EDITORIAL: Challenging the bully
The federal government has declared war on the customers at many of our places of public amusement, closing some of them and blocking access to some it can’t close. One of them is a popular boat launch on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put up barriers at an outdoor, unmanned concrete structure solely to deny the public the use of a ramp that it had long since paid for.
This was an affront too far for Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a Republican. He asserted the authority of his state against the Obama administration’s use of Wisconsin residents as pawns in a high-stakes political game. Determined to keep the Senate and take the House in November 2014, the Democrats think the only way they can do it is to make life as inconvenient as they can for as many people as they can and blame it on “the irresponsible Republicans.” That’s why the president shut down the government rather than negotiate a budget agreement with the Republicans.
But shutting down 18 percent of the federal government turned out to be not such a big a deal for most Americans. Life goes on. So the Obama administration must manufacture as much misery as it can and blame it all on the shutdown. The fight is about keeping the status quo intact, expanding unsustainable borrowing levels to keep the federal leviathan fed and opening new entitlement programs, such as Obamacare.
Washington is consumed with argument and debate, as Washington usually is, but beyond the Beltway, in places such as Wisconsin, Americans are more likely to gather the family and head out for a weekend to sample the sounds, sights and aromas of the land at autumn. With the leaves beginning to turn from green to brown and to scarlet and gold, nature is showing off in park and forest — and at boat launches.
Many, like the launch in Wisconsin, are operated jointly by the federal and state governments. Mr. Walker thinks that if Wisconsin pays for the operation, with contributions from Washington, the federal government has no right to close it and block access to it.
Mr. Walker dispatched state Department of Natural Resources personnel to take down the barriers and reopen the launch. He ordered the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve reopened. These were appropriate and measured responses to the vindictive overreach by Mr. Obama.
Other governors might give Mr. Walker a call. For example, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican, could assist tourists at Mount Vernon. George Washington’s plantation estate is one of Virginia’s favorite tourist destinations, but the National Park Service is blocking access to roads and parking lots. Dispatching state troopers to take down the barrier cones might even help Mr. McDonnell’s standing with the public. He needs help.
The federal abuse of the park system further raises the question of whether the government has too much land. The United States holds title to 650 million acres in the United States, more than two acres for every man, woman and child in America. That’s too much in the hands of an administration eager to shut out the public on a whim.