August 28, 2006

Our underfunded National Parks

Thieves and Vandals Put a National Gem at RiskWith 100 archeological sites per square mile, Canyons of the Ancients is regarded as the richest trove in an area famous for its remnants of American prehistory—the Four Corners region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Yet Canyons of the Ancients has only one law enforcement officer to police the monument's 250 square miles.

At many federally managed cultural sites, damage is widespread, from casual pilfering by arrowhead collectors to excavating by professional thieves. Some haul power tools into canyons to cut out rock art panels. In a 2003 study of cultural and fossil resources on public land, the BLM reported that "increasing visitation to public lands is resulting in both intentional and inadvertent damage to these resources from collection, vandalism, surface disturbance…. Remote areas, once protected by their distance from populated areas, are now within easy reach of the hardy and well-equipped hiker, off-highway-vehicle user, and urban and suburban resident."
Comment:  Another of George W. Bush's crimes against humanity, albeit a nonfatal one.


Anonymous said...

"Another of George W. Bush's crimes against humanity"? This item is not the best place for knee-jerk Bush-bashing. This bit of news is not news to me: I remember reading similar accounts from before Bush is in office.

One technological reason not mentioned is those little off-road ATVs which are becoming more and more popular. These have opened up a lot of areas for use (and abuse).

I also wonder, how much are the parks really being funded? Is the funding going down, or is it increasing (as I have found with other federal programs) but being drained away by overpaid government workers and bureacrats so it can't help anything? Way too many "public servants" are in it to serve themselves instead of serve the public.

Rob said...

As far as I'm concerned, Bush-bashing is always appropriate. Bush's underfunding of our parks, along with opening some to development and allowing snowmobiles in others, is a crying shame. Letting vandals ravage our irreplaceable archaeological treasures is even worse.

According to the Washington Post, 4/17/06:

Parks Feel '80 Percent' Squeeze
Visitor Services Getting Pinched in Move to Cut Costs

The Bush administration has ordered America's national parks to show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets, which is forcing some parks to cut services for visitors as summer approaches.


This is at a time when the parks arguably need budget increases to deal with a growing visitor load, decaying infrastructure, and neglected resources such as Indian sites. Instead, Bush is giving away our tax receipts to the rich while while wasting half a trillion dollars in Iraq and running up the greatest budget deficit in history. Don't get me started on Bush's fiscal incompetence.

Or Bush's hypocrisy, which is par for the course. In speeches, he's talked about protecting our parks. But behind the scenes, inevitably, he proposes cuts that don't get publicized. This is why people have rightly called him a big fat liar.

While it's always good to root out inefficiencies, I doubt the Park Service has many. This is the type of situation where each ranger covers hundreds of square miles, not where a bunch of drones shuffle papers in an office building. I don't know about the Dept. of Interior in Washington DC, but I bet the parks themselves are lean and mean.

When we elect a Democrat and he or she neglects our national parks, I'll bash that person too. Until then, Bush is the person to bash.

Anonymous said...

With the mention of "80% of the budget", that shows that Bush has actually cut funding in real terms (or wants to). Thanks for the answer on that.

However, it is misleading to say he has *given* tax receipts to the rich. Most of the people who get to keep more of their own money under the tax cuts are middle class. The tax cuts have given no money to anyone: it is not a *gift* when someone robs you a little less. It has proven to be a responsible act as well: IRS revenues are at a record high. Tax cuts are not the problem. Overspending is.

Rob said...

It's well documented that Bush's taxcuts disproportionately favor the rich. For example, see:

These are only the results that showed up on the first page of a Google search, so the information isn't hard to find.

As for the philosophical argument, the rich get many more benefits from our government than the middle class and the poor do. These benefits include military and police protection, utilities, transportation, banks and currency, the legal system, etc. Our whole government is set up to to protect their private property and facilitate their commercial activities. It has been since the Founding Fathers went to war to avoid taxes and preserve their wealth.

