Observation on the Government Shut Down

From a commenter at Instapundit

It seems to me that whenever there is a threat of a government shutdown, it’s portrayed as just this side of a tsunami-level disaster. When government workers – teachers, sanitation workers, etc – go on strike, it’s portrayed as the middle-class worker sticking up for himself. Why is it that a government shut-down caused by a desire to spend less money is different than a government shutdown caused by workers failing to do their jobs – isn’t the effect the same?

Its been a long day here.  As many of your know, my company privately operates public recreation facilities.  We operate nearly 150 campgrounds and other parks on US Forest Service land, helping to reduce the cost of these facilities and keep them open despite declining budgets.

Because we pay all the expenses for the campgrounds and do not accept any government money (we operate solely using the gate fees paid by visitors), keeping these facilities open is not at all dependent on government appropriations.  As such, the facilities we operate have never been subject to closure in past government shut downs.  The Grand Canyon has to close because it is operated with government employees, but the public recreation areas we operate do not.

Or at least that was the position of the Forest Service until last night.  However, this morning, the USFS began to take the position we had to close, despite the fact that the law does not require it.  Through most of the day I have had to be on the phone pushing back against this bad idea.

At first, I thought it was some sort of scheme to purposefully make the cost of the shutdown worse, by shutting down public recreation facilities that did not need to be shut down.  However, I have come to understand that this is likely driven by a need for "consistency."  Senior administration officials were concerned it would be confusing to the public if the National Park Service was totally closed but a substantial number of US Forest Service sites remained open.  I have spent a lot of time trying to convince folks that it was dumb to close literally thousands of the most popular recreation sites in the country merely in the name of mindless consistency.

Hopefully we will win the day, and we are starting to see some evidence the Forest Service will see it our way, and allow private operators who do not take Federal money or use Federal employees to remain open serving the public during the busy Easter week.


  1. Dr. T:

    "... [It is] dumb to close literally thousands of the most popular recreation sites in the country merely in the name of mindless consistency."

    The government administrators may tell you that it's all about consistency, but, as usual, it's all about making government spending reductions as painful as possible for as many voters as possible.

    School boards are masters at this game. Every time a budget is voted down, the first items the school board cuts in the revised budget are sports, bands, and computers.

    In Tennessee, the first thing cut when the state budget was rejected a few years ago was the extremely popular (and surprisingly efficient) roadside emergency service program. The state parked the yellow trucks and fired the crews. This diverted resources from law enforcement: state police had to handle vehicle breakdowns, tire pieces or debris in driving lanes, and minor single vehicle accidents (such as skidding off a road into a ditch). Both the public and the state police demanded immediate resurrection of the program, and the politicians (who can read poll numbers) quickly complied and managed to cut funding elsewhere.

  2. Rob:

    I agree with Dr. T.
    I also wonder if keeping self funding public parks open might call into question the need for govt to run any parks... Or dare I say that we might question why we need most of the govt anyway!

  3. Vitaeus:

    It is self-defense, the government would be shown to be unnecessary to accomplish a service to the public. The idea that you make a profit using just the gate fees, while state/federal employees cost more is a comparison they fight every chance the get. In Washington state the liquor stores are State employees which never ceases to amaze me. The idea that a state employee is invested in folks drinking alcohol is mind boggling, free choice is great, but one of the highest cost events in the US is drunk driving.

  4. Elliot:

    The higher ups simply do not wish to look bad in comparison to the private sector. The contrast is not confusing as much as enlightening. All depends whose ox is gored.

  5. john:

    As a practical matter, can they prevent you from staying open? Do they have something in the contract which says they get to decide when you're to operate or not?

    Is there somewhere I can see a list of your facilities? I'd like to see if I can patronize one of your sites if they let you stay open, or if you can and do defy them.

  6. Not Sure:

    Government shutdown? Yeah, right.

    They'll keep doing whatever it is they want to do, and just shut down the things the average person wants them to do.

    I'll believe the government is shut down when they stop taking money out of my paycheck- not a minute before.

  7. perlhaqr:

    They're worried you'll set a "bad example" to the voters about all the other parks. As in "Why are we letting the government run any of this, since they so clearly suck at it?"

