Politics of the shutdown evident in agency actions

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: October 11, 2013

FOR furloughed workers, the federal government shutdown has clearly had an impact. But for most citizens, the shutdown has been notable for largely going unnoticed. That's not because federal officials aren't doing their best to make it appear otherwise. In fact, federal officials often seem to be working harder to inconvenience Americans during the shutdown than they worked to serve Americans when the government was in full operation.

The hassle factor has been most notable at national parks, including open-air monuments honoring veterans that are typically accessible 24 hours a day. Government officials have erected barricades and stationed guards. How is the government spending less money on those efforts than what would occur if visitors were simply allowed to walk up to the monuments?

Yet at the same time, the Park Service allowed an immigration reform rally on the National Mall — attended by several House Democrats — even though the mall was supposedly closed by the shutdown.

The Defense Department stopped $100,000 payouts to fallen troops' families, insisting that a recent bill funding military payments didn't authorize the payouts. This outraged countless citizens. The benefits are usually paid within days of a death.

The Justice Department gained notoriety for taking down its AmberAlert.gov website before reversing course after public outcry. Those actions didn't prevent issuance of Amber Alerts, but how does leaving a website in place represent an unaffordable expense during the shutdown? A spokesman said preserving the site without a government worker to maintain or supervise it represented a “cyber-security risk.” So why did the agency put the site back up?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture isn't providing data on sales reports from livestock auctions, including those in Oklahoma, that are used to set prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Those reports normally provide information on supply and demand, exports and prices. In addition, all USDA websites with past information on livestock sales were taken down. Once again, it appears federal officials are actively trying to artificially create problems. Not generating new reports during a shutdown makes sense; removing old reports from websites serves no purpose and requires paying people to take them down. Is the federal government spending money to not spend money?

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