Bush's Parks Budget: A Marketing Marvel

There's certainly a lot of hoopla these days over the president's FY08 budget proposal for the National Park Service, isn't there? I mean papers from coast-to-coast are heralding it, national park superintendents are applauding it, and, heck, even I've had some good things to say.
But we need to keep things in perspective, and as time passes details of this paper tiger are starting to stink.
As I've previously noted, construction funding for the agency would take a significant, $100 million+ hit under the president's proposal. Via that hit the administration would move much of the money to the park operations budget, which enables them to tout
the operations budget boost as the "largest increase ever" for the agency.
So while there might be more "flat hats" in the field this summer, more construction needs will be put off. Any guesses on how that will impact the park system down the road?
And let's not forget about how the budget calls for a significant increase in the reliance on volunteers -- less-skilled, less-knowledgeable, "less-expensive" volunteers who will take more and more positions previously held by full-time "flat hats." To better understand this dilemma, go back to a post I made last June to outline the looming presence volunteers were having in the parks.
Now, here's the most remarkable aspect of the prez's budget, and it's truly a stroke of marketing genius for this administration: the $3 billion centennial challenge that doesn't come close to his 7-year-old pledge to wipe out the Park Service's maintenance backlog.

Remember back during the 2000 presidential campaign when George promised he would, in his first term, wipe out the Park Service's maintenance backlog? At the time, that backlog was calculated by the General Accounting Office, to be drifting around $4.9 billion.
"The federal government has clear responsibility for the Everglades, as in each of the nearly 400 other national parks. In recent years, that obligation has sometimes been neglected. Many parks have lacked the resources the need for their basic care and maintenance. My administration will restore and renew America's national parks," George said during a photo op in Everglades National Park on June 4, 2001.
Heck, during his first campaign George said he'd spend an extra $1 billion a year
for five years to wipe out the backlog. Now, the administration keeps claiming that it's done serious damage to the backlog, and that it's checked off on more than 6,000 projects, but others disagree. Here's a snippet from an Associated Press story from 2006:
By next year, the Bush administration will have spent $5.6 billion on park maintenance and will have completed more than 6,000 construction projects. ... About $700 million of that spending is new money, Park Service budget figures show. That is far short of Bush's $1 billion-a-year goal.

And now George is proposing a $3 billion effort to buff and polish the national park system by 2016, $3 billion of which one-third would have to come from the private sector and one-third from future administrations and one-third from a yet-to-be-authorized federal match.
So let's recap things: Not only did George fail to erase the Park Service's backlog as he promised he would, but now he's actually offering less of a deal -- one that would take twice as long to accomplish, provide less money for the parks than what he promised back in 2000, and which must gain Congress's approval as well as private sector support.
And folks are going gaa-gaa over it?
Here's how Christopher Brauchli so succinctly summed up this travesty over at his blog, Spot-On:
By this newest proposal Mr. Bush has shown himself to be all things to all people - a fiscal conservative by not providing the promised $5 billion in 5 years and a friend of the parks by promising $2 billion within 14 years after the unfulfilled $5 billion promise was made.
Let's hope the Congress can do better, but it won't be easy, as the president's budget also would pilfer the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and there are congressional constituencies for those agencies that won't abide by George's plans, so money definitely will be tight.

Comments

Kurt-- And construction isn't the only NPS activity that is taking a hit so that the administration can claim the "largest operations increase" in NPS history. Historic preservation takes a $63 million or so hit; land acquisition and state assistance is reduced by some $22 million; and national recreation and preservation, an almost $49 million hit. Now, we are all delighted that there will be more money for parks to accomplish their most basic tasks: preserve and protect resources, provide quality visitor services, and maintain productive relationships with park interest groups. But what is being sacrificed to get there is not pretty.
Hey Ricky-boy...stop whining...ya whine about NO money, then ya bi&*h and moan when the Prez steps up to the plate....just like all ya liberals crying "we need more troops" (Iraq)...then when the Man steps up, it's the cowardly...no, no.... So go away...you have no solutions, only criticism.
Look, it's GI Joe again...more troops? We can't even manage what we have there now. What did the last election say Stan?....no more waste on this bogus war in Iraq. You right wing whacko's are the last ones to march in the front lines of the Iraq war....Beside's Rick knows what he's talking about, and you Stan are foaming at the mouth.
Hey Snowybird...I'm serving...where are you?...singing Kumbaya?? Go away...you're drawing flies!
I wasn't hiding like Bush & Cheney...served as a medic in Viet Nam. Any more questions!?