    Also, what John said. What are they going to do, send Park Rangers? "Hey, aren't you guys supposed to be off the job right now?"

    Also, I have a long weekend with the wife coming up. I'd like to visit one of your sites during the shutdown, if possible.

  8. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > I have spent a lot of time trying to convince folks that it was dumb to close literally thousands of the most popular recreation sites in the country merely in the name of mindless consistency.

    I'm with Dr. T on this one. The idea is to make people think that what YOU do is paid for by government monies. They don't WANT anyone asking, "Well why is this park open when that one isn't? Why can I go 'there', but not 'here'?" The notion that some parks are NOT paid for by government monies -- that there ARE alternatives -- is a dangerous thought to allow to reach The People, Warren.

    Warren: ======================================================================================================================================================================
    Break them of the notion that some things MUST be paid for by government money, and LORD, WHO KNOWS where **that** train of thought might travel!?!?!

  9. NL:

    They can just shut you down even though there's no good reason? It seems like your leases should have some sort of recourse for this eventuality. They shouldn't be able to shutter the parks without paying some compensation or penalty.

  10. Don:

    NL: What good would that do? The "compensation" would come from fiat money that they can print on demand, so there's no real pain to them. Warren could demand $1M/day/campsite and it would have no effect on the government weenies because they'll just right him a check "backed by the full faith and credit of the Government of the United States of America." You can't hold them responsible for anything, as both a matter of law and a matter of procedure.

    It's a no-win situation for Warren. If he shuts down, he will be vilified for not being effective because he couldn't even keep the parks open when he had funds available. If he doesn't shut down, he turns the bureaucrats against him and he takes in the shins the next time he negotiates because they'll hold a grudge.

    This is one reason I never did business with the federal government when I ran my business. Unfortunately for Warren, his business has little choice.

  11. Vilmos:

    I checked out your company website and found that your links on the map pointing to "Campground $state.html" are all pointing to non-existent files.


  12. marco73:

    Since they reached a deal Friday night, the republic was saved by men brave and true. At least that is what they are telling their supporters.
    Saturday night network news struggled to find anyone who would have been affected by the shutdown over the weekend. The best they could come up with were some tourists who were so happy they didn't waste their trip to DC, and they could get into the Smithsonian and the Washington momument.
    Now if the Smithsonian were publicly owned but privately run, even this small inconvenience would have been avoided.
    And I understand perfectly the fabulous visual of threatening to close the Washington monument whenever there is any money discussion. I can't imagine any bureaucrat ever giving up that power.

  13. joe:

    if they shut you down, you can always write full time. I just read BMOC on the flight up from Mexico and it was great.
    It was a steal at 99 cents. You should write a screenplay for quentin tarnentino: 'Hollywood Hooker Hitmen'

  14. Georg Felis:

    Dirty little secret: Government "Answer" websites which may not have anybody maintaining them on nights and weekends or federal holidays, would also have been "shut down" on Monday, with a message on them indicating they were unavailable. And yes, it would have taken a bit of work on Monday to do the programming to put up the "Out of Service" message, probably much more than if they had just left them run and collected the accumulated queries whenever the shutdown was over.

  15. carnahan:

    "The “compensation” would come from fiat money that they can print on demand, so there’s no real pain to them. Warren could demand $1M/day/campsite and it would have no effect on the government weenies because they’ll just right him a check “backed by the full faith and credit of the Government of the United States of America.”

    I'll take that fiat money if Warren doesn't want it....

  16. TC:

    Komrade Warren,

    We know what is best for all.

    We will send troops to insure your compliance, err. safety.

    Komrade obomber..

  17. David Zetland:

    By their definition, it's consistent for everyone to commit suicide when one person does. Brilliant.

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  19. Don:

    George: My point to NL was that as long as they have checks left, they will spend their way out of taking responsibility, and since they have the Bully Pulpit, Warren will be vilified for fighting back if he steps too far out of line.
    The answer is, make them BALANCE the damned Checkbook! Then, when they have to cough up money for screwing Warren and other business, those contractual obligations that are designed to bite, WILL bite them. Otherwise, it's just OPM (other people's money).
    And we accomplish this by NOT increasing the borrowing limits.