Since we create the systems that allow the rich to profit, we're entitled to a fair share of their earnings in the form of tax receipts. These receipts pay for the necessary services and infrastructure that let them generate their wealth. They didn't earn anything without agreeing to play by society's rules, which means paying what society determines they owe.

That's the way capitalism works in a democracy. If rich people don't like paying what the public says is their fair share, they're welcome to leave the country and take their business elsewhere. We the majority determine how much profit they get to keep and how much they have to pay to fund the mechanisms of society. They the minority do not get to determine that themselves.

For more on this argument, see Are Taxes "Theft"?

Anonymous said...

It is an opinion of some that Bush's tax cuts disproportionately favor the rich. The links you provided were biased opinion sites that essentially presented opinion pieces that you linked to. Some of these were quite misleading.

The Common Dreams page is an excellent example of this. Since the rich often make many times more than the middle class, a small percentage cut will likely mean more real dollars not taken from the rich compared to the change in real dollars not taken from the middle class. They avoid looking at the actual effects. What is the actual result? AFTER the Bush tax cuts (1) the rich still pay the lion's share of taxes (2) on an individual basis, the rich pay a higher percentage of their income than the non-rich, and (3) on an individual basis, the rich pay much more in real dollars than the non-poor. This is the tax situation after the Bush tax cuts. This is the policy: one where the rich pay more. It takes a huge contortion of spin to call this a benefit for the rich.

In the 2006 federal income tax schedules (the result of the Bush tax plans being passed), those earning up to $61,300 pay 25%. Those paying $336,500 and over pay $35%.

"As for the philosophical argument, the rich get many more benefits from our government than the middle class and the poor do. These benefits include military and police protection...."

If this were true, so many of the wealthy would not have a need to hire private security guards at their mansions. The police would be doing it for them.

"Since we create the systems that allow the rich to profit, we're entitled to a fair share of their earnings in the form of tax receipts."

You would still get this if we made the system even more fair and had an income tax based on a flat percentage of income (with generous personal deductions to negate hardship on the lower end). Under a fair, flat, you would still have the Bill Gates' paying many times more than the Joe Sixpacks.

Rob said...

Thanks, but I'll go with the analyses in the articles I cited over your opinion that they're wrong. I suggest people Google "tax cuts benefit rich" and read the results themselves.

Sure, the rich will always pay more in our progressive tax system. Unless conservative get their way and make it a flat tax instead. The question isn't whether the rich pay more, but how their percentage of the total has changed. If they were paying 40% of the total before Bush's taxcuts and are now paying 35%, they've received a huge financial windfall compared to the middle class and working poor.

Sure, rich people have to hire private security guards to protect themselves. We can't put patrol cars sitting outside their homes 24 hours a day, can we? But this expense is a drop in the bucket compared to all the benefits they get.

Take our whole legal system, for instance. I bet some huge percentage of the cases deal with property and contract law. The number of times when average Joes and Josephines use the system to help themselves must be vanishingly small. So our entire system of laws and courts exists primarily to benefit the well off--the people with property and contracts. That it exists (in theory) to protect us all is merely a byproduct of that.

Besides, the relatively poor also take additional steps to safeguard themselves--e.g., installing alarms or bars on their windows. I suspect the amount people spend on security is roughly proportional to their income. When you have more assets, you spend more to protect them.

True, both groups receive a share of police protection. But studies have shown that rich people get more protection per crime incident than poor people do. So the system is designed to help the wealthy, not to help everyone equally. Those who have the most assets benefit the most from it.

Anonymous said...

I have googled "tax cuts benefit rich", and it is basically a political buzzword: an example of trying to lie so much that everyone will eventually believe it. It is not surprising that most of the first links are from opinion sites from organizations who don't want people to control their own money. The fact remains that the result of the Bush tax cut is a system where the rich pay a significantly higher percent rate.

