In a 2011 blog post titled "There's a New Sheriff in Town," the White House announced that Vice President Joe Biden was spearheading a new "effort to root out wasteful spending at every agency and department in the Federal Government" called the Campaign to Cut Waste. As if to emphasize the urgency of the situation, another post went up on the White House blog just fifty-six minutes later entitled TooManyWebsites.gov (a tongue-in-cheek title). Then-director of digital strategy Macon Phillips singled out several websites on Sheriff Biden's most wanted list:
As the President points out in this video, our government doesn't need a website dedicated to foresters who play the fiddle. We also don’t need multiple sites dealing with invasive plants (here and here). And I‘m pretty sure the website dedicated to the Centennial of Flight can come down... particularly since the Centennial was in 2003.
Here's where reality runs smack into fiction, or vice versa. In 2014, National Review's Jim Geraghty released his novel The Weed Agency. His book chronicles the saga of the fictional USDA Agency of Invasive Species, a zombie-like government entity that refuses to quit. In a parallel with Geraghty's book that almost seems like a promotional stunt, the two real-life "invasive plant" websites showcased by the White House more than three years ago as examples of redundancy that we "don't need"... both still exist today (here and here, and pictured below):
As you might imagine, Geraghty wasn't exactly caught flat-footed by this revelation. When asked for comment, he responded:
Somehow I am less than stunned to see that bold promises about cutting waste have not been kept. Barack Obama and Joe Biden, like Bill Clinton and Al Gore before them, and Jimmy Carter before them, knew that a key part of the progressive agenda requires restoring people's faith in government, including its efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, they contend - and fool themselves into thinking -- they have some magic formula for getting large bureaucracies with many layers of middle management, widely dispersed accountability, and a culture of complacency - and turning them into cost-efficient well-oiled machines. The forces of the status quo nods, smiles and carries on as if nothing changed. The difference between the Right and the Left is that this drives us bonkers, while the Left eventually shrugs its shoulders and accepts it as part of the price of doing business, so to speak.
The invasive plant websites were not the only ones to evade, at least initially, Biden's Campaign to Cut Waste. As Macon Phillips points out in his blog post, President Obama himself recorded a video in which he derided the notion that the federal government needed "a website dedicated to foresters who play the fiddle." Here's a screen capture of the website from the president's video: