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EDITORIAL: Shutdown overreach evicts Lake Mead residents

Remember that incendiary 2011 advertisement in which a Paul Ryan lookalike dumped a sweet elderly woman from her wheelchair off a cliff? Try to envision a similar hit piece in which President Barack Obama serves eviction notices to senior citizens and threatens them with arrest if they don’t pack their stuff and leave their homes.

The difference between the over-the-top storyboards? The one involving the president is much closer to reality.

Shutdown theatrics have imposed hardship and inconvenience on millions of Americans nationwide, primarily through denying access to national parks, monuments, recreation areas and conservation areas. But the most hostile action from the National Park Service took place in Southern Nevada last week. In a stunt too outrageous for a “Jackass” movie, rangers kicked some 60 families out of their Lake Mead cabins, which are privately owned and sit on land leased from the federal government. The residents were given 24 hours to gather belongings and evacuate or face arrest.

Bob Hitchcock, a 71-year-old Las Vegan who has lived in his cabin for more than 25 years, was among those ordered out, even though he’s current on his land lease payments. Mr. Hitchcock told the Review-Journal’s Tom Ragan that no such order was given to cabin dwellers in 1995, when the federal government shut down for three weeks under the Clinton administration.

This shutdown is far different, a spare-no-expense exercise in punishing Americans who enjoy being outside in glorious fall weather. Much like the aforementioned advertisement that targeted Rep. Ryan and GOP efforts to limit the growth of federal spending, these shutdown tactics are designed to turn voters against House Republicans. Polls show the public sides with the president, who is blaming Republicans for the budget impasse that led to the shutdown, even though the executive branch is ordering the access crackdowns at national parks.

Those