Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is Wyoming Congressional Crackpot Cynthia Lummis Out To Destroy Her Own State's Tourist Industry?


Cynthia is the one in the cowboy drag

When Republicans were talking up Sequestration as a wonderful thing that the country should be celebrating, Wyoming's lone House member, Cynthia Lummis, a very rich (inherited, of course) right-wing extremist and proponent of the failed European Austerity agenda, was quoted everywhere as a hardliner on the cuts. "Sequestration will take place… I am excited," she crowed. "It will be the first time since I’ve been in Congress that we really have significant cuts." Excited because she was sold on the idea that the cuts would only hurt poor working families-- and especially persons of color, demographic groups Lummis has never shown the slightest bit of sympathy for or empathy with.

Other than mining and drilling, tourism is the top driver of Wyoming's robust economy. Tourism brings in over $2 billion a year in state revenues. Yellowstone National Park-- America's first-- gets approximately 3 million visitors a year. Other major tourist attractions in Wyoming include Grand Teton National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Independence Rock and Fossil Butte National Monument.

Monday Jed Lewison reported at Kos that things aren't working out quite the way the simple-minded Lummis imagined they would. Last week Lummis was cheering Wyoming Republicans by telling them that "Instead of blindly filling empty desks, federal agencies will be forced to consider which positions are crucial and make their decision based on necessity rather than luxury."
...until they hit home, like they did last week at Yellowstone National Park in Lummis's home state of Wyoming, where park superintendent Dan Wenk froze his workforce and delayed the start of seasonal hiring and plowing after being ordered to cut $1.8 million from his budget due to sequestration. The cuts will hurt Yellowstone tourism, delivering a blow to the region's economy, but thanks to cheerleaders of sequestration like Lummis, Wenk's hands were tied.

When Lummis was confronted with angry constituents, the obvious thing to do would have been to support repealing or replacing the sequester. Instead, she invented a fantasy in which Wenk was the villain, because instead of cutting his operating budget he should have lobbied Congress for permission to cut his capital budget. But not only was her "solution" not actually a solution, it would have actually increased spending over the long-run.

In an interview, Lummis suggested that Wenk petition House and Senate appropriators for permission to take money from his capital budget to cover the cuts, an idea he said was not legal and would never get through Congress in time.

Beyond the absurdity of a member of Congress urging one of her constituents to solve his problem by lobbying Congress, it would be astonishingly stupid to shift money from capital projects to current operations when interest rates are as low as they are. If you neglect long-term capital projects, sooner or later the bill will come due, and the longer you wait, the bigger the bill will be-- and interest rates are bound to be higher when they do. Unless you're planning to let your most core assets rot, in the long-run it's cheaper to act earlier with low interest rates, and you get the side benefit of whatever capital improvements you've made.

Basically, what Lummis says Wenk should have asked for is like that old saying about shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, except instead of telling him to shuffle the deck chairs, she's saying he should have asked the crew for permission to shuffle the deck chairs-- never mind the fact that she's a member of the crew. If this is the kind of genius Wyoming sends to Congress, they get what they deserve. It's just a shame that those of us who didn't vote for Lummis have to suffer the consequences as well.
Oddly (not really), Lummis hasn't agreed to sign on as a co-sponsor to the End The Sequester bill John Conyers and Alan Grayson introduced February 28, H.R. 900. It's simple enough so that even Lummis could understand it. The full text of the bill: "Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is repealed." And the official congressional explanation is just as clear and succinct: "To eliminate the sequestration under section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985."

Some of the more prosaic ways Sequestration, which Lummis says she's "excited" about, hurts Wyoming are generally not issues she ever concerns herself with. Before it went into effect, the White House warned this is what it would do to Wyoming specifically-- and just this year alone:
Teachers and Schools: Wyoming will lose approximately $1,154,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 20 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 1,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 10 fewer schools would receive funding.

o Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Wyoming will lose approximately $1,511,000 in funds for about 20 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

Work-Study Jobs: Around 130 fewer low income students in Wyoming would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 40 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 100 children in Wyoming, reducing access to critical early education.

Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Wyoming would lose about $1,107,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Wyoming could lose another $787,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

Military Readiness: In Wyoming, approximately 1,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $5.2 million in total.

o Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $1.3 million in Wyoming.

o Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in Wyoming would be cut by about $8 million.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution: Wyoming will lose about $36,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Job Search Assistance to Help those in Wyoming find Employment and Training: Wyoming will lose about $167,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 6,260 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

Child Care: Up to 100 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.

Vaccines for Children: In Wyoming around 230 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $16,000.

Public Health: Wyoming will lose approximately $352,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Wyoming will lose about $170,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 600 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Wyoming State Department of Health will lose about $38,000 resulting in around 1,000 fewer HIV tests.

STOP Violence Against Women Program: Wyoming could lose up to $12,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.

Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Wyoming would lose approximately $205,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.

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At 8:06 PM, Anonymous me said...

Elections have consequences.


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