LETTER TO THE EDITOR – It is said that pain is the great teacher. That being the case, Utah in all its red glory, is learning a painful lesson.
The government shutdown illustrates the crisis that ensues when an unchecked ideology undermines the system and runs amok. Our Founding Fathers put into place a system of checks and balances designed to minimize the chances that a minority would impose its own interests on the majority, but the House Republicans, being led by Senator Cruz, are trying to do just that.
In 2009 Congress passed the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) and the president signed it into law. Some who did not like the bill tried to shut it down by trying to prove that it was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court found that it was in fact constitutional. Now that the law is set to take effect Republicans have decided that their only option to stop the law is to dig their heals in and not do their job, effectively shutting the government down; however, it was a short-sighted plan that is turning out to look more like gambling than strategy, and now that we can see their hand, proves to be a weak one at best. Whatever you think of the AHA, this shutdown is about the rule of law and the roles and duties of our governing bodies.
In the aftermath of their gamble Republicans are now trying to have their cake and eat it too by asking for government concessions on the National Parks while keeping the government shut down to try deflect responsibility away from them so that the consequences of the shutdown don’t make them look as bad as they do.
Utah has been in the process of suing the Federal Government for all of its public lands, but if this shutdown illustrates anything, it is that shutting down recreation and tourism brings the state of Utah to its knees. People come here for the clean, pristine, beauty found here, not for oil and gas platforms.
What everyone is up in arms about is access to those lands. I don’t see anyone crying about shutdown leases for oil and gas development. I don’t see people rushing to Vernal to vacation in the oil and gas boom town. What we are getting is a lesson in is good old fashioned environmentalism.
Turning our lands over to the state in the name of economic benefits from extractive industries only sounds good on paper. Utah has been poking this beast long enough to actually see it awaken in all its fury and now the state is back-peddling. Watching Republicans scramble around now to keep those lands open is amusing at the least and hypocritical at the worst.
What we are seeing here in Utah is that people live and recreate here because of the canyons, mountains, and activities that come with them, not because we offer the lowest tax rates for corporations. What we are seeing is that this land has real intrinsic, as well as economic , value and it is the health and wellness of that land that ensures it. We are getting a real lesson in economics that when something is gone, there is a real cost to its loss.
We are seeing that like freedom is not free, neither is the environment. We see that when you contaminate land during the boom, no one visits after it goes bust. That health and a clean environment actually produce positive things in an economy and that ignoring the costs of a contaminated landscape and a sick population really does impact the economy negatively. It is only after the government, government employees, and non-profits come in and clean up contaminated sites and restore them to a healthy state that people return. This should be an eye opener for our elected officials and those who complain about all the public land in this state.
Like parents who let the natural consequences of bad behavior by a child teach a lesson, the President is doing the same to the minority group of Republicans in the House and by so doing, like the parent who knows that the other siblings will learn as a result, is letting the public feel the effect of a closed government.
While there are certainly abuses and policies that are not good for this country, there are laws and processes in place to fix or undo them, which happen to provide the right way for the House to fix the problem. Like the repeal of the Volstead Act, if the AHA is as horrible as many believe it to be, then Congress can repeal it, the right way by proposing a new bill and getting a majority vote in Congress. Beyond that, we see that the government does provide many services that we take for granted. We see that the government’s management of public lands pays dividends for the communities and businesses that surround them. We have come to realize that our safety and well-being is ensured by all the park rangers, rescuers, and land managers who work tirelessly for us. We see that nothing is free, not healthcare, not recreation, and not access to public land.
We now see that a country determined to make profit the bottom line in all decisions cheats us all out of the spiritual, soul restorative activities that come from a government that works to ensure the common good for the entire commonwealth, not just wealth for the few at the expense of the many. Hopefully Utah’s Representatives will see that they are undermining the very document and process they claim so often to cherish and will put our government back to work.
Blaming the President or Democrats for the shutdown they perpetrated looks not only bad, but childish. It is time for Utah’s Representatives to stop playing games with our public lands and natural resources, stop paying lip service to fiscal responsibility and the economy, and show some humility and foresight by dropping their foolish and zealous efforts to take public lands that provide so much for this state in the name of States rights, or to hold our country hostage in name of denying healthcare to the masses.
Often my sons will tell me they will obey if I give them something in return, it doesn’t work for my sons any more than it should for the House Republicans. This is going to be a hard lesson for Utah and other Republican states to learn, but hopefully one that will bear good fruit that puts us back on track to living healthy, simple, humble, and abundant lives.
Submitted by Greta Hyland
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- Bryce Canyon businesses say ‘it’s hurting bad;’ impact of government shutdown, alternatives for tourists – Includes alternatives for tourists
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- Utah congressmen speak to government shutdown
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