I urge you to shift your eyes to Idyllwild Fire Chief Norm Walker’s column. The federal budget process is complicated and not at all akin to your private bank account.
We are all aware of the recent national debate over extending the federal debt ceiling and the need to reduce that debt for future generations.
It is easy and lazy to simply argue that eliminating the waste, fraud and abuse will save money and the programs on which we all rely will be unaffected.
There is nowhere near $2.5 trillion dollars of waste in the federal budget, unless you believe any federal expenditure is a mistake.
Sure, we hear about money for a bridge to nowhere, but that was $200 million. Believe me, I’m not “dissing” a few hundred million. But that’s not close to the billions and trillions that are truly affecting our lives here in Idyllwild.
We can identify with the $200,000 local recreation budget. Most of us know or our immediate friends and colleagues know the local people affected by that contract termination.
I doubt anyone here can identify with billions or trillions of dollars. In the spring, when Hemet Unified School District was preparing its budget of only $100 million, no one wrote or protested the effect of the district’s cuts on Idyllwild kids or a local resident who worked at Idyllwild School. Silence!
Besides the recent debate between Conor O’Farrell and Oyen Hoffman about public expenditures, I’ve heard zip from you.
Trillions of dollars. Here’s a million — 1,000,000. Here’s a billion — 1,000,000,000 — here’s a trillion — 1,000,000,000,000. That’s six more zeros, which means a trillion is a million million. So what, you might ask.
I suggest you quickly read both Chief Walker’s column and the article about last week’s Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting (see page 22). Both of these should bring that trillion into focus and make it relevant to Idyllwild property owners.
Only a few years ago, the Forest Service had more than $35 million to thin the local forests and maintain the fuelbreaks around town and other residential areas.
Next year, they will have less than $2 million — a 95-percent decrease. So how much of that $33 million cut was waste? Or fraud?
Circle back to the complicated federal budget process. Do you think the bureaucrats in regional offices or Washington were looking out for the interests of the residents in the San Jacinto Ranger District? Of the 155 national forests, covering more than 193 million acres, do you really believe the chief of fire management said, “We need more funding for the San Bernardino Forest or San Jacinto District”?
How did we get the special attention of the Forest Service chief? We didn’t. The reason money was available for fire prevention in this forest was becasue of the concern and attention of several local members of Congress — Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jerry Lewis, both members of their respective appropriation commitees, and Rep. Mary Bono Mack.
These individuals spoke up and worked to get money here, which helped us. These funds were specifically set aside for the San Bernardino National Forest. This action was formerly called an “earmark.” Yes, Idyllwild benefited from congressional earmarks.
But, in the hysterical reaction to the bridge to nowhere, Congress has essentially dismantled this process. So look at the funding levels for 2011 through 2013.
Still feel safe? Feel glad that federal waste and abuse is eliminated?
National waves and trends can overwhelm localities, just as a Santa Ana-driven fire can. But never think that we are immune from state or federal decisions until we innoculate our representatives.