Tea Party Steals our Money, Wants to Sell National Parks to Subsidize their Greed

The author at Badlands National Park
The author at Badlands National Park
So remember how upset the tea partiers were when the shutdown closed the national parks? It smacked even then of false outrage. After all, these are the people who support the Keystone XL Pipeline which , according to the Department of the Interior, “has the potential to affect resources and values at seven units of the National Park System,” but did you know at the time that they want to sell our national parks?

Small government anarchists like Alaska’s Joe Miller want their states to control (and be free to develop) federal lands within their states. “The ultimate goal has to be state control over the (resource) base,” Miller said in 2010. Michele Bachmann wanted to drill for oil in the Everglades in 2011. Anti-Semite Ron Paul (R-TX) echoed these calls in 2012, saying he wanted to disband the Department of the Interior.

This is a broad enough attack on our national parks. But in the Environment News Service reported in 2005 that Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) wanted to allow “foreign and U.S. mining corporations to buy millions of acres of public lands in the West, including land in national parks, wilderness and other protected areas.”

Since 2005 we’ve been afflicted with the anarchists of the tea party, and we’ve seen these calls renewed. In 2011, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) wanted to sell 3.3 million acres of our land (and not share the profits with us, of course). ClimateProgress reported,

His “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011” would force the Interior Department to sell 3.3 million acres of lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming to the highest bidder.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said in February of this year, “we don’t need more national parks in this country, we need to actually sell off some of our national parks…”

Grover Norquist followed suit:

Our National Parks are lucrative. Some 278 million people visit national parks yearly (the population of the United States is 317 million), and local communities benefit economically by proximity to the parks.

I have visited Yellowstone National Park numerous times, and other parks as well. The town of Cody, Wyoming, would always get my money as a result of my visits. Jackson Hole got more of my money than I would have liked when I visited Grand Teton National Park and Wall Drug always benefits from my visits to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. ThinkProgress reported in March, “In 2010, Florida’s Everglades National Park generated 2,364 jobs and over $140 million in visitor spending, and Florida’s 11 national parks in total provided $582 million in economic benefits.”

And we get all these benefits for a miniscule National Park Service budget of $2.98 billion (2012 enacted). Remember, the Republicans squandered $24 billion on their shutdown.

Cliff Stearns claimed they are too expensive and we should just “try and do what a normal family would do” and live within our means. Chaffetz said selling our parks would reduce the deficit, that “It is neither logical nor responsible for the federal government to own or manage surplus lands.”

But for what Ted Cruz spent on his antics, we could have funded the entire National Park Service for almost a decade, albeit at current, underfunded rates.

As Deener Shanker wrote at Salon earlier this month, “since 2010, Congress has cut the parks budget by 13%, leading to the seasonal closure of national parks including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.” It is not unfair to say that the Republican Party is waging not only a war on women, on the Postal Service, on education, on the environment, and so forth, but on the national park system.

But the national park system is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It is part of America’s heritage and it is held in trust for future generations. It belongs to all of us, not merely to a few plutocrats in Washington who stand to make millions by stealing and then selling that heritage.

We should be selling Ted Cruz, not the National Parks. He’s far more expensive and accomplishes a great deal less, or as British Prime Minister Lloyd George said of Britain’s ruling class, who like America’s plutocrats also wanted things they didn’t want to pay for, “A fully-equipped duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnaughts – and they are just as great a terror.”

Shanker pointed to the problem: It’s not how much the park system costs but how much the park system could make if it were privatized and put into the hands of the same sort of people who are enriching themselves by privatizing our education system.

For Congress, though, it’s not enough just to defund our parks so they slowly fall into total, unusable ruin. In this country, it’s also important that we “Drill, baby, drill,” not to mention, “Log, baby, log” and “Mine, baby, mine.” All of these efforts create serious threats to our parks.

You can be sure that the redistributive wealth messiah, Ted Cruz, will see to these economic disparities when he seizes power and turns the United States into a huge banana republic. After all, the rich are getting screwed; we are depriving them of all sorts of potential revenue by insisting like a bunch of commies that the national park system belongs to all of us.

How dare we?

“We the People” doesn’t mean much to the tea party, though they like to use the phrase a lot. just like they like to invoke Jesus without having a clue what Jesus actually said. Not only does the government belong to the people (we established it, after all) but so do the federal lands held in trust by the government and managed by it on our behalf. They do not belong to any tea party anarchist to sell and to profit by.

The tea party wants to sell what doesn’t belong to them, stealing our heritage to enrich themselves and the corporations that own them. We can’t let that happen and we can’t let their excuses to unanswered.

If they are genuinely concerned about reducing the deficit, they will keep their greedy paws off our public lands and dig down dip to restore that $24 billion they stole from We the People during their shutdown. That would be a good start.

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