July 7, 2006



Axing our national parks
by Jim Hightower

America's network of national parks is a natural resource so beloved by the public that even George W has posed in parks for photo-ops in his two presidential campaigns, promising to bolster funding for these treasures.

Once the campaigning is done, however, our park-lover-in-chief goes after them with a double-bladed budget ax. This hypocrisy is so blatant that, in the 2004 election year, Bush's spin miesters instructed park guides not to use the phrase "budget cutbacks," instead substituting the euphemism, "service level adjustments."

Now, Bush is back with his ax, quietly directing each park superintendent to prepare a five-year budget that will slash appropriations by up to a third. This at a time when the backlog of park repairs now tops $6.8 billion, an increase of $1.9 billion in George's five years.

And, once again, Bush political operatives have distributed "talking points," telling park employees how to spin the cuts to park visitors, who will, of course, notice the reduced hours, discontinued services, deteriorating facilities and increased fees. When visitors ask why they're paying more for less, the memo tells employees to respond with this sentence: "The National Park Service, like most agencies, is tightening its belt as our nation rebuilds from Katrina, continues the war on terrorism and strives to reduce the deficit."

Holy Ansel Adams! The administration that totally botched up the response to Katrina, that has us mired in a bloody $300 billion war of lies, and that has been the worst deficit bloater in U.S. history — now wants to use these debacles as its excuse for gutting our public parks!

To fight both the cutbacks and the rank dishonesty of the Bushites, call the watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: 202-265-7337.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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