The Capitol Reflecting Pool: a serene, welcoming sight for stressed-out members of Congress and their aides as they hurry to work each morning.
And a serene, welcoming refuge for the ducks that call it home.
The pool's appeal to the mallards of D.C. is clear: open air, clean water — a nice, calm place to live.
The downside: Because the pool is enclosed by a small limestone ridge, ducklings have a hard time getting in and out.
Unlike most problems in Washington, however, this one had a fairly straightforward solution.
The Architect of the Capitol, the agency in charge of maintaining the pool, appropriated a couple of bucks and built two cheap little ramps for the lil' guys to climb:
All good, right?
Apparently, not for everyone, because ... Washington.
The site of the ramp appeared to perplex and infuriate Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who took to social media to express his displeasure.
If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be government waste. https://t.co/JKgabZ47O5— Mark Walker (@Mark Walker) 1494881798
Where the pool stewards saw an inexpensive, simple fix to improve the lives of a few dozen ducklings, the congressman apparently saw a wanton misuse of taxpayer dollars.
Needless to say, however, some people on Twitter were ... confused.
So is your official position is you'd prefer these baby ducks die? https://t.co/Vm1pobszNj https://t.co/ZgLAmMh5zT— Phil Torres (@Phil Torres) 1494992143
Aide: We need something to set you apart from all the other politicians Mark Walker: What if I'm the guy who hates… https://t.co/rTBsC2F6Kt— Jonathan Riley (@Jonathan Riley) 1494980543
Most people simply did not see what the congressman saw. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Turns out, a good number of Americans aren't opposed to spending somewhere south of $0.000000001 of their tax dollars on small solutions that actually work.
@RepMarkWalker I'm confused, that looks like a really cheap way to offset the ecosystem disruption of the concrete structure.— Will Hertel (@Will Hertel) 1494904452
@RepMarkWalker This actually looks like the kind of clever, low-cost solution to a problem that we hope our public servants employ.— Jane Espenson (@Jane Espenson) 1494972582
Skepticism of excessive government spending is healthy — but it's not "waste" if the spending actually solves problems.
"The ducks have an uncanny ability to locate a way out of the water, if one is provided," Anne Lewis, president of animal welfare organization City Wildlife, said in a statement defending the ramps.
"We can never truly predict their behavior, but our goal is to provide them the means to get in and out of the water, which is what they need to do in the wild to protect their duckling from becoming waterlogged or cold."
Agreeing on cheap solutions to small problems might even help us come together to fix the bigger, more controversial ones.
Solving issues like health care and taxes will require enormous amounts of effort and, ultimately, compromise. Most critically, solving them will require the government to work and, yes, spend money.
Building duck ramps is a small but real example of why it's important to have a working government. Programs like this may not turn a profit — which might make them seem like "waste." But that's not the point.
The goal is simply to make people's — and waterfowl's — lives a little easier.
Ultimately, uniting as Americans to agree to help a few ducklings find their way home is the least we can do.
Not to mention, photographic evidence proves the spending was efficient!
As I indicated yesterday, the ducks found the duck ramp. https://t.co/uapUW0sbNI— Niels Lesniewski (@Niels Lesniewski) 1494967406
Waddle on, baby ducks. Waddle on.
Correction 5/17/2017: This story originally stated that the ramps were installed at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The ramps were actually installed at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.