The U.S. government stumbled headlong on Friday (March 1) toward wide-ranging spending cuts that threaten to hinder the economic recovery, after President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to find an alternative budget plan.
Reuters reported that the cuts, locked in during a bout of deficit-reduction fever in 2011, can only be halted by agreement between Congress and the White House.
A deal proved elusive in talks at the White House on Friday, meaning that government agencies will now begin to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and October 1. Financial markets in New York shrugged off the stalemate in Washington.
Democrats predict these cuts could soon have major impact on national parks while causing air traffic delays, furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal employees and disruption to education and law enforcement.
The full brunt of the automatic cuts will be borne over seven months, and Congress can stop them at any time if the two parties agree on how to do so.
But Obama was resigned to budgets shrinking.
“Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going, but Washington sure isn’t making it easy,” he said after meeting Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.
Given the absence of a deal, Obama is required by midnight to issue an order to federal agencies to reduce their budgets in a process known as “sequestration.” The White House budget office must send a report to Congress detailing the spending cuts.
The prevailing opinion in the outdoor hospitality industry is that efforts to reduce federal spending by cutting back on all government services, including the nation’s public lands, will be bad for private RV parks and campgrounds as well.
The deadline to avoid implementation of the so-called sequestration is Thursday (Feb. 29). Otherwise, the cutbacks take effect on Friday.
“I wish I could tell you there will be no impact,” Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), told Woodall’s Campground Management. “The impact will be a lot less than a lot of the hype in the media, and less than the impact of rising gasoline prices over the last month.”
However, he said the current crisis is a good time for the private sector (RV park and campground owners as well as RV manufacturers) to be proactive with the federal government and help scrutinize their expenditures.
“Owners can sit back and accept those cuts, then complain to members of Congress or they can look for a sustainable solition to become a partner with federal programs we would like to make sustainable, no matter what happens,” Crandall said.
“First of all, whether or not sequestration happens in its current form, we’re looking at a lean period for budgets of National Park Service (NPS) and other public land providers,” Crandall said. “Sequestration gets all the (current) spotlight, but the overall budget projections for federal agencies that now serve a billion visitors are not good for the next several years. It is an issue that everybody in the recreation field should be looking at.”
The private sector is good at operating on reduced budgets – businesses routinely do so during lean times, Crandall said, but the concept is almost alien to the federal government.
“Most of us had our personal budgets affected by the downturn in the economy starting in 2007,” he said, “but the recovery spending of 2008-2010 allowed the federal agencies to continue without any impact from the recession.”
Crandall opposes across-the-board cuts in agencies like the National Park Service, because such cuts would cut “muscle and bone as well as fat.”
Instead, Crandall is taking this opportunity to ask agencies like the NPS, which faces a $115 million cutback via sequestration, to work with the private sector for the betterment of both.
To read the entire report on Woodall’s Campground Management click here.