Washington Monument syndrome describes the phenomenon where government agencies cut the most visible service provided by the government when faced with budget cuts.
It has been used in reference to cuts in popular services such as national parks and libraries or to valued public employees such as teachers and firefighters.
The term can also refer to claims by lawmakers that a proposed budget cut would hinder “essential” government services.
Although intended to highlight the government’s value to voters, it can also be aimed at lawmakers themselves. Faced with budget cuts in the 1970s, Amtrak announced plans to cease train routes in the home districts of several members of Congress.
The term was first used after George Hartzog, the seventh director of the National Park Service, closed popular national parks such as the Washington Monument and Grand Canyon National Park for two days a week in 1969. In response to complaints, Congress eventually restored the funding and Hartzog resigned.