Reports from South Dakota have it that National Park Service personnel have placed cones along an otherwise open-for-traffic highway so that motorists will not pull over to the side of the road and snap a picture of Mt. Rushmore.
The Mt. Rushmore visitors center is, of course, closed due to the federal “shutdown.” But a sculpture consisting of 60-foot high faces carved into the side of a mountain is visible from some distance – say, for example, from space — complicating efforts to shut it down.
Draping a giant tarp over the sculpture was evidently judged to be impractical, thus compelling park rangers to cone off the shoulder of a nearby highway lest people violate the “shutdown” by taking a photograph of something that sits in plain sight and can be observed with no involvement whatsoever from the federal government.
All powerful as it aspires to be, the federal government remains unable to impede light from the sun. Our government cannot keep those pesky photons from striking the visages carved into Mt. Rushmore and in turn reflecting into the eyeballs and cameras of those passing by.
The best the government is able to muster in the face of such unaccustomed impotence is traffic cones.
Kabuki theater such as this is what a government that can’t really be shut down does in order to appear to be shutting down. At this writing, fully 83 percent of pre-shutdown spending continues undaunted post-shutdown. The federal government is so big that it literally cannot be stopped.
Among the reasons for the relentlessness of federal spending are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This unholy trinity constitutes what is called “mandatory spending,” i.e. spending that is authorized in perpetuity. By virtue of its “mandatoriness,” more than two thirds of all government spending is utterly beyond the power of the purse delegated to the Congress under the Constitution.
That the vast majority of federal spending proceeds apace during what is laughingly called a shutdown is testament to the fact that federalism as envisioned by the founders has long slipped its constitutional moorings.
The founders came from the several states and convened in Philadelphia to give us a central government with defined and limited powers. What we have turned it into is a giant, pustulated Jabba the Hutt-like monster that is resistant to any effort whatsoever to subdue it.
(For you non-Star Wars fans, Jabba the Hutt was the villain in the third film of the first Star Wars trilogy who was ultimately done in by his own excesses.)
On the occasion of the “shutdown,” Democrats, with the help of a supine media, have once again seized the moment and defined the debate. Most Americans think the fight pitting the Republican-controlled House against the Democrat-controlled White House and Senate is about funding for Obamacare. Republicans for their part have done little to convince what we now call “low information voters” otherwise.
But Obamacare is a mere symptom. At its core, the current fight isn’t over Obamacare or the budget or the debt and deficits. It’s over the size, scope, intrusiveness and utter unsustainability of the federal government.
Republicans are trying – so far with little success – to use what leverage they have to get something, anything from the Democrats that will keep Jabba from getting even bigger and uglier.
And to keep him from again coming to a bad end.