On the second day of the latest federal-government shutdown, the online Urban Dictionary added a new entry named after President Barack “Barry” Obama:
“barrycade: 1. A barrier (usually temporary) that exists for no reason. 2. A barrier erected for political reasons.”
Here’s how the website — not owned or funded by the Koch brothers, as far as anyone knows — suggests “barrycade” might be used in context:
“Hey, let’s put up some barrycades to keep those World War II veterans away from the open-air World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., in order to try and score some cheap political points.”
The suggestion wasn’t written hypothetically. On the shutdown’s first day, Honor Flight veterans visiting Washington were met with temporary fencing outside the memorial to the war they fought and won seven decades ago.
Keep in mind, this is a memorial without a gate, situated at one end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln and Washington monuments. Ordinarily, it is open to the public 24 hours a day, even though it’s staffed only 14 hours.
So, it was OK to visit the memorial without supervision 10 hours a day when the government was funded, but zero hours a day once the government wasn’t funded?
This ham-fisted tactic already had a name, the “Washington Monument syndrome,” and it has been used by petty politicians everywhere who opt for the most visible cuts possible when cuts must be made. Schoolchildren visiting Washington this past March learned about it when the White House canceled tours, citing the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
Sequestration, like the current shutdown, was accompanied by dire warnings for the economy and even the sturdiness of our republic. Then, as now, one presumes the Obama administration didn’t want to risk letting these events proceed less painfully than predicted. Thus, barrycades.
There’s no such thing as a jimmycade, ronniecade or williecade. Even though the federal government was shut down 17 times between 1976 and 1996, you see, previous presidents didn’t close open-air, un-gated, unstaffed national monuments just to make a point. Even a privately run park in Virginia that stayed open during the prior shutdowns was shuttered this time, simply because it sits on federal land.
There is reason to believe we’ll see more, not less, of this in the future. And not only because Washington’s pettiness factor keeps rising.
The proximate cause of the current shutdown is Obamacare. Republicans insist on changing it dramatically. Democrats refuse to change it at all — except, of course, when the Obama administration unilaterally issues waivers to favored groups, delays key parts of the law and makes other changes.
But if it weren’t Obamacare, it would be something else. This is bound to happen when one half of the country insists on making the federal government ever larger while the other half insists it’s already far too big.
Previous shutdowns concerned such issues as abortion funding via Medicaid, pay raises for members of Congress and their staff, domestic budget cuts, defense spending cuts, funding for water projects and crime fighting, and the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” for broadcasters.
The common thread: disagreement over the size and scope of government.
Eighteen times now, elected officials have decided the growth in Washington’s reach and power was bad enough to warrant stopping even its legitimate functions. The larger our federal government gets, the more likely we are to see these kinds of clashes again.
And just wait until the policy procrastination by those in Congress and the White House, past and present, turns the unfunded liabilities owed to retiring baby boomers into a real-time budget and debt crisis. Here we are with the government shut down, and no one’s even talking about that looming disaster.
But it’s coming all the same — and there aren’t enough barrycades in the world to keep it at bay.