From the announcement:
“Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013, until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours … We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season.”
Sharp rhetoric from former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called the White House tour cuts “childish and dishonest.”
Likewise, several lawmakers took to Twitter to blast the news, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Although self-guided tours are still available, public tours will end on Saturday “until further notice.” The major backlash and press coverage from cutting funds to a highly visible and extremely popular governmental service is to be expected.
The power of the purse is a very useful power. Limiting or altogether ending vital or popular programs does result in varying forms of political capital. In this case, it’s used to pressure congressional Republicans to ‘avert‘ the sequester.
White House tours and similar services typically have negligible costs associated with them, but garner substantial outcry when halted or ended. These less expensive services are offered up as the sacrificial lambs in place of the real waste present in governmental budgets.
Real waste, in the form of kickbacks and unnecessary private contracts to politically advantageous business interests, is hardly visible, nor will it result in widespread press coverage or phone calls from constituents.
On the flip side, Republicans have used the White House cuts to point out what they feel are extravagances on the president’s part. The latest is Obama’s three calligraphers, costing $277,050 each year, according to OpenData.
Both sides are using the White House tours as a sleight of hand to keep the public’s eye off actual governmental hedonism.