The United States already has over $14,000,000,000,000 in debt, and runs an annual budget deficit of more than $1,600,000,000,000. The federal government already owns almost a third of all land in the United States, which precludes it from commercial use in most cases, and which costs taxpayers a fortune to maintain. Barack Obama thinks this situation has to change — which is why he’s proposing to, er, buy more land and spend more on conservation:
President Obama says he’s constantly telling his two daughters to turn off the television, stop using Skype and go outside. He wants to get more American kids off the couch and out the door, reconnecting with the world and its natural beauty.
And he wants to make it easier for Americans to use parks and public lands, saying that too many “can go days without stepping on a single blade of grass.”
Toward that end, the president wants Congress to double spending — to $900 million next year — on a conservation fund that’s used to buy more property for the federal government. Currently, the government owns 635 million acres, or roughly three out of every 10 acres, with the largest chunk in Alaska.
Obama launched his re-election campaign today on the promise to extend whatever change he’s brought to Washington, but buying land and spending money is just more business as usual. We should be discussing the sale of federal properties in order to raise capital and reduce costs. Given the results of last year’s midterms, the worst possible message Obama can send is the notion that we should increase discretionary spending in order to lock more natural resources away from taxpayers.
The National Park Service wants to spend almost $2 billion in buying land, but Republicans aren’t biting. Senator Lisa Murkoswki of Alaska, a state that has most of its land under federal control, reminded Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week that the government can’t keep up with maintenance on lands it already owns, and that Interior actually would have to cut its maintenance budget to buy more land. Rep. Doc Hastings, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, made the same point, saying that the federal government needs to fix what it does now before proposing expansion.
It’s actually more basic than that. We need less land under federal control, not more, and we need more exploration and recovery of our natural resources — especially on energy — rather than less. The federal government should focus on what it can cut, not what it can buy. It’s hard to imagine an idea that shows Obama less in touch with the concerns of Americans than a land-grab spending spree.