Looks like we agree with the facts of what is happening here (even if we do not agree on what to call it): you did not deny that the tax rate, after the cuts, was a much higher percent for the rich than the non-rich. I disagree strongly with calling the amount people get to keep of their own money a "windfall" or any gift. Look at the definition of "windfall". Having less money forcibly taken away is not really a "gain", nor is anything accrued.

In response to "Sure, the rich will always pay more in our progressive tax system. Unless conservative get their way and make it a flat tax instead." Guess what. If conservatives get their way and enact a truly progressive and fair plan (a flat tax) the rich "will always pay more" as well.

Rob said...

The NY Times and CNN aren't opinion sites. In fact, CNN is a right-leaning news site. Considering that newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times have their content behind firewalls, that's a good sampling of the news.

Windfall: "an unexpected gain, piece of good fortune, or the like" (first definition according to Sounds like the present situation to me. In other words, my choice of words was correct.

Under a flat tax, the rich will pay the same amount proportionally as everyone else, even though the system benefits them more than anyone. In addition, 1) the marginal value of each additional dollar is less to them than it is to us, 2) much of their income is inherited rather than earned, and 3) they can manipulate politicians into passing laws to maintain and enhance their wealth. That's more than enough reason to keep the tax system progressive.

Let's also note that in your push for tax cuts, you didn't acknowledge the fact that the Bush administration is the biggest spender in US history. If someone cuts your wages, do you also increase your deficit spending? You must not believe in fiscal responsibility, since you'll let Bush shackle future generations with debt while you enjoy your tax cuts. I guess you must be a conservative.

Anonymous said...

Measured from the center of politics, both CNN and the New York Times lean to the left in their editorial policy.

Windfall "unexpected gain"? Since the money was theirs in the first place (they earned it), it can't really be called a "gain" when less of it is plundered by others.

I will answer this: "Let's also note that in your push for tax cuts, you didn't acknowledge the fact that the Bush administration is the biggest spender in US history"

Good question. It is tempered by the fact that the Democrats complain that Bush is not spending enough. Drunken sailors on both sides. This, however, does not excuse Bush. The tax cuts are not part of the debt problem, as they have resulted in more coming in. The debt problem is from overspending. To use your "wage" example, if you are making much higher wages, but are spending it at an even higher rate, then your wages really aren't the problem.

As for the flat tax, I support some version of the Forbes plan, under which all of the poor and most of the middle class get such generous personal exemptions that they don't even pay an income tax.

However, I do NOT want to "let Bush shackle future generations with debt". He doesn't even want to: he wants the tax cuts permanent.

Rob said...

Sorry, but your opinion about where the "center" of politics is is worthless.

Here, I'll help you find the center. According to the latest Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll conducted May 1-8, 2008, 72% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy. In other words, when presented with Bush's agenda of permanent tax cuts and soaring deficits, most Americans say no.

Moreover, the NY Times and CNN articles I provided were straight business reports, not editorials. So your reference to their "editorial policy" is mistaken and irrelevant.

In case you don't know how newspapers work, they generally keep their reporting and editorial sections separate. Editorials don't influence news reports and vice versa. The Wall Street Journal is the classic example of this: impeccably unbiased reporting combined with rabidly right-wing editorials.

You're playing semantics with the words "windfall" and "gain." If you didn't expect a tax cut and you suddenly get one, it's clearly "an unexpected gain, piece of good fortune, or the like." In other words, a windfall.

You must be watching too much Faux News if you think the Democratic philosophy is tax and spend. Go back in time to the Clinton era and learn the reality. Democrats balanced the budget by cutting spending and raising taxes, leading to the biggest economic boom in US history.

Bush the failed businessman squandered that success with his tax cuts for the rich and losing war on Iraq. Which is why he has the worst ratings of any president in modern history. Americans in the center have had enough of his stupid foreign and domestic policies. They want to kick his butt out of office.

Overall, it's crystal clear which party is more fiscally responsible. By almost any measure, it's the Democrats. If you're ignorant of the facts, visit Democrats Are Better Money Managers and educate yourself.