Government Shutdown

Government Will Shut Down Websites Even if It Costs More Than Keeping Them Up, Just to Show You Who Is Boss


In case you doubted the purely punitive nature of certain aspects of the "government shutdown," Julian Sanchez at Cato examines the strange case of federal websites:

It's a bit hard to make sense of why some sites remain up (some with a "no new updates" banner) while others are redirected to a shutdown notice page—and in many cases it's puzzling why a shutdown would be necessary at all…..

For agencies that directly run their own Web sites on in-house servers, shutting down might make sense if the agency's "essential" and "inessential" systems are suitably segregated. Running the site in those cases eats up electricity and bandwidth that the agency is paying for, not to mention the IT and security personnel who need to monitor the site for attacks and other problems. Fair enough in those cases. But those functions are, at least in the private sector, often outsourced and paid for up front: if you've contracted with an outside firm to host your site, shutting it down for a few days or weeks may not save any money at all. And that might indeed explain why some goverment sites remain operational, even though they don't exactly seem "essential," while others have been pulled down….

Still weirder is the status of the Federal Trade Commission's site. Browse to any of their pages and you'll see, for a split second, the full content of the page you want—only to be redirected to a shutdown notice page also hosted at But that means… their servers are still up and running and actually serving all the same content. In fact they're servingmore content: first the real page, then the shutdown notice page. If you're using Firefox or Chrome and don't mind browsing in HTML-cluttered text, you can even use this link to navigate to the FTC site map and navigate from page to page in source-code view without triggering the redirect. Again, it's entirely possible I'm missing something, but if the full site is actually still running, it's hard to see how a redirect after the real page is served could be avoiding any expenditures.

One possible answer can be found in the policy governing shuttering of government Web sites—which, as blogger Jon Christian noted, stipulates that:

The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.

It's easy to imagine how this might often be the case: if the "inessential" public-facing Web pages are hosted on the same systems you've got to keep up and running for other "essential" back-end purposes—meaning you don't get to save the security or electricity overhead— then the cost of having IT go through and disable public access to the "inessential" sites could easily be higher than any marginal cost of actually serving the content. But the guidance here seems to require agencies to pull down "inessential" public-facing content even when this requires spending more money than leaving it up would. In the extreme case, you get the bizarre solution implemented on the FTC site: serve the content, then prevent the user from seeing it!

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  1. Obama: America’s asshole

  2. “Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

    The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.”
    – Thomas Sowell

  3. The bullshit behind the “shutdown” (You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means) should be called out over and over again, without fail. It’s a lie almost all the way through, from the fact that the vast majority of government remains fully operational, to the abused discretion behind shutting down public-facing operations, and, finally, to the horrible, economy-damaging law that’s at the center of this dispute.

    1. It’s being called out, over and over again, without fail. Unfortunately it seems to be only Reason and Instapundit calling it out

    2. Sadly most people remain oblivious to the fact that this administration is spending more money trying to piss of people than regular operations would cost.

      And I heard somewhere that the EPA has only 1000 out of 16K employees that have been flagged as essential. To me there is no better argument for either laying off 15K parasites or doing away with the EPA than this one.

    3. This is our fully operational government.

  4. I bet the site is up …

    1. Depends on what you mean by “up”.

    1. Unfortunately for Obama the Washington Monument has already been closed for the last two years because of earth quake damage. How we survived these two years without it I don’t know.

      1. The Washington Monument may be closed, but I notice that, despite the requirements of the Anti-Deficiency Act, it continues to be lit up from base to tip by hundreds of decorative light bulbs that must consume a boatload of energy (even if they are low-energy LED bulbs) and which can in no way be characterized as essential to human safety or protection of property. If they were serious about not incurring unnecessary financial obligations, they’d turn off all those lights, except maybe the red blinking navigational aids at the top, to prevent planes from flying into the Monument.

  5. Apparently Obama has summoned Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, and McConnell to have a chat. Either he’s going to deliver one of his typical tiresome, stern, finger-pointing lectures Boehner and McConnell’s way, or he has finally decided that he’s ready to begin negotiating.

    We’ll likely find out soon enough, because if it’s the former, I suspect the meeting won’t last very long.

    1. Fuck Obama. This is between the houses.

      1. If Obama has in fact changed his mind about negotiating, Reid will do whatever his master tells him to do.

        1. I know, but taking Obama seriously is a huge mistake. It’s one of the reasons I thought he’d lose in 2012–people started tuning him out well before the election. He’s a nonentity, treated as if he were anything but.

