Who Knew that National Parks Were Such a Vital National Interest?


Hang in there, Lady Liberty, and wipe away those tears that flow like ink from the pens of newspaper cartoonists.

House and Senate Republicans, even—especially— those hardhearted bastards who are pushing to reduce wasteful and useless government spending as a matter of principle, are redefining what essential and vital means.

Here's Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) the mustache-twirling Black Bart of this gunslinging fight:

"We ought to fund vital priorities." Cruz said to a question by The Salt Lake Tribune, noting that Congress made a special exemption to ensure active-duty soldiers got paychecks during a shutdown and other agencies could be spared, too. "We should reopen the national parks today…

Here's Rep. Jason Chaffetz pounding on his question mark key via the Twitter:

Voted to fund Veterans, Parks, Monuments and even D.C. Dems vote NO. Who really wants a shut down???

Here's Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) channeling his inner Pee-Wee Herman and throwing down:

"You think we're holding the Affordable Care Act hostage? You're holding the national parks hostage."

Over at the Washington Examiner, Byron York discusses the changing dynamic as the federal shutdown enters its second day in which 80 percent of federal employees keep working (the horror, the horror):

Sometimes fights become so intense and so tangled that the original cause becomes obscured. In the government funding battle, the issue that sparked it all, Obamacare, was no longer center stage less than 24 hours after the shutdown began. The fight is now about the shutdown itself, and Obamacare has been pushed to the side.

York's whole col here.

As long as the fight is about the shutdown now, how about asking a variety of questions about whether national parks are indeed "vital priorities" or an essential function of the federal government?

Can't states—which already do the same thing—or private conservation trusts handle this sort of thing? There's something on the order of 397 parks, 582 natural landmarks, and 2,461 historical landmarks paid for with $2.75 billion in annual appropriations. The one thing we know for sure is that national parks suffer from bad management and have billions of dollars in deferred maintenance that they will never get to.

You'd expect that Tea Party Republicans to be among the loudest voices for offloading this stuff to states, local governments, or interested nonprofits. But as with so many things related to first principles about limiting the size, scope, and spending of government, you'd be wrong.

Related: "GOP 'Anarchists' Now Talking About Reopening…National Parks?"