Downing: Tell me government is too big without telling me it’s too big



An unlikely symbol of bloated federal excess has emerged from the Alaska wilderness: Fat Bear Week. 

The annual weight-guessing contest organized by the National Park Service, Fat Bear Week has gained international notoriety for its playful voting to decide the Alaska grizzly bear that has packed on the most pounds during a summer of feasting on wild Alaska salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park.

Viewers take part in an online tournament-style elimination-bracket game, advancing to the next round of voting until a bear is crowned the fattest of them all. Last year, more than a million votes were cast and there was even a scandal around the ballot box having been stuffed.

The celebration of fantastically obese bruins begins Oct. 4 and runs through Oct. 10. Park Service employees count the votes and post them on social media platforms like X and Facebook.

Only this year, it won’t happen. Word comes to us from none other than Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola that – gasp! — Fat Bear Week will be canceled due to the government shutdown. 

“The bears will continue to get fat,” Peltola sighed on X. “Losing Fat Bear Week is far from the most severe consequence of a shutdown, but it is disappointing for Alaskans and many worldwide who enjoy following the bears of Katmai. If the bears can keep doing their job, why can’t Congress?”

First of all, her lecturing the United States Congress is rich. She is Congress, yet Peltola has the worst attendance in the House of Representatives, and not just because of the tragic death of her husband earlier this month. She was 12th from the bottom in recorded votes before that awful day.

But to my main point, this is how we know government in America is too big – agencies have so much fat on them that they now are entertainment venues devoted to bears porking up for hibernation. The game has become a sacred cow to Alaska’s representative, who in the most cringeworthy way possible compares the fattening bears to Congress.

We get it, Rep. Peltola. Taxpayers do indeed feel like we’re the fish jumping into the hungry mouths of the tax collectors.

It was just four months ago that the U.S. came close to defaulting on its obligations when it hit the debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion. That crisis was averted when the debt ceiling was magically lifted until Jan. 1, 2025.

In the four months since the debt ceiling was suspended, the country has added $3 trillion in debt, and is now shutting down some of its operations.

Who owns that U.S. debt? Thirty percent is owned by foreign nations, with Japan and China in the lead. Every dollar that Congress is voting on right now is borrowed money. 

For this fiscal year, the United States will borrow 9% of gross domestic product, which means 9% of the entire economy is simply Congress taking out a loan.

The looming Social Security trust fund crisis is next, estimated to run dry in 2034, one year sooner than last year’s projection from the Social Security Administration.

The party is over. It’s been great and it’s been fun, but everyone knows it’s over, even while the drunken spenders in Congress party on, with each member like Rep. Peltola beer-ponging this budget to the bitter end. 

But now the bottles are empty, the lights are going to be shut off, and the cops are on their way, so our spenders are grabbing the silverware and with one last drink in hand, will swing from the chandeliers until they come crashing down.

This was a great exercise in self-governance by the people, but it’s not what our Founders had in mind. It’s what they fought against.

We have some in Congress who get the gravity of the situation and the depravity of what has happened over the past 20 years.

Instead of calling them “ultra-Maga radical extremists,” we should consider what these fiscal hawks are saying: We have an opportunity to staunch the bleeding now. We won’t have that opportunity in the future. We’re at a now-or-never moment for America with fiscal conditions and economic indicators colliding like we’ve never seen before.

Fat Bear Week is no sacred cow. If our members of Congress — the ones who show up to work — aren’t willing to challenge the status quo and drastically reduce spending now, then we are all just prey leaping into the mouth of the apex predator.

Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.


  1. Perhaps if the network media allowed both sides of the argument to be presented then the majority of the spoon-fead public could grasp what the situation is really about. As presented it is made to appear as the administration is fighting a bunch of thugs who wish to shut down the government. Maybe it’s another insurrection, and will enable an executive order to allow endless spending.

  2. The fattest animal gets slaughtered. Just like our economy will.

    The collapse will come. It has to. No one has the willingness to stop it.

