The “Firemen First” Festival

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Charles Peters’ “Fireman First Principle”–outlined in this 1976 article–holds that a clever bureaucrat, faced with a budget reduction, will threaten to cut not the least essential services but the most essential (in order to provoke public outrage that results in the budget reduction getting cancelled):

Thus, [the clever bureaucrat] always picks on teachers, policemen, firemen first. … Similarly the Army, when faced with a budget cut, never points the finger at desk-bound lieutenant colonels. The victims are invariably combat troops. This is particularly unfortunate, since in government, as in human beings, fat tends to concentrate at the middle levels, where planning analysts and deputy assistant administrators spend their days attending meetings …

Peter’s princple came to mind when I read this headline on Drudge:


The headline refers to this report.  … Mission Accomplished! …

P.S.: White House warnings about the effects of a sequester are in keeping with Peters’ predictions. Here is Wonkblog regurgitating them: “70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start …”

P.P.S.: The real (non-Journolistic) rump of WaPo has a refreshingly maddening report on what really happened with the “cuts” announced in the April, 2011 deal to avoid a government shutdown. The Post describes $23 billion in make-believe reductions (like not spending $6 billion on another census the government wasn’t going to do anyway) with not a single federal worker getting laid off.

The Republicans who helped negotiate the looming “sequester” may have thought they were preventing more such make-believe specific cuts by relying on across the board percentage trims. What what they got instead was a Fireman First Festival. …

Mickey Kaus