases in spending. Even with sequestration, federal spending is projected to increase from $3.6 trillion to $6 trillion over the next 10 years. The so-called “cuts” only reduce future projected spending. That’s right. The government will get to spend more money than ever before, but only 2.4 percent less than projected.
Clearly, the president and Congress have a long way to go before they start considering real cuts. The public must lead them.
As a side note that highlights the political nature of the tour cancellations, supposedly the tour cancellations will save $74,000 per week. But as West Wing Reports notes, Secret Service officers are being reassigned from the tours to other areas. If they are not being furloughed, where is the $74,000 per week in savings coming from?