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Will somebody please tell me what the heck I’m talking about?

I was surfing around recently (Wikipedia, I think) and I came across the most marvelous term. It was something like the “national park effect” and it had an alternate version that mentioned a specific park. Yosemite, maybe. Does this ring a bell with anyone? I’d love to know the exact phrase.

What it means is, whenever a bureaucrat is ordered to cut back, he immediately chooses the most beloved or most important programs and threatens to disembowel them, as though it’s the only possible way to cut costs. Walk right on by all the useless cash-eating bullshit government sponsors — tax cuts mean drastic changes to the national parks or the military or highways.

Here in the UK, it’s usually schools and hospitals. Fortunately, those things mean nothing in the Badger household, but they get us with police and trash collection.

I know from my own experience (mostly reading the little area paper) that our local district council has a salaried position to show new-ish mothers at home how to brush a baby’s teeth (only this!), keeps someone on staff to come around and look at your compost heap and tell you if you’re doing it right, floats a full-time rat-catcher (okay, this guy was quite useful and interesting). They recently sponsored a trapeze artist to teach basic moves in the community centre (fitness, don’tcha know).

Don’t forget these employees enjoy salaries well above those in the private sector, benefits often equal in value to their salaries, and pensions...well. Pensions are the killer. Carrying civil servants through their golden years is murdelating our budgets. And, even worse than the States, government is the only part of the economy that has continued to grow and grow as the private sector shrinks.

We’re coming up on an election here, probably in May, and the Tories are probably going to walk it, though they richly undeserve to win. Already the BBC and Labour (but I repeat myself) are full of “ZOMG, Tory cuts in services!!!!!” and already the Tories have responded by deciding that cuts really don’t need to be deep.

Ugh. We are drowning in tax over here.

So what I like to do — it’s a little masochistic game I play — is mosey over to the Guardian jobs section and spot the most useless, expensive government job opening on the books. Lesbian outreach workers and sustainability officers and like that. Our entire household tax expenditure probably isn’t enough to support one of those useless parasites, and that makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as goat testicles.

Interesting to note, by the way, that the government’s favorite place for classified ads is a highly left-wing paper with tiny circulation. They know their constituency. Although today’s winner is from that once-great conservative paper, the Daily Telegraph.



Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 1, 2010, 7:44 pm

And may I just add, the area in question is such that having Bengali as a first language (or maybe Somali) would be distinct advantage in helping the little… darlings… play with plastic bricks.

Or benefit forms, for when they grow up.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 1, 2010, 8:26 pm

I remember as a kid when the public schools wanted a tax increase they would always threaten to cut the High School Football program.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: February 1, 2010, 8:33 pm

Yeah…California is the Mother Ship for that kind of budgetary thinking. First to be laid-off are Fireman, Police and Teachers. Never the fucking adminstrators. Always the same crap from the teachers unions crying about student to teacher ratios being higher than (insert socialist shithole here) but they NEVER mention that if you added all the useless administrators into the equation you’d have a ratio of something like 6 to 1. Teachers don’t generally TEACH their whole careers…they spend the last 10 or 15 years tallying up the left handed lithuanian lesbians, just to make sure THEIR needs are “properly” met. Bastiges.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: February 1, 2010, 8:43 pm

Jeezus! $50-60K for a fucking play offficer??!!! How did we all get so fucking stupid?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 1, 2010, 8:50 pm

A play officer! Isn’t that an awesome job description?

Here’s a playground. Here are some kids. Liberals think you need a fifty-grand administrator to make that formula work.

Comment from Allen
Time: February 1, 2010, 9:13 pm

Weasel, I’ve heard it called the Prop 13 effect. Limit property taxes? Their response: We’ll get you summsabitches, how do you like less firefighters, more rotting garbage, less cops?

So we give them more money in other taxes, what do we get? Junk bond status, yeah California!

I want to be a Senior Play Officer when I grow up. Jeebus where in the hell do you get experience in “adventure play?” Is there like a degree in it, or maybe OJT? I’m pretty sure infants don’t have teeth. There’s a dream job, showing someone how to do something to something that doesn’t exist. I think I’ll go ask Alice.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: February 1, 2010, 9:25 pm

What gets me…how is this different than your typical protection racket? Nice domestic tranquility ya’s gots there…be a SHAME if somethin’ happened to it…
It’s fucking extortion, and should be approached the same way. Our government in CA should be facing RICO charges. Fucking insane.

Comment from Eirik
Time: February 1, 2010, 9:32 pm

Reminds me of something that happened back in 1991/2 when I was attending my first year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. They were trying to get the football team moved from Division 2 up to Division 1.

At the same time, they were going to close the library on Sundays. There was an advisory vote of the student population (non-binding). IIRC, it was the largest vote turnout in the university history, with over 10,000 votes cast. The move to Div 1 football, which added a about a quarter to our tuition, won by just a few tenths of a percent. The university president declared it was a clear majority and started the process immediately.

The vote to add $1 to our fees to keep the library open seven days a week? Passed with 80%, but it was a “bad precedent” and was never enacted.

