Sequester 101: Beware the Washington Monument Ploy

February 26, 2013

As the sequester looms this Friday, you can bet that politicians will tell aggrandized stories of how federal agencies will be forced to cut the most sympathetic programs you could possibly imagine. Don’t fall for it though; this is a political game that has been used for ages called the Washington Monument Ploy. It got its name from a 1969 episode where the director of the National Parks Department closed the Washington Monument and the Grand Canyon for two days every week to deal with budget cuts. These are obviously the most visible, popular landmarks the parks department operates, and so complaints rolled in and the funding was reinstated.

Here are some Washington Monument doozies from around the country:

Zoo May Close, Euthanize Animals: In 2009, a Boston Zoo claimed it would have to euthanize 20% of their animals if their budget was cut.

Zakim Memorial Bridge Turns Off Lights: The Massachusetts Transit Authority opted to turn off the lights that adorn the scenic Zakim Bridge, a famous part of the Boston skyline, to save a just $60,000 per year. Onlookers noted that the agency could save over $60,000 by laying off just one toll-taker.

Toilet-Paper Shortage: The Detroit school system claimed in 2009 that budget cuts had forced them to beg parents to send their children into school with toilet paper, because they did not have the funds to provide it.

I think Nicole Kaeding at Americans for Prosperity put it best this morning on a phone call. “If you make $50,000 a year ($137 a day), the sequester is like you deciding to cut $3.40 a day from your budget. That’s it. Too bad the President is asking us to choose between not paying rent or cutting the electricity, instead of cutting out a cup of Starbucks.”

More on the Fiscal Cliff deal that got us where we are today here.

Follow Scott Drenkard on Twitter @ScottDrenkard.

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