Our republican democracy remains closed, shut, hijacked – call it what you will. Watching the bare-knuckled tactics of the GOP immediately brings to mind another term, the all too familiar privatization ruse – Disaster Capitalism. Hostage politics, make no mistake, fosters the very same conditions of escalated crises that creates a space for radicalized privatization and private sector encroachment onto the private sector. In the GOP’s shutdown scheme the obvious place where that brass-knuckling occurs is in the negotiation phase where the political extortionists demand what is most dear to We the People, and under hostage conditions it is highly likely they will receive what is most dear – our Progressive legacy. This is the time to shred the safety net. And that negotiation phase is where all eyes focus intently. Perhaps too intently.
For while the nations’s eyes focus intently on the concessions, in the unhallowed chambers of the House of Representatives, is another Progressive Legacy that we can’t reclaim once it is lost to the ruthless extortionists. That legacy is our public parks, our public, our public body.
While the nation itself grinds to a halt, the GOP is moving at a nauseating clip. A mind-numbing clip:
The U.S. government remains shut down, thanks to House Republicans’ refusal to fund the government without defunding the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, 401 national parks across the country are closed to tourists and vacationers, provoking “pretty livid” responses.
But the fact that the government and parks are closed hasn’t stopped Congress from holding hearings, including one Thursday in the House Natural Resources Committee on a bill that would force a fire sale of 3.3 million acres of public lands.
And of course, while national parks are closed to the public, they remain open to oil and gas drilling.
This is Disaster Capitalism at its finest.
The Center For American Progress report on the peril of our national parks and public lands since the Tea Party take over in the House:
1. Gutted the budget for America’s national parks and public lands. Since 2010, the budget to operate national parks has been slashed by 13 percent in today’s dollars, or $315 million. Chronic underfunding of national parks and public lands has contributed to an estimated $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance at national parks.
2. Forced seasonal closures of national parks and visitor centers. As a result of mandatory funding cuts under the sequester, the national parks were unable to hire 1,900 workers for the busy 2013 summer season. Several national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had to implement seasonal closures, reduce visitor-center hours, and cancel interpretive programs. Twenty-nine national wildlife refuges had to close for hunting in 2013 as a result of the sequester.
3. Halted the creation of new parks and wilderness. The last Congress was the first since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a national park, wilderness, monument, or national wildlife refuge, and—unless something changes—the current Congress is on track to become the second. This freeze on land conservation has resulted in a massive imbalance between how much public land is being leased to oil and gas companies and how much is being protected for recreation and public use.
4. Moved to eliminate America’s premier conservation program. In July, the House Appropriations Committee passed a 2014 budget that would—for the first time in history—eliminate the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses a small portion of offshore oil and gas revenues to fund the protection of parks, battlefields, trails, and open spaces. The House proposed diverting the revenues for unrelated and unauthorized spending.
5. Selling off America’s parks and public lands. Even amid the closure of national parks and public lands this week, House Republicans are moving ahead with legislation to sell off public lands in western states to the highest bidder. Other recent proposals in the House would have sold off approximately 3.3 million acres of public lands, despite polling that shows that 71 percent of westerners oppose selling off public lands.
Sandwiched between Starving the Beast and Disaster Capitalism, our public lands and national parks will be squeezed out of existence. The GOP’s Shut Down has the potential for permanently shutting down the Progressive Legacy of our public lands. We the People must not forget this moment. We must remember the extent to which Republicans will go to eliminate any vestige of our society of individuals that can be deemed public.