March 21, 2013

Our View: Acadia delay shows cost of failure to cooperate

The sequester cuts may not be large, but they interfere with the delivery of services we need.

When people say that the federal government has a spending problem, they don't mean that there are too many restaurant workers in Bar Harbor or Ellsworth. But cutting those private-sector jobs is the kind of thing we should expect to see as the sequester starts to kick in.

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A cyclist makes her way down a carriage road in Acadia National Park with Jordan Pond in the background.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/2005 Press Herald file

Because of mandatory, across-the-board cuts, Acadia National Park will delay its official opening by one month. Until then, tourists won't be able to ride the Park Loop Road or drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain.

For about 150 temporary park workers, it means one month's less pay. But for business owners outside the park's gates, it probably means a slow start to a crucial season after a string of slow years.

On the weeks leading up to the deadline in which automatic, across-the-board spending cuts went into effect, there were arguments that the sequester would not make a noticeable impact on people's lives. The point was made repeatedly that the $85 billion cut from the current year's budget represented less than 3 percent of federal spending.

But the problem with the sequester is not only the amount of money that will be cut, but also the way it will be cut.

The cuts were designed to hurt. The idea was that facing mindless reductions to defense and discretionary spending -- the kind of government expenditures that people generally support -- our divided government would find a way to work together to find savings that made more sense.

They could not pull it off, however, and the sequester cuts are becoming a reality. This is not a case, as some argue, of the executive branch intentionally making the cuts more painful to prove a political point. This is how the sequester was designed to work, and it has.

Acadia National Park is not bankrupting the country. Tourism is not an excessive government program.

But Maine businesses will have to make do with one month's less activity during what's supposed to be the busiest season of the year.

Surely Congress and the president could find smarter ways to reduce the deficit and provide the services that support a healthy economy.

The delay of the Acadia opening is a small blip in the national economy, but it is an example of what happens when we can't work together.


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