Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Shuffling Federal Paperwork

Shuffling Federal Paperwork

by Walter Brasch
October 13, 2013

The right-wing part of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with John Boehner in the role of spineless lackey rather than courageous Speaker, has shut down much of the federal government.

Eighty Republicans had signed a letter expressing their intent to shut down the government. It was a political act of defiance against government by people who themselves were government. The millionaire representatives have grabbed the media, which they publicly say they hate—except for one TV network and a few loud-mouth blowhards on radio—to proclaim their demands.

They demand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be defunded. To these ultra-conservatives, the most important health care insurance protection in the nation’s history is a socialist trap, just like Social Security, Medicare, and VA benefits. The Republicans tried more than 40 times to abolish Obamacare; more than 40 times they failed. The law was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President (who was re-elected by a majority of the people who fully knew where he stood on the ACA), found to be constitutional by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, and has the support of a majority of the American people.

And so they develop slogans, and have plastered the media with the words “negotiate” and “fairness.” It is the President’s responsibility, they declare, to negotiate and to be fair.

Apparently, political gesturing plays well in their newly-gerrymandered districts.

What doesn’t play well is the crass overt politics. In numerous polls, more than half of Americans place the blame for the shut-down not on the Democrats or President Obama, but to the Republican minority that has regressed to their lives as two-year-olds when they could scream, cry, kick, and hope to get their way.

But, the minority of the Republicans do have one point when they say government (but not the Defense Department) is too big and too unwieldy—although what they don’t say is that President Obama has already significantly trimmed the federal government to make it much more efficient at representing the people’s needs and concerns.

We now take you back to 1975, when government began trimming itself.

In 1975, Congress had created a Federal Paperwork Commission which recommended a cabinet-level Department of Administration, “to promote more efficient, effective and responsive administration of the federal government.” These transcripts may, or may not, have been recordings of the newly-formed department almost four decades ago.

Deep in an obscure federal building is Wilson P. Throckmorton, the first secretary of the Department of Administration. With him are his two key assistants, career administrators Samuel J. Stonewall and Waldo P. Rockbottom.

“Excuse me, sir,” says Stonewall, “but I notice that you have only the American flag behind your desk. You also need a cabinet flag.”

“Alright, make it blue with the Department’s gold seal in the middle.”

“Before you can get the flag, you have to fill out form DA-504 in quintuplicate. According to regulation 42, as explained in executive memo 11-07, as amended by executive memo 15-11 section 4, subsection b, all requests for executive-level flags must be approved by the Department of Administration. I don’t see any problem, though. I’m sure that the Department of Administration will give its approval.”

“But we are the Department of Administration.”

“No, sir, you don’t understand,” said Rockbottom. “We have a Department of Administration in the Department of Administration. It’s to handle all the paperwork. It’s really very efficient, effective, and responsive.”

“Well, if you say so. Now, Stonewall, what form do I fill out?”

“DA-504, sir. It’s to request Form DA-505B which is what you need to request a flag. Unless, of course, the request is for items of value more than $24.95, in which case you’ll need form DADA 554-332B. Or, unless you aren’t willing to wait more than a year. Then, you need to requisition Form OBDADA 442.11. That’s the emergency authorization form that allows you to request DADA 554-332E that’ll allow speedier action within the Office of Budget of the Department of Administration of the Department of Administration.”

“So, all I have to do is fill out this stack of forms and I’ll get my flag.”

“I’m sorry, sir. It’s not quite that simple. We also have to requisition the director of the Office of Graphic Arts, his senior artist--make sure you fill out a DA36C -the chief of the Office of Public Information, and a senior-level clerk to handle the notes of the meetings.”

“And what form do I use to request all of them?” asked the harassed secretary.

“It’s right here,” said Rockbottom, producing a handful of forms. “Forms DA-675.3 and DA-675.4, as amended. Fill them out in triplicate and the Office of Budget will probably approve your request and forward it.

Then, will I get my flag?”

“Not quite, sir,” said Rockbottom, “you’ll get the authorization to request the personnel.”

“But I just want a simple blue flag with--”

“Sir?” asked Stonewall.

“What is it, Stonewall?” demanded Throckmorton.

“The people you just requested have no authority to determine color. You’ll have to fill out form DA-763.69 to request the Office of Budget to recommend that you break Smeltgrass free to work on the color scheme.”

“All I want is a blue background!” Throckmorton cried out. “A simple blue background!”

“I’m truly sorry, sir, but regulations require a person of Smeltgrass’s expertise to determine what shade of blue.”

“O.K., so give me Form 763.69.”

“I’m terribly sorry, but first you need to fill out form DADA-1106 which requests Form DA-763 to request Smeltgrass.”

Two weeks later, Throckmorton, assisted by Stonewall, Rockbottom, two stenographers and four clerk-typists, finished filling out the appropriate forms.

“Sir,” asked Stonewall, “did you also want a stand for your flag?”


Walter Brasch never ever wanted to be any kind of an administrator or supervisor in his 40 years as a journalist and college professor; fortunately, no one wanted him to be one, either. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: ‘Disruption’ Is For Losers

Disruption – anarchic, dynamic, table-tipping, mould-breaking, consensus-shattering disruption – has become part of every corporate bout of auto-hype to the faddish point where the term has lost any useful meaning it might once have had. More>>


Werewolf: Coney Island (And The Trumps), Baby

Like much of that part of the coast, and given the storm surges of Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island should be occupied only by clumps of grass and seabirds. Instead there are 60,000 people in multi-storey apartment buildings living among the faded remnants of a once-spectacular fantasyland.. More>>


Gordon Campbell:
On Corbyn, Trump And Outsider Politics

Jeremy Corbyn elevated to the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party! Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the rise in the US… On both sides of the Atlantic, these are dark days for the political Establishment. More>>


Operation Chrysalis: A New Beginning For Scoop

On December 19th 2014 the Scoop Team set out on a project called "Operation Chrysalis". We decided to turn Scoop's 16 year old online news publishing business into a new kind of news business, one connected directly to its readers, owned by a not-for-profit and based on a new business model. More>>


Keith Rankin: The Economy - What's It For?

I re-watched the Q+A 'immigration debate' screenedon 23 August. In light of recent events, the discussion already seems very dated. The underlying assumptions were that the economy is a system in which production growth is pretty much the sole objective, and that migration policy must serve this end of output maximisation... More>>

Until Dawn: Pick Your Own Horrible Adventure

Suppermassive Games’ Until Dawn sees a group of dumb sexy teenagers take a trip to a spooky mansion atop a mountain. It is, obviously, a horror game. However, the game is so ridiculous it turns out to be more of a comedy. Until Dawn begins with ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news