Government Twitter Accounts Are Among the First Casualties of the Shutdown

The government officially shut down at midnight, which means that, for the time being, only essential government services will be in operation.

High on the list of government services deemed "nonessential" is the management of federal Twitter accounts.

Along with the national parks, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Library of Congress--all of which have effectively closed for business--Twitter accounts for NOAA Hurricane Hunters, NASA Voyager 2, and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (among many, many others) are going dark during the shutdown.

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Robert Jones
Robert Jones

On the first day of the government shut down, a word about “Big Government” to all those who continue to revile it – and who long for the “good old days” of 1776. First, government is Big today because our nation is Big. The US is no longer the same nation it was in 1776 (to say the least). Our population has increased from just under 3 million to over 316 million – an astounding 100-fold increase. Our land mass has increased more than 10-fold (!!) – expanding from about 360,000 square miles to 3.7 million square miles. Our Gross Domestic Product has gone from somewhere around $4 billion to nearly $16 trillion today. We have gone from a backwater nation to the wealthiest, most powerful country in the history of the world. Times have changed (just a bit). To manage all that you need a fairly good sized government. Period. To expect government to stay small under these circumstances is naïve to the point of sheer lunacy. Our economy and infrastructure are so complex and dynamic today that it would be incomprehensible to people of the 18th century. Second, our Government is Big today because business is Big. Since 1776, we have seen a great deal of economic change – most notably the rise of multinational corporations – which have concentrated wealth in an unprecedented fashion. Corporations can be great because they provide us with a stream of low-cost consumer goods/services that we have all come to know and love (cell phones, computers, Nike Air, etc). But corporations also have an enormous amount of power and somebody has to keep them in check. When we let the “free market” handle it (in the good old days), people were forced to work 18 hours a day, in toxic conditions, for wages that barely kept them alive. Free market businesses treated human beings like cattle, poured poison into our rivers, and sold products that were often dangerous, unreliable, or both. Then the Progressive Movement happened and government was used to counter the power of Big Business and force them to be more humane. Business didn’t like it much, because it ate into their profits, but society became a lot less savage. We’ve tried the free market – largely free of government regulation. Big Business proved itself to be greedy, violent, merciless, and indifferent to the needs of the people. The Gilded Age was a brutal and caustic time to be alive. The good old days were not so good for most. People who complain about Big Government should read more history. I, for one, am glad that we have government programs like Social Security to protect the elderly. In 1935, before Social Security, 50% of seniors lived in poverty. Today that number is down to 9.4%. I don’t see how that could ever be a bad thing. And let us not forget that the Affordable Care Act that Republicans are so quick to call “socialist” and “Big Government” came out of a proposal from the Heritage Foundation – a conservative, free-market oriented think tank. I guess it’s only socialist when Democrats propose it. Finally, can we stop longing for the “glory days” of 1776? We are indebted to the Founding Fathers in so many ways, but they were hardly perfect. In early America women couldn’t vote (half the population!), slavery was legal, free-blacks and other minorities were treated like second-class citizens, Native Americans were considered sub-human, less than 10% of Americans had any formal education, there was limited social mobility for most, and it took 3 full days to travel from Boston to New York. Roads were terrible, there was no indoor plumbing, health care was limited, and the average person died before they hit 40 (look it up!). Oh, but taxes were lower and government was smaller. Great. Today, we live in a more fair, just, and equitable society than we did in 1776. Let’s live in the present and make the best of what we have – and stop longing for a mythical past and a small government that is no longer realistic in our modern age. And for God’s sake, can we get some health care to the 30 million uninsured!

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