A government shutdown will not only close the National Parks, but it will also cost local communities that border those parks substantial sums of lost tourism revenue. Many communities that border America’s oldest National Park, Yellowstone, will see a significant reduction in visitors even though those towns are heavily dependent upon tourist revenue to sustain their local economies. A government shutdown will hurt these town’s local economies. Employees will see hours cut and or jobs lost as a result, and people searching for work will find that jobs become increasingly scarce as hiring is almost certain to dry up in the tourist-dependent economies of their local communities.
This affects real people, but of course elections have consequences and these communities are full of voters who ironically chose anti-government Tea Party Republicans to represent them in Congress. Perhaps, they did not realize that a government shut down would also mean shutting down their livelihood. Maybe they assumed their lawmakers would only shut down programs and services that do not directly affect them. Whether the voters were hopelessly naive or just not paying attention, they bear partial responsibility for the coming collapse of the fall economies in their local towns.
West Yellowstone, Montana, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park from the West is located in Gallatin County. In 2012, Gallatin County chose Tea Party Republican Steve Daines by a 52.9-42.7 margin over his Democratic opponent, Kim Gillan. Congressman Daines is so opposed to federal spending that he was one of the GOP Representatives who opposed federal aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He is also willing to shutdown the federal government that administers to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, two of Montana’s most important tourist attractions that sustain the economic viability of many of the state’s small communities, including the town of West Yellowstone.
Across the border in Wyoming, political support for electing a Republican to Congress is even more lopsided. Park County, Wyoming chose Republican Cynthia Lummis by an outlandish 74.0-16.2 percent over her Democratic opponent, Chris Henrichsen. Park County includes a major portion of Yellowstone National Park and the city of Cody which is the gateway to the East Entrance to the park.
The communities of Cody, Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana are heavily sustained through tourism revenue as a direct result of their proximity to Yellowstone National Park. When the federal government closes, few cities in the country will feel near the impact that West Yellowstone and Cody will feel. Yet we should mourn the loss of local revenue and its impact on the citizens of these fine communities. However, we should also remind the residents of these towns that when they chose to elect representatives on the basis of fierce anti-government rhetoric, they endorsed the very shut down that now threatens their economic livelihood. Republicans always seem to be fond of the “tough love” approach anyway, maybe it is fitting that this time they will be the ones who are targeted for a dose of the medicine they so eagerly wish to apply to others. West Yellowstone, Montana and Cody, Wyoming when your communities suffer the economic consequences brought about by a government shutdown, just remember you voted for this.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.