All you have to do is to listen to various conservatives to hear a constant litany of complaints about taxes and the government. Taxes are too high, government is unnecessary, spending is out of control, etc., etc., etc. They’ll bend your ear incessantly about it. Until the day that something they want, need, or like is threatened or isn’t done anymore. Then it’s critical, and “how could they!” That what they wanted cost money, tax money to be precise, was something they didn’t think of.
I’ve been forcibly reminded of this over the past few months as I’ve watched the battles over the closure of state parks. I’ve blogged extensively about it, and there are others who have been doing the same thing. In my previous post here, I talked about the closure of the access to a wilderness area, and the decision to not staff it. Why would this happen? Because there’s no money in the state budget. The state is in a budget crunch, and making serious cutbacks of “unnecessary” functions – including the parks and wilderness recreation areas.
This has upset people across the political spectrum. You can find diatribes against this on ultra-right wing blogs, ultra-left wing blogs, as well as anything in between on the political spectrum. It’s one of those things that create a sudden unity. To the public, it’s a “free” benefit. Hiking a trail, camping in a wilderness area, stopping at a lean-to along the way, going to a picnic area, and so on are “free.” A way to enjoy nature, get some fresh air and exercise. Sometimes they had to pay a fee to use something, but it wasn’t very expensive. A cheap method of recreation for most people. The problem with all of them is that most of them didn’t think of it as “supported by taxes.”
That’s right, your tax dollars at work. Those trails take work to maintain, and while volunteers can (and do) work on maintaining them, there is still a need for professionals to do some things – and they need to be paid. The access roads into a wilderness area need maintenance, the wilderness camping spots didn’t “just happen,” somebody acquired and built those lean-tos out there, and somebody has to go out and check on all of them. Parks don’t just “sit there.” Somebody had to build the fireplaces, somebody had to build the picnic tables, someone has to rake the beach and lifeguard. People have to mow the lawns, pick up trash, trim brush, and insure that things are kept up and safe.
It costs money to do all that. People have to be paid, equipment and supplies have to be bought. The fees on some things cover part of the cost, but not all of it. It’s only when it’s threatened that people suddenly wake up to the fact that it wasn’t free. It had to be paid for by something – and that was your taxes. The next time you want to complain about “too much government,” taxes, or that there are too many “lazy” government workers, ask yourself what “free” service you’re going to do without. Because it isn’t free – it costs money, stupid.