Just a couple quarters later, the state jacked up tuition by almost 100%, phased in over a few years. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the university President wanted that football team before we all knew what was coming.

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: February 1, 2010, 10:37 pm

If I was Senior Play Officer the little darlings would learn several marching jodys featuring Barney, sudden and violent death of same, and snot (I believe in *reasonably* age-appropriate material) before lunch, and then we would adjourn to the spitball range for practice. Tuesdays would be Cleaning and Disassembly (okay, just disassembly) of Common Household Appliances, complete with the Naming of the Parts (e.g. doohicky, thingamajig, and whatsit).

Comment from armybrat
Time: February 1, 2010, 10:40 pm

we here in the people’s republic of MA call it the “fuck you you stupid, demanding taxpayer” syndrome. Exhibit A would be Easter Weekend 2009 when the western tolls into the city of Boston had 1 (yes, that’s right…1) working toll collector. the traffic backup was more than 5 hours. The 2 week shut off of the lights on the Zakim bridge “to save all that wasted energy” was just another example. God forbid we should require any of the gangbangers in Dorchester sporting the latest in $400 sneakers and an I-phone to get a job.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: February 1, 2010, 11:05 pm

I’m a California schoolteacher and let me tell you…it’s BAD here
money-wise. We’ve already weeded out all the useless jobs, and now are down to deleting counselors. Bad.

Comment from Lipstick
Time: February 2, 2010, 2:16 am

Yep. Can’t get by without the counselors…

Comment from harbqll
Time: February 2, 2010, 10:52 am

If there isn’t a name for this tactic, there needs to be. It gets used on us too, even in Alabama: “Well, we’d really like to keep from raising property taxes, but without that increase, we’ll have to get rid of all school sports, cut police salaries, and reduce garbage pickup to one day a week. Your call, idiot citizenry. Just ignore the fact that the entire city council, school board, and pretty much every official in the county just voted themselves a 25% salary increase.”

Gromulin is absolutely right. If this was done by anyone other than the government, we’d call it organized crime.

Comment from Sporadic Small Arms Fire
Time: February 2, 2010, 11:36 am


This act is frowned upon in most jurisdictions around here. I suppose if you flee from Stateside to Ol’ Blightey, one can indulge in the pleasures of bygone era.
Britisher Murdelating, on the other hand, … with stone kromlechs in the background and druids in flowing robes performing interpretative dance at full moon.

Th Sweasel is reverting to her primordial form. Did not take long at all.

Comment from Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Time: February 2, 2010, 12:01 pm

Cutting muscle before cutting fat is not only a shrewd defense tactic, it’s policy. Politically influential careerists and politicians’ useless relatives occupy the plum high-paid, do-nothing jobs in a bureaucracy, so when a budget crunch compels a cut to staff, it’s the overpaid drone or his patron who decides where to cut, and the answer is, inevitably, not him.

Comment from porknbean
Time: February 2, 2010, 12:43 pm

I remember as a kid when the public schools wanted a tax increase they would always threaten to cut the High School Football program

Seriously? School taxes should go for schooling. Want a football team, get a corporate sponsor.

More seriously….the fed should get out of education. Did ya see that the NEA has Alinsky as ‘recommended reading’?

Comment from emily
Time: February 2, 2010, 12:50 pm

So no one knows what this effect is properly called? I would LOVE to know its name to use in discussions with lunatics.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2010, 2:02 pm

The term I read definitely had “national park” in it, but “effect” doesn’t seem right. And you can imagine how many hits I get on “national park” and words like “effect.”

Comment from paul s.
Time: February 2, 2010, 2:10 pm

I wish I could help you out: Oregon voters just voted away money on the basis of that particular con. New Yorkers fall for it every time. All I can add is that it’s a country cousin to the “Hot Meals for Orphans” pitch.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2010, 2:15 pm

Meh. I just had another go at Google and Bing, but with no luck.

Interestingly, Google has no function that lets you jump to the end, to the least likely hits. I got 164,000 on “national parks” searching only in Wikipedia. When I tried to jigger the URL to jump to the end, I got a message saying Google will never show you beyond the first 1,000 hits.

Comment from Mrs. Compton
Time: February 2, 2010, 3:06 pm

My DD’s high school was brandie new. I didn’t want her to go there in the first place as I feel new schools have no tradition and no soul. Plus she was thriving at the high school she was currently in. But…. no matter what I tried to do and trust me I was looking for any loop hole I could she was forced to go there. We were promised state of the art every thing, computer lab, chem labs, library. Oh the glory of that school.

The football team got their stadium but the chem lab didn’t even have gas the first year she was there. I could go on and on and on but the real kicker was….. they forgot to order textbooks. Since there was no budget left for books they had to borrow them from the surrounding high schools. I am sooo glad she is no longer there and I’m sure they are glad I didn’t have any younger children.