    This is what happens when a deliberately economically illiterate population is ruled by an irresponsible, entitled, out of touch government.

    It’s gonna be ugly.

    • > It’s gonna be ugly.

      Yes it is. And is avoidable. This is an optional choice. Weak men make hard times, ect. Most impactful advice I can give for what is likely coming is to make a serious and good faith effort to know Christ and consider His gift for your salvation. If you have done this then strengthen your family and church in whatever ways you can. You will need each other in the upcoming days.

      I am reminded of Hemingway’s quote, ” “They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.”

      • Vicarious redemption through human sacrifice is no way to running your life. Take responsibility for your own actions rather than relying on the torture and murder of an innocent person to do that for you. That would be immoral.

    • Masked; Thats the most intelligent post ever written by you that I have seen of all the comments you have ever written 😉

    • Well stated. I’ve seen this approaching for the last 25 years. It’s unavoidable. Maybe we’ll get it right next time around. That’s if some other country doesn’t roll in and crush us all…..

    • – agencies have so much fat on them that they now are entertainment venues devoted to bears porking up for hibernation.
      these bears have over 11million views a year. A new National Park Service report shows that the 2,023,881 visitors to Alaska’s national parks spent nearly $1.2 million in the state in 2022, resulting in 16,450 jobs and with a cumulative benefit of $1.79 billion to the state economy. A trail cam costs less than $100. The NPS has some private partnership to operate the cameras, so it is possible the NPS cost may be very minimal. One camera expediated a rescue this summer which saved far more money than their cost. these cameras are example of an agency doing something right. Donna Arduin could even see this.
      I consider myself a fiscal conservative. I am for cutting waste. The Biden administration just cut offshore oil leasing in Alaska. Due to lack of interest from the industry this program has been a financial loser. Ironically most posters here still support keeping the program. So that is the problem one person’s pork is another’s payday.
      I was not a supporter of Trump’s tax cuts. I did not understand cutting your source of revenue. We are seeing it playout that the tax cuts have added to the federal debt.

      • Leo, brandon has been inching up taxes and fees everywhere he can keep them out of the media, though they are still lower than under clinton and obama. A bold tax increase now would collapse the house of cards we have built. Tax CUTS need to come – and with them serious cuts in spending, while ignoring NIMBY syndrome. For every expenditure, there is a constituency that demands it be kept in perpetuity. My suggestion: let’s start the cutting by ending all entitlement programs for able people unwilling to work, and followed quickly by ending all subsidies to illegal aliens. Our social programs should only be available to citizens. All aliens on American soil working must pay their share of taxes. Oil production will provide a great deal of revenue, but is not a solution without spending cuts.

      • Your theory and the NPS report have a lot of leaps in them withoit substantiation that it is attributable to a $100 trailcam and seeing it playout that tax cuts are adding to the federal debt.
        The oil and gas industry, tourism industry, etc., all feel that their money and jobs compound exponentially, have a cumulative benefit to the AK economy and are all attributable to them as well.

      • In fact, Leo, tax cuts increase funds to the federal treasury. It works every time it’s tried. That is E V E R Y time, Leo.

        • You tell me I can keep more of my money I earn and I’ll work more to keep more which will mean…the treasury grows. But it also makes me more able to pay attention to politics since I am not struggling to put food on the table anymore. It makes one wonder why study after study and experiment after experiment shows that tax cuts do not reduce Fed income, those in power often love to raise taxes for whatever popular reason of the day is.

  3. A portend of the bad times coming our way thanks to Sloppy Joe’s schizophrenic foreign policy – China recently dumped almost half a trillion dollars of American Treasury bonds and indicated they will not be buying more.

  4. Government is WAY too big……..because our population is too big. Even though our birth rate is barely over replacement rate, our population continues to rise at a high rate. The United States is the third most populous nation on Earth, behind only China and India. To think that we can shrink government under our currently out-of-control rate of illegal immigration is a fantasy.

