In my last post I talked about the screams coming from various Republican-controlled states as sequester cuts start hitting. Most of the articles were related to education cuts, or in the mind of conservatives, the more impact of cuts to military spending. This wasn’t surprising to anyone who can figure on what cuts would do to economies who rely on the “stability” of having military bases scattered around their state. But now the rest of the “conservative areas” are starting to see it, and in a place they care about: National Parks.
In reading through, I get more than a little sense of deja vu from the articles. You see, three years ago, this area went through that with our state parks. Because of a major budget shortfall, the governor decided to close various state parks and campgrounds, and slash hiring and maintenance. This caused a major political uproar, as the legislators found out in a hurry that people cared about their parks.
But in this area, the uproar was not just about the fact that various facilities were closing or openings delayed. It was because they’re major linchpins of the local economy. As I said back then:
While job cuts are in and of themselves a blow to the local economy, that’s not the entire picture. Someone outside the area might look at it as “they only lost X jobs, and while that sucks, it’s not a big deal.” Which is true, as far as it goes. Yes, the jobs did leave and weren’t replaced. But the effect is magnified by the loss of what these employees did. Remember, earlier I said that tourism is a major portion of the economy. The state is the economic linchpin. People come here to hike, to camp, to ski, to snowmobile, to hunt, to fish, and to experience nature. The ability to do that depends on the state. The trails, campgrounds, and water access points are for the most part owned by the state.
So this article in the Washington Post about the sequester’s effect Yellowstone was … familiar.
Mandatory cuts kicked in three days before the plows were to start clearing snow and ice from 300 roads at altitudes that reach 11,000 feet. Faced with an order from Washington to slice $1.8 million from his budget, the park superintendent, Dan Wenk, had considered his options.
He chose the “least bad” option, of delaying opening by two weeks. Which immediately caused an uproar in two states. Governors called, legislators called, and just about everyone else called in. But the sequester’s reality is that there’s a sudden cut of around 9% of the budget this year, and it isn’t a “choice” for him. The very area that’s a hotbed of “small government” and against spending and “waste” is suddenly faced with this reality:
The small towns at the park’s edge have been closely following Washington’s budget wars. All roads to survival lead to Yellowstone.
In short, that big government national park is the reason they have a viable economy. It’s not just there, it’s in many national parks and monuments across the country. One of “lessons” that people forgot was from 1995:
One of my most enduring memories from the first government shutdown in 1995 was the report about it on the network evening news the first day….
First, the lines were long because, even though the shutdown was widely reported, many people didn’t realize that national parks would be affected. Many of those shown said that they didn’t know the national parks were federal facilities.
Second, to put it mildly, the people shown on camera were irate. The government shutdown that was just an abstraction to most people up to that point immediately became very real and personal.
Yes, it’s easy to be against “big government,” bemoaning government spending and taxes when you aren’t impacted. After all, it’s always “someone else” who is a “taker,” the “47%” who just “want stuff.” Goodness knows, you aren’t dependent on government! Except when the day came when that budget axe fell, and suddenly your business, your jobs, your local economy turned out to depend on that federal spending.
They thought it was a good idea, and heck, even their elected representatives were (and are) still saying it was:
Just ask Wyoming’s lone House member, Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis (R), who applauded the $85 billion carved across the board in a letter to constituents.
“Instead of blindly filling empty desks,” she wrote last week, “federal agencies will be forced to consider which positions are crucial and make their decision based on necessity rather than luxury.”
Well, they asked for it, and they’re getting it. And they’re screaming their heads off about it. Maybe the lesson will sink in this time, or it’ll have to be repeated. After all, keeping a park open is a luxury, not a necessity, isn’t it?