President Obama did the right thing when he decided to kick visitors out of the White House. The visitors budget was slashed by the sequester so they ended the tours, but they should have done it a long time ago. Tourists shouldn't be traipsing around the house where the president lives.
The president and his family live upstairs in the White House and his office is on the ground floor. His mother-in-law lives there. His dog is there. When he's home, he eats breakfast, lunch and dinner there. All of his socks and underwear are in that house, unless he leaves some in Chicago for quick visits.
We like to think in this country that the White House is the people's house. No it isn't. It's the house we loan to the president so he can live and work safely and comfortably. Insisting on being able to constantly visit the home of a man we never met is rude, even if we own the home. How would you like to rent an apartment and have 70,000 to 100,000 landlords visit you every month?
And what happens when Michelle gets mad at him in the middle of the day? "Barack, you never took the garbage out last night!" All those people would be able to hear. If I were cutting the White House budget, the rubber flip-flop crowd would be first to go.
The closing of the White House tours is blamed on the lack of money, though -- not the president's privacy. The cuts are reducing many government budgets to what they were roughly 18 months ago. But we're being told that almost no wing of government can fully function as it did only so recently.
As we try to survive the sequester cuts, there must be a lot of things like the White House tours we might miss, but could live without.
The Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flight teams immediately announced they were cancelling shows over the next few months. They both put on incredible displays and are exciting to watch, but what they really are is a flying advertisement to American taxpayers telling us we have incredible air power. They never drop a bomb or strafe an enemy position. They could be replaced by a Piper Cub flying over the beach trailing a banner that says, "America has incredible air power!"
Government agencies are making a special effort to announce cuts the public will notice. The National Park Service is facing a 5% across the board cut. The agency that has 15,000 full time employees says it will not fill 900 full time jobs. That's six percent of their employees right there. They're also cutting seasonal employees, opening dates, activities and hours at visitor centers. They want you waiting in line just so you know their budget was cut.
The Defense Department has to cut in a range of percentages, the maximum being 10%. And yet Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, said he would be unable to train 80% of his non-deployed fighting units this year. How does ten percent multiply into one hundred percent of eighty percent?
If I didn't know our government better, I'd say they're trying to scare us.
Some of the Republicans squealed in pain when the White House tours were shut down, but Congress should follow the example and end tours of Capitol Hill. There's nothing happening up there worth seeing anyway. It's not as if they are solving the budget crisis.
But the sequester goes on because Congressional Republicans and the White House are butting heads. The president wants more tax money and they won't give it to him. The Republicans believe deeply in spending less money. They want budget cuts, although they want cuts that are not the blunt axe of the sequester, which limits their ability to make war.
President Obama took a dozen Republican leaders to dinner last week at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington to make nice and maybe come to some agreement. It was probably a lovely event, and it turns out that even small-government Republicans like it when dinner is on the Federal budget. Not one of them objected when the president picked up the check.