  5. Just last night a family member of mine accused me of being a radical. And it’s my fault the government is shutting down. It was ugly. Btw I am a voting Republican and family member is a leftist democrat. But I’m the radical … I hate the way my family and friends are so divided even to the point of ending relationships. Never used to be this way.

  6. Daddy’s Little Princess took Ted’s Senate seat in 12-2002 and held that seat ever since … 20+ years. In 2002, the National Debt was ~$6Trillion. Today, as of this writing, the National Debt is over $33Trillion (and climbing quickly).
    So(!!!), one should be asking yourself if there’s a correlation that may indicate, she’s more of a problem rather than a solution???

    • I think you’re a bit confused. Ted Stevens was our Senator until 2010. Lisa started her Senate carrier in 2002, so could not have taken Ted’s seat. The national debt is everyone’s problem, but the increases have been much worse under demrat administrations.

      • Or Rich maybe the spending choices under democrat administrations and congresses have been worse than under Republican control while more of the debt been spent toward government activities much needed. Both had contributed to the debt. Its us the people we need to change. We all know a friend whom is a government, non profit, or government contractor, or union boss, or our local district leader whom tell us they can go to Dc to get more money. Why!? Is it really needed for our little needs or can it be funded locally. If it can’t then why isn’t that local district leadership developing any product to sell on competitive market to pay for our own community needs and wants

    • Daddy’s little princess took over daddy’s seat so he could be our governor. Mark Begich took over Ted’s seat after his politically motivated malicious prosecution tainted his reelection run. If only the Democrat’s election fraud operation had been in full swing in 2014 he’d still be our senator.

  7. Wikipedia sez the US economy since WWII has performed better under Democratic Presidents than Republican Presidents. As Sergeant Friday sez “just the facts Maam”

    • Oh “Frank”

      That’s sad. Really sad. Wiki also used to say (maybe still does) Covid came from a wet market. It also doesn’t understand what a recession is

      Carter vs Reagan-Reagan
      Bush vs Clinton -push
      Bush vs Obama – Bush
      Trump vs Obama and Biden – Trump
      Roosevelt – prolonged the Great Deperssion.
      Wilson (the original fascist) turned the army on troops protesting Wilson’s failure to pay them.

      History is not your thing, “Frank”

      More, it has less than zero to do with the topic at hand.

      • What about Truman? Was he a good democrat president? He seemed to have better character than Roosevelt? And state of Isreal came about while Truman was in office. I heard Roosevelt had a close relationship with Stalin and Musselini. I am not sure about Kennedy cause early on he put more Americans on government dependence by Medicare and he had progressive ideals. But that could had changed up to his sudden death.

    • Yeah, Wikipedia font of fact and no opinion. Right: Great source.

      And, setting aside R v D in the white house, let’s not forget what’s going on in the peoples house, as that does have some impact.

      And one cannot help but wonder why the R-POTUS’ might struggle a bit: Nixon (notwithstanding what corruption may have been internal) burdened by a war the Ds got us into; Reagan (who arguably led USA to a decade of prosperity) who had to contend with the economic malaise of the Carter administration; Slick Willy triangulating a ‘peoples house’ under R-control for the first time in 40 years to sign/pass common sense legislation of all sorts (welfare to workfare); GWB being saddled with a bursting economic bubble BORN during the WJC era and then getting smacked by turban-heads on 9/11 (shamefully allowing USA to be drug into a 20 year waste of lives, money, etc.) and then suffering a massive recession due to a r/e bubble brewed by a liberal Congress , while his successor was unable to identify a government handout program he didn’t like. As for Trump, he put people to work and made our country energy independent; the record spending? ALL congress…except for the wall. And your ‘moron in chief’ is out there selling off the materials for pennies instead of finishing the barrier.

      I shouldn’t respond to such missives…..