          1. “Obama was a pimp. He could never have out-fought Santino.”

            1. So just who is Barzini here?

          2. There is a difference between Obama “winning” the election and Romney “losing” it. The Great One’s enduring problem is that he thinks that the latter automatically implies the former.

            1. Well, it doesn’t *automatically* imply the former. I mean, Gary Johnson probably won the eledtion in Bizarro World.

    2. he’ll probably repeat a sentence from one of his state of the union addresses
      ” I’m willing to listen but the time to talk is over”
      a double negative, if the talking is over he can listen.

    3. If Obama is giving the lecture then it will be all about how this is hurting Obama.

  6. Keeping a relatively simple website up and running is an unbelievably small expenditure. If you’re not changing it and it mostly serves simple content, there is no work involved at all. The server, bandwith, and electricity costs are minuscule. To put the redirects into all the pages, as the FTC did, is a simple change to a master file (assuming their website isn’t designed by retards) and is also almost no work.

    Of course this is all bullshit. The entire government is bullshit, and they know it, and they will just do whatever smoke and mirrors they need to do to hide that. And the media will help them.

    1. I know it’s too much to expect, but one hope I have for a prolonged “shutdown” (still object to that wholly inaccurate term), is that some number of Americans will realize that they can, in fact, ignore the cries for more government, because everything seems groovy despite shrill screams to the contrary.

      1. Relatively groovy, of course. It will take more than this to restore a good economy.

  7. But that means? their servers are still up and running and actually serving all the same content.

    Of course they are. If they were going to lock the doors and turn off the lights they’d have to contract with an outside hosting service to put up the “we’re down for the shutdown” page and then update DNS to point their domain at the other machine. That’s way too much trouble for a government employee to go to when it’s so easy to just put a redirect page on the on-site server, and leave it running.

    The argument about shutting it down for security purposes is silly for the same reason, since the exact same server is still up and running with whatever security vulnerabilities it had before. This is nothing but pure butthurt from agencies who are desperately trying to prove to the public that they’re so very, very essential.

  8. Ha! I use trade dot gov for my job every now and then (Oh the hypocracy!) and it is also down… those bastards.

  9. This is like one crazed puppet show, and we’re all watching Punch beat the living crap out of Judy and wondering if anybody at all has any sense of shame whatsoever.

    1. Now we see the violence inherent in the system!

  10. If the websites were actually “shutdown,” shouldn’t people get a 404 error and not “this website was shut down by evil TEA-thuglican ratbaggers who refused to pass a nice, fat omnibus bill for us to fill with kickbacks and pork?”

    1. No, you’d get nothing at all and eventually your browser would timeout with a “this page is unavailable” error. 404 errors come from a running web server.

  11. No, fuck you, cut spending.

  12. If I raid a company, merge it with my conglomerates, and fire all of the employees, can I get a pass because the FTC “shut down”?

    1. No, because the statute of limitations didn’t run out, and being regulation instead of law, when they come abck, they can come after you just as if nothing happened on their end.

  13. This is like the panda cam being shutdown. How much money does it cost to leave a freakin webcam on vs off??

    1. A webcam sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

  14. The alt-text is not up to date. I assume this is due to Congress’ failure to provide funding.

  15. If we have no money to pay for anything then were are they getting the money to supply all the sob stories about the shutdown to the MSM.

  16. From the FTC shutdown page:

    Consumers may file FOlA(sic) requests, but they will not be processed.

    Roughly translated: Pound sand, you unimportant twerps.

    1. It means the request waits until someone is available to process it. Whoever is in charge of processing FOIA requests must be non-essential.

      1. I understand that. It’s just that it’s not even worth mentioning unless you want to make a point of it.

  17. From the USDA:

    After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.

    Fuck you, that’s why.

  18. I find it funny that the DOE hasn’t even set up their domain properly. You have to enter the www in order to get to the website.

  19. The CIA page is open for business. Spooks never sleep.

  20. I like this one. Congress has failed you.…..y-disabled

  21. The sequester backfired on Oblunder. The ridiculous petty closings just to piss off the public should backfire now as well. Problem is that the Tass satellite agencies aka ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS ARE carrying the water for Herr Obama and blaming it all on the Republicans.

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