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The Almighty Buck Government United States

Are Shuttered Gov't Sites Actually Saving Money? 668

Posted by timothy
from the buy-this-magazine-or-we'll-shoot-this-dog dept.
Lots of U.S. government agencies' websites are partly or fully shut down, many of them with messages like this one, from the front page of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory: "Effective 7 p.m. EDT, Friday, 4 October 2013, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) temporarily suspended all US operations because of the US Federal government shutdown. All NRAO facilities and buildings are closed; NRAO personnel, other than a skeleton crew, are on furlough and cannot respond to emails or phone calls." Brian Doherty argues at Reason that many of these shutterings don't actually seem to make any financial sense, and that the sites are down more as a public statement than out of fiscal prudence. If you're involved with running an organizational web site (government-funded or not), do you agree?
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Are Shuttered Gov't Sites Actually Saving Money?

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  • "Financial Sense" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Silentknyght (1042778) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:32AM (#45043581)

    Since when does the majority of the actions of the US Government make "financial sense"? This is about what is required, not what is saving money. I've heard from various news sources that the shutdown, itself, *costs* millions per day. By that logic, "financial sense" would have been to not shutdown in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:38AM (#45043629)

    Many of these actions are clearly not "required". Park facilities that don't normally have round-the-clock security are now being patrolled and guarded by park rangers who have been told to keep everyone out. The logic doesn't make sense because these are facilities that don't have any services being discontinued that would necessitate a total closure of the lands and monuments during a government shutdown. It is purely punitive action designed to make regular people suffer in the hopes they whine to their congressman about the budget negotiations.

  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by protactin (206817) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:40AM (#45043637) Homepage

    I imagine it costs less to defend against and clean up after DDoS or XSS attacks on a static page, than it does against an active web site.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:43AM (#45043661)

    Does anyone really believe the facilities they shut down are due to lack of funds?

    All the actually expensive stuff is "essential", and they keep paying for it. Instead, they pay people to barricade off open-air monuments, and to add modify websites to become non-functional; they pay rangers to stop people from "recreating" in national parks. It's fairly obvious that the shutdown is just Washington Monument Syndrome writ large.

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:47AM (#45043685) Homepage

    It's very, very expensive to move out of your home and then back in again, even to the same home. But if you don't -- for whatever reason -- have the money to pay the rent, that may well be your only choice.

    If you're expecting to have the money but your boss's accounting department is simply incompetent, you might be able to plead with your landlord. Or maybe not.

    But whether staying at home or moving out is cheaper is irrelevant to the question when the rent check comes due.

    That money is being wasted isn't the fault of the agencies that are shutting down. It's the fault of the Republicans who're holding the entire country hostage in a blatantly un-Constitutional attempt to repeal majority-supported legislation. They've tried dozens of times to repeal the legislation through the normal legislative process and failed miserably each time; now, they're determined to wreck the national economy (with the shutdown) and possibly even the global economy (with the default) if the majority doesn't give in to their demands. They've shot multiple prisoners already (don't forget the ongoing sequester!) and are now threatening to blow up the whole building.

    In a modern democracy, their actions would long ago have resulted in the dissolution of the government and a new round of elections. And the Obama administration's support for the NSA wiretapping would also have triggered elections. Such a shame we live in a place that's rested so much on its laurels and is now so far behind the times.

    Cheers,

    b&

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:52AM (#45043729)

    On the other hand, it is pretty damn callous to deny WWII vets a chance to visit their own memorial. I'm sure that even the officer can see the stupidity, she just can't make that sort of opinion known to the whole world.

    There's no good reason that the memorial *has* to be closed, it's just a memorial, not dangerous park full of bears and wildlife. They're likely paying more for these extra patrols to *keep people out* than they would during a normal patrol of the national mall and surrounding areas when tourists are visiting.

  • by LordLucless (582312) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:57AM (#45043751)

    but either way shutting the gov't sites is a great way to remind people that gov't does things they want done.

    Uh-huh. Nice monument there. It would be a shame if someone barricaded it off. The shutdown is revealing government's true nature - a bunch of petty extortionists. Give us money, or we'll shut down things that you like. Not because we can't afford it - it will actually cost us money - but because we can.

  • by atgaaa (1869296) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:00AM (#45043779)

    I would add that many of the closures seem vindictive and petty. If the govenment served the citizens. they would work to make this "shutdown" as painless as possible on the citizens. Instead, many politicians seem to be trying to make it as painful as possible.

  • by Entrope (68843) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:01AM (#45043789) Homepage

    If the executive isn't authorized to spend money, which is better: To post signs saying "This facility is closed and unstaffed", or to deploy armed guards in order to keep people away from open-air facilities that are usually unstaffed and unsupervised?

  • by wstrucke (876891) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:13AM (#45043897)
    That, and the fact that it is *public land*. The people do not report to the government, the government reports to the people. If it's not being funded there should be no authority to "close" publicly owned resources.
  • by tylikcat (1578365) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:29AM (#45044007)

    Mm. I don't think that an attempt to attach a defunding that has failed to pass congrees 40-odd times to a budget bill can count as anything but political theatre.

