When Congressional Republicans shut down the government in 1995, it was the closing of the national parks which seemed to draw public attention to the impact of the budget impasse. In fact, the outcome did result in the temporary closing of 368 park sites and a loss of an estimated 7 million visitors, with local communities bearing the loss of tourism dollars, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
The recurring budget crises in Washington this year also raise the specter of potential impact on the parks. Why pick on the parks? Sure, they are symbolic, and easy for the general public to understand. Certainly easier to understand than some indecipherable federal program, buried in any one of dozens of federal agencies. Further, as a symbol, they project our common heritage, the best of our history of our land, of what holds us together as a nation. The argument is that these impacts affect what we hold dearest.
Or do we? For those serious about the size of government, the dire consequence of closing the parks may not seem so dire after all. It’s not hard to imagine a Tea Partier reacting with a big shrug to the fact that some retirees may have to change vacation plans because of the shutdown. Or, one of those big political funders in the 1% is probably yawning, preferring to preserve their special tax loopholes, when they could probably buy out any number of the parks they threaten to shut down.
Why not pick on something that would that would really hurt those bringing about this impasse? Here’s a suggestion: identify all those earmarked special interest programs and cut those first.
Or, furlough first Members of Congress and their staffs, since their impasse shows they’re not doing anything anyway.