Years ago, I had a summer job as a park ranger at a state campground. In my teen years, it had the reputation of being a “party campground,” a place where a lot of people went to camp out, drink heavily, and get rowdy. By the time I started working there, that had not been the case for a number of years, thanks to a crackdown by series of supervisors and park rangers. Keeping it that way was my job, making sure that campers followed the rules, insuring that things remained peaceful, and keeping problems small. Most of the time, it was a pretty dull job. You drove and walked around the campground, every now and then you’d have to stop and remind someone about some rule – quiet hours or removing anything that would attract bears – and check on various facilities. Most of the shift reports said the equivalent of “nothing happened,” which was the way the campers and the supervisor liked it. That was the way things stood long after I left, until the budget cuts.
What happened was that various managers decided that the easiest cuts were to the park rangers. After all, the campgrounds were “peaceful,” “quiet,” and they didn’t really need all those rangers. It was an obvious budget cut. While they were at it, they also decided that the park supervisors didn’t need to be out at night to check on things, and even more, to be paid for it. After all, it was a waste of money and there was “no need.” I heard about it from people I know who work in the campgrounds, because yes, they griped about it.
What happened? The problems returned. I learned of this from various family members who camp a lot, when they suddenly switched away from the campgrounds they used to frequent. “It’s a mess there,” “too noisy,” “I don’t go camping to be surrounded by a bunch of out-of-control drunks.” It turned out that the “unnecessary” and “extra” park rangers who’d been doing “nothing much” had indeed had an effect. Because they’d done their jobs, problems didn’t happen, and they were seen as unnecessary – until they weren’t there.
This is just an example – one of many – where numerous conservatives don’t “get it.” It’s fashionable these days to blame public workers for budget problems. They’re “lazy,” “overpaid,” and “unnecessary.” Never mind that study after study, in state after state, shows something quite different. No, they’re not “overpaid,” and no they’re not “lazy.” Unnecessary? Well, once they’re gone, that’s when the shoe drops. Suddenly, a service isn’t available. Waits for various things that remain increase remarkably. Things that used to be done by public workers either are left to individuals or not done. That’s been happening, and as various Tea Party politicians make their mark on states – and the federal government – it’s going to get much worse.
The reason I started thinking about this was because of the massive cuts to the federal budget proposed by the Republican House of Representatives. Lots of government services and agencies are going under the axe, so they can cut unnecessary government spending. They’re even willing to shut down the federal government to get their way. Yes, and something else I saw. There’s a map over at NOAA, which runs the Weather Service. It’s a predicted spring flooding map, and in particular, shows which areas are the most likely to be hardest hit as the winter snow melts. What’s interesting about it? Most of the states that are going to be hardest hit are “conservative” states, strongholds of the Republican Party and with lots of Tea Party advocates.
Yes, those places are about to get a lesson. You see, the first thing they’re going to do is scream for federal help. They’re going to want loans, insurance, rebuilding funds, and emergency aid. There’s a lot of agriculture there, and they’re rather assuming that there will be aid for crop losses. Well, if the Republicans have shut down the government, or get their budget cuts, it isn’t going to happen. The money and the people for those sorts of things won’t be there. It’s all “unnecessary,” you see. Until it’s not there.