    • Because everyone should believe Wikipedia. (sarc) I have investigated several Wikipedia posts that happened in my lifetime and found them to be incorrect. And, when a Democrat gets elected after a conservative has done the hard things to repair an economy, it usually takes the next Dem longer than Biden did to screw it up again. But that can’t be brought up, it fails the narrative. Johnson and Obama combined to create the landslide of the economy into the crapper.

    • Frank – Wikipedia is not a legitimates source of information anymore. Even its founder has acknowledged that. Stop being propagandized for Christ’s sake!

  8. Protect and defend our (constitutional) rights. If you don’t know wart they are take a couple of surreptitious, remedial classes immediately! Then report back here on wart you have learned!

    • Sounds almost good AG, But what I see is the carbuncle in brandon’s Depends is about to burst. This is the singularly worst and weakest POTUS in US history. Yep, protecting our Constitutional Rights is of utmost importance, but you’d better define what you mean as the lefties think illegal aliens have the right to free healthcare and we should pay for abortions and trans surgeries worldwide – that those are equally “constitutional rights”.

  9. Don’t get bogged down by negative stuff. Knowing it is there is enough concern. If one already knows he has decided to live more independently than depending upon government and family then keep at it. Be encourager to those around you to do likewise. And read more with and to your youngins or teens and demonstrate by your example the importance for working and learn to build with something they are good at thats a benefit for community. I am glad when I was younger and a graduate of the Alaska Vocational Institute I was’nt received by the state supervisors interviewing me for an office clerk position. Today it be very hard for employees whom are dependent on government jobs to leave for the private sector where pay is lesser determined on product output and market. Americans need to learn what they are good at or what they always wanted to learn how to make and start building with their minds and hands again. Of course Americans can’t learn to be independent first if they refuse God and relearning who He really is, and He doesn’t want us dependent upon others nor living paycheck to paycheck.

    P.s Fat Bear week and its activities can still go on. It just have to go without pay and its workers will have to be volunteers. At one time these kind of activities were unpaid and an inkind service

  10. Great analysis Suzanne …..”we are “leaping into the mouth of an Apex predator”
    The predator is Eastern European (Cuban) style socialism, where everyone is equally poor.
    Except Mary & the rest of the Politburo (government employees)
    No wonder she’s always smiling …. she knows the peons will vote Democrat for food.

  11. I wonder how many assistant ballots counters needed to be hired. Pretty much only in government departments does an assistant’s assistant gets to have an assistant. Work loads are just sooooo overwhelming.

    • We’re borrowing not only for this month’s rent, but to pay the interest on the previous 95 years’ rent borrowing. The reason the Chicoms are dumping American Treasury Bonds is that brandon has so devalued the dollar that the bonds are losing real value.

  12. BTW, did any one else notice Maureen Suttman’s obituary in the paper a couple of days ago? I wondered why she hadn’t posted recently and especially on stories like this. While I thought her politics were way out there, I always got a few chuckles out of them. The interesting part was the list of groups that were suggested for donations. They were exactly as expected. RIP Maureen

      • She certainly did take the clot shots, by her own admission, and they almost certainly contributed to her untimely death. But even if she had not admitted as much, given her radical leftist political bent, it was as predictable as the sunrise that she would have taken them anyway — radical leftist extremists are nothing if not utter conformists.

  13. Check out the expression on that bear’s face – so constipated and full of fish he’s about to burst, just like congressional spending. Very uncomfortable. BTW, when using fat bear analogy, it’s not “a sacred cow” that we’re dealing with, but a sacred SOW.

  14. Very, very, fortunately we now have 45 days until the next shutdown crisis.

    Bears should be mostly in hibernation then. Whew.

  15. It’s not just the Feds folks. On the AK statewide level, there’s a LOT of money shuffling and smoke and mirrors games played with budgets. At your home or business try spending every single penny you were allocated by an arbitrary date or you don’t get allocated as much or more to spend next fiscal year. What a highly intelligent plan. And there’s a lot more bloated state agency games people don’t know about. This is not a disparagement of state employees. Most don’t like the system any better that you do but are precluded from doing anything about it for fear of retribution. It’s survival for them.

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