How Much Can You Afford?

We recently went camping in the Olympic National Park in Washington. Luckily, I have a senior pass, so I did not have to pay the $25 fee to enter the park, and only had to pay $10 a night for camping instead of the standard $20 per night. But this got me thinking. Without the senior pass, I would have had to pay $85 for 3 nights of camping. Washington State parks and local County parks are even worse.

The “mission” of the National Park Service goes as follows: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” And similarly, for the National Forest Service: “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Its motto is “Caring for the land and serving people.”

Given the increasing number of Americans who are falling nearer, or even below, the poverty level, I have to wonder if these two great organizations should change their mission statements to say “…. this and future generations who can afford it,” and “… present and future generations who can afford it,” and “… serving people who can afford it.”

Now, I understand that it costs a lot of money to maintain our national parks and forests, and to staff these services, but aren’t the fees charged tied directly to the funding given by Congress to these services? Cuts in funding will inevitably cause increases in the fees charged.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In today’s America, being able to afford it has become a requirement for just about everything, whether we are talking about the luxuries of life or the necessities of life. Plenty of health care, but only for those who can afford it. Being represented by your elected officials is prorated by how much money you have to spend. Freedom and liberty? The quality of your defense in any court of law also depends on how much you can afford to pay. It seems that even the inalienable rights our Founding Fathers so proudly described now only belong to “those who can afford it.”

Necessities of life, like food and shelter, all cost money. The determining factors of how much potential we are blessed with do not include wealth, skin color, gender, or nationality, but the determining factors of how much of our potential we fulfill do include such things as opportunity, education, and lack of hardship. Potential is non-transferable, and national potential is simply the summation of the individual potential of ALL Americans. So it follows that national accomplishment is diminished by wasted potential in ANY American, be they rich, poor, black, white, Christian, or Muslim. Without opportunity, potential is wasted. Without education, potential is wasted. With great hardship, potential cannot be fulfilled, and is wasted. With unchecked illness, potential is also wasted.

So, the conclusion that must be reached here is that helping your fellow American is helping yourself. The next great genius is just as likely to be born in the ghetto as in Beverly Hills, so things like health care for all Americans, education of equal quality in every school district, and social programs and taxation that helps the middle class and poor, instead of the wealthy, all serve to increase the amount of American potential that is fulfilled, and thus the level of accomplishment of America as a whole. And that is good for everyone and bad for no one.

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