Comment from Eirik
Time: February 2, 2010, 3:24 pm

That reminds me of my first science class at my high school in California. I think the year before I got there, they had just installed a new, state of the art running track around the football field made of some kind of rubber. Cost a small fortune. Our science teacher had pointed out that his lab class, where we were working with chemicals, didn’t even have a functional eyewash fountain. So they installed one to appease him. He demonstrated it on the first day, just to show us that it did not work. It had such low pressure that it barely flowed.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 2, 2010, 4:58 pm

par for the course. I was jsut reading a blurb about Obama killing a tax credit on people below $95,000 per year that he SWORE was permanent, because he is STRUGGLING with record deficits that the press is too far up their own assholes to admit HE IS CREATING!!!!

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 2, 2010, 5:01 pm

When you take the benefits package into account, that ‘play officer’ is sucking up £67,372 p.a., which at current exchange rates is $107,600.

Cameron’s mob will not be any better, even if they were inclined to be. The hookworm infestation has burrowed too far into the body cavity, and a dose of antihelmintics strong enough would kill the patient.

Comment from Dawn
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:02 pm

So when Arizona faces a budget crisis they shut down the public toilets. We are only famous for two things: a big hole in the ground and highways. Where are the tourists supposed to potty? It just pisses me off.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:27 pm

This was Southern Ohio, porknbean. The voter’s priority list was

1-4) Football
5) Teachers.

A main reason they couldn’t get a tax levy passed for the public schools was that the rich part of the city, who sent their kids to private schools that all had football teams of their own, voted down public school taxes for years at a time. So much for the compassion of rich liberals (and non-liberals too I suppose)

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:34 pm

I think part of the problem with Googling it is that you need a synonym for a different word from “effect.” Effect, used in that kind of phrase, implies result–but what you are talking about is more like an explanation, excuse, justification. . .con. . .bait and switch. . . oops, back On Topic. I tried with “syndrome,” which is even further off than effect–with no success. Gonna go curl up with Roget’s for a bit. . .

Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:41 pm

I think the term you are looking for is “Old Faithful” list of budget cuts. Found reference here:


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:47 pm

Hmmmmmmm, Oldcat. For a second, I thought that scratched the braincell. But wherever I found this, they were definitely coining a term for the gambit.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:02 pm

strategem, feint, device?
manoeuvre, expedient, pretext?
hey–even gambit?

And I LOVED this sentence from Oldcat’s find:

Whenever the bureaucracy gets to devise the plan, services to the public will be slashed savagely before anybody in the bureaucracy loses a job, and the most popular services will be the first to be cut.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:09 pm

Red-lining Yellowstone?

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 2, 2010, 11:55 pm

The version of it that I remember referenced the Washington Monument.

I have seen some interesting stats recently. Government salaries at various levels have increased substantially in the last ten years, now exceeding private sector salaries. This in addition to gold-plated pension systems that are easily gamed for extra payoffs.

Oregon voted a tax increase by referendum; Oregon state workers have a higher average salary than the rest. (The referendum increased corporate and top bracket taxes only; union money funded a huge YES campaign.)

Over half the unionized workers in the U.S. are government employees.

Sometime soon, the breaking point will be reached.

In France in the 1700s, the nation (and the government) were crushed by the hordes of salaried officeholders. The tax bureaucracy was so inefficient that the crown imposed a tax on offices (the “paulette”) which was the only money the King could actually spend.

We know how that ended. À la lanterne!

Comment from Paul In BarneyFrankistan
Time: February 3, 2010, 4:51 pm

Rich R is correct – I first heard it as “Closing the Washington Monument” when I worked in DC and they did exactly that. Whenever they failed to pass the budget or a continuing resolution at the end of the fiscal year, all the museums on the National Mall would be closed while all the usual pork continued merrily along.

I believe it first came to national attention during the Newt vs. Clinton budget battle. They closed the National Gallery during a once in a lifetime exhibit featuring every existing Vermeer – the only exhibit that ever gathered them all in one place. People had travelled from all over the world to attend, only to find that our politicians had thrown a tantrum. Clinton made Newt and the Republicans look like fools, even though they were correct on the substance of the issues.

BTW – I waited in line for four hours in freezing drizzle to get a (timed entry) ticket to that exhibit. It was worth every minute.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 3, 2010, 6:51 pm

Oh, man — I wanted so badly to see that exhibit! Vermeer is my absolute favorite. As an aspiring artist, I totally imitated him — by which I mean, had a very low output and bumped along near bankruptcy.

I don’t remember the shenanigans around the show, though.

Comment from skell
Time: February 5, 2010, 1:46 pm

Try “pothole syndrome” as the term you’re looking for; I ran across it at the Chicago Boyz blog. See the comments to a post from 29 January 2010 titled “Annual CTA Proposed Reductions.” (No link in case it sends me to spam Siberia.)

The second commenter defines pothole syndrome as “the most visible possible cuts in service to punish the voters who are so stingy.”

That pretty much sums it up, I’d say.

Comment from Ronsonic
Time: February 14, 2010, 3:15 am

Here in Tampa a debate over a sales tax increase resulted in threatened cuts to a nature preserve used by the school system, as if that cost real money. The police department parked 40 brand new cruisers out of sight and used the oldest most worthless relics in the fleet for the highest visibility jobs.

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