  • Well duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:33AM (#45044051) Homepage Journal

    They've furloughed IRS employees. Does *that* make financial sense? They've shut down FDA food inspection. Does *that* make financial sense, if we count the cost to the nation of food borne illness? This shutdown is about many things, but "financial sense" is not one of them.

    We live in a country full of idiots who say things like "Keep the government out of my Medicare," without realizing that Medicare *is* a government program. Many more understand that things like the military or NIH cancer research are part of the gummint, but only on an intellectual level. On a visceral level they only associate the government with things they don't like, such as pollution regulation. The stuff they *do* like apparently just happens, as far as they're concerned.

    So put yourself in the shoes of the zookeeper who has to take care of the pandas as the National Zoo. Pandas don't stop eating or shitting because Speaker of the House doesn't have the balls to bring a clean continuing resolution bill to the floor. So you've still got to show up to feed them and muck out their enclosure, only now you're not being paid. Your landlord still wants paying; the grocery store still wants paying, the daycare center you leave your kids at so you can go to this job still wants paying, but *you* don't get paid.

    Wouldn't *you* pull the plug on the panda-cam? If you *don't*, people *will* say, "look, we shut the government down but things are still working." Yes they *are* that stupid. So you pull the plug so they'll understand that things like the pandas being cared for just don't "happen" on their own. Sure, people get pissed off, but they're not paying for the panda cam so they can lump it. Not seeing Mei Xiang and her cub isn't going to kill anyone. They weren't paying for panda cam anyway; that was paid for with a grant from corporate sponsorship, so if anyone has a beef with this, it'd be Ford Motor Company.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:37AM (#45044079)

    It's petty, it's vengeance, and I've had enough... how about you?

    I've certainly had enough. Enough of a certain party holding a gun to the head of the country to try and defund something they voted for then decided they didn't like, even after they already changed it completely from what it originally was.

    And before you try to say I'm some crazy liberal, no. I voted for Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008 (Johnson in 2012). But I've come to the conclusion that the leadership of the Republican party in it's current form no longer cares about the good of the country. All they care about is brinkmanship and sticking it to Obama and Democrats. In all honesty I say recall every single Congressman (any party), bar them AND their staffers from ever serving in Congress again, and start over from scratch. The whole system needs a reboot.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:51AM (#45044153)

    You don't seem yo understand how hard this is.

    The reason we have a months-long budgeting process is that Congress is basically two Committees with more then 500 members, and they aren't run under Robert's Rules of Order. They are run under two different sets of rules, which are completely unique. When one of the Houses decides to delay things there isn't a lot you can do.

    The issue in this case is that the Speaker is dictator of what the House of Representatives gets to vote on. He can only be over-ridden by a) firing him, or b) get a lar ge proportion of the House to sign a Discharge Petition. But discharge petitions on bills you just wrote on Monday, because you were convinced that nobody would shut the government down, CAN'T be considered until 30 days after Monday. Discharge petitions on older bills are possible, but when the Democrats tried one the 20 or so Republicans who claimed they'd support a "clean bill" decreed that this discharge petition didn't count as a clean bill.

    The problem seems to be the GOP members are convinced that if they don't support the Speaker in every way that matters the Tea Party will murder them in the next primary. Since ethics rules exist, Obama can't just say "Dude, if you vote for this bill Apple board member Al Gore will totally take care of you."

    Moreover most of them actually believe that shutting the government down is the Right Thing to do because a) they actually believe ObamaCare is Evil, and b) they actually think that they'll convince enough Democrats to support a delay of ObamaCare to delay ObamaCare. To them trading a few months of government services for a delay of ObamaCare is just common sense.. OTOH the Democrats are equally adamant that ObamaCare is a Great Thing Which Will Save America, that delaying it is Evil, and that getting no government for three months in exchange for not delaying ObamaCare for a year is a great idea. And if anybody was willing to give on either of these points he wouldn't have made it through a Primary.

  • by kenwd0elq (985465) <kenwd0elq@gmail.com> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:50AM (#45044615)

    There's also a chain of privately managed campgrounds; again, NO Federal employees. They've been ordered to close - even though they've stayed open in previous "shutdowns".

    http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2013/10/02/shutdown-white-house-ordering-privately-run-privately-funded-parks-to-close/ [pjmedia.com]

    “It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/3/pruden-the-cheap-tricks-of-the-game/ [washingtontimes.com]

  • Bicameral system (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:07PM (#45044721) Homepage

    Even with the parliamentary system, you have two houses. The lower house is supreme in matters of funding. If the House of Commons were to reject funding for Program X (whether that be the UK's involvement in Afghanistan or whatever), that would be the end of the matter.

    There'd be nothing the House of Lords could do about it.

    Here, the lower house has rejected funding for a certain program, and the upper house is refusing to recognize the lower house's power of the purse.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:54PM (#45045095)

    You are writing as if they didn't have a whole goddamn year to do this.

    And you are writing as if the Republican Party hasn't chased after the "energy" of the Teabaggers for years, thinking they can control the derp. The "dog that finally caught the car" that was referenced yesterday by Rep. John Dingell is /not/ about the shutdown despite what he thinks and what the media is reporting. The "dog that finally caught the car" and is in terror are the "mainstream" Republicans like Boehner (you know, the Speaker) of the Republican Party who are now terrified of being primaried out by morons like Rand Paul and "Ted" Cruz in 2014. Because they're not obstructionist enough.

    You should read the cheerleading comments by the barely literate on Ted Cruz's Facebook page. Fucking scary, actually.

    We need to seriously reconsider how we handle electing these clowns.

    When you leave primary elections up to the people with too much time on their hands and not enough intelligence that vote for populist morons that pander to them, you get what you pay for. Clown shoes everywhere.

    On a related note, the "clean CR" is based on the budget numbers that the Republicans themselves set, based on Paul Ryan's stuff. This "The Democrats Won't Negotiate" talking point is complete nonsense and anyone who pays attention for 5 minutes knows it. The Republicans are getting what they want with the budget with this CR, and that's what's hilarious about it. The Republicans could have claimed victory with the budget with this CR but they can't because they have to somehow save face with this shutdown that they let themselves get talked into over the ACA. Because the Mike Lees and Ted Cruzes (teabaggers to the core) of the House wanted to create as much pain as possible and hope that the public is dumb enough to blame anyone but them for this boneheaded "plan" they cooked up between themselves in their own little echo chamber and convinced their buddies that "this will work, this time, for sure."

    That's not even getting into the debt-ceiling nonsense with the teabaggers. To hear a teabagger like Rand Paul talk, it's all "kitchen-table-economics" and a default is "no big deal." As if the US Government budget is like a household budget instead of the budget of a publicly-held large corporation. Imagine if Microsoft started defaulting on its debt. Look at what happened to Bear-Stearns when they defaulted. Yeah.

    --
    BMO

  • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:27PM (#45045363)
    I would point out that, outside of Alaska, the US has 6 times [pbs.org] as much land in national forests as national parks. The national forests (and BLM land) are more like what the grandparent post imagines - you generally don't pay to enter, dispersed camping at random places is allowed, and they are not closed during a shutdown. National Parks are something else - they are singular and irreplaceable natural treasures, which at the same time draw much more visitation (and thus damage). As such it makes sense to more actively protect them.
  • by bussdriver (620565) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @01:53PM (#45045593)

    I don't have the time to waste guarding it from you in case you don't respect MY wishes... so I will hire somebody do to that for me. I shall call them "Park Rangers." Rather clever name don't you think? Gee, I'm clever.

    Do you see what I'm doing here? Do you see what the "I have a right to use my public land anytime and in anyway I want" people are doing?

  • Re:Well duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @02:41PM (#45045983) Homepage Journal

    Really? Do you honestly believe there will be some disease outbreak because a government bureaucrat wasn't present to check a box on a form that only the allowable level of rat feces was present?

    As a matter of fact, I do. It's not like outbreaks of foodborne illnesses are rare. Major outbreaks happen in the US every year or two, and smaller outbreaks are contained all the time before they get big. If there's an E. coli outbreak in lettuce or listeria in hamburger, who do you think tracks it down to the source and tells all the supermarkets which food to take off the shelves? The food safety fairies?

    You can be complacent about food borne illness because government bureaucrats (and scientists, engineers and information technologists) keep contamination in American food to manageable levels. Worldwide, the third most common cause of death is diarrhoeal diseases, most of which are food or water borne,

    I've never worked with the FDA, but I've worked with the CDC as a contractor. I happened to be at the Fort Collins DVBID one time when they were scrambling a team to investigate an outbreak of some mysterious hemorrhagic fever in Africa. People were fleeing the area but the CDC's team was going in. Why do they do that kind of thing? So whatever it was that had people bleeding out of their eyeballs never finds its way over here. People just *assume* that things like Yellow Fever, Dengue or Malaria just don't happen here in the US. They never stop to consider that this is not a natural state of affairs. We used to have that stuff all the time. You just don't see all the hard work that goes into making Yellow Fever something most Americans have never heard of. I have -- the zoologists, epidemiologists,physicians and veterinarians who provide this "non-essential service."

    I've had this very same argument with a guy who was blase about losing one of our meteorological satellites. "Hurricanes don't kill many people," he said. I wanted to grab the blockhead by the collar and shake him. What would have happened if people only had two days notice with Sandy? Or with Katrina or Hurricane Andrew? Complacent idiot.

  • by schnell (163007) <me@@@schnell...net> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:36PM (#45048003) Homepage

    Yes, we are no longer citizens, but subjects who may or may not go on our land at the whim of the those who rule by our consent.

    Huh? OK, I'm not allowed to go into a national park while there are no federal employees to keep me safe or respond to problems. I'm also not allowed to build a burger stand or an oil well in the middle of a national park either. Neither of these things makes it any less "my" land. Part of the whole point of a national park is that not just any jackass can do anything they want with it even though it's "their" land - it is held in trust for us all by the government.

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