Saturday, November 13, 2010

You Can't Have It Both Ways!

We Americans are in a quandary. Many of us have grown quite alarmed at the size of the national debt. It is staggering and many economists believe that we are on a path to financial disaster. The current president and the previous one have exacerbated the debt to a staggering level. In the last 60 years only presidents Clinton, Johnson, and Eisenhower have resided over balanced budgets-and only for a year or two of their terms. We clearly cannot spend more money than we take in any longer and most Americans realize this. Whether Congress does or not is another story however.

And on the state level, the current revenue scene is even bleaker. For most states, unlike the federal government must balance their budgets-it is the law, cemented in their constitutions. Achieving a balanced budget is simple in theory. You either raise revenues-ie TAXES- or reduce spending-ie CUTS. Simple, right? But, just like losing weight it is easier said than done. You either eat less-or exercise more-everyone knows this, yet many of us continue to struggle with weight gain. And we continue to struggle with bloated budgets starved of revenues. The economy is whimpering, so revenues are barely trickling in. We don't dare tax more, especially when so many folks are losing their jobs, their houses, and soon the battle with inflation.

So, it's time to cut the budget-until it is your sacred cow that gets slaughtered. Parks are one of my sacred cows. They are good for society, nature, and our nation. I don't believe I have to argue that point to you. Our parks have never been funded properly even during good times. The slide to fee collections began during the booming 1990s. Many folks protested loudly over park and forest fees and understandably so-but many of these same folks would probably yell loudly if we raise taxes to pay for these lands. We simply cannot have it both ways. We must resign ourselves to accepting fees, or lest we lose our parks and forests. In the United Kingdom which is suffering from crushing debt right now, members of parliament have approved the drastic measure of selling off public lands. The bi-partisan commission here in the US which is about to release their suggestions on how to cut the debt also includes the suggestion of selling off public land. That would be a tragedy on so many accounts and an affront to the millions of citizens and thousands of lawmakers both Democrat and Republican that have fought hard over the past century assuring us a legacy of public lands. Ironically, one of the periods of the greatest acquisition and development of parks and preserves was during the Great Depression, our worst economic period in our nation's history.

Selling and shutting down our public lands should not-should never-be an option. And our nation must practice fiscal prudence and responsibility and get its finances in order and balanced. But we as a nation have to decide-are our parks worth paying for? One way or another-increased taxes or increased fees seem to be the only answer. We can't have it both ways-We can't demand no tax increases and fees and expect our parks and preserves to remain open. Some things in life are worth fighting for and paying for-parks are one of them. I hope that regardless of your political leanings you agree with me. We have our work cut out for us if we are to continue our amazing legacy of parks and conservation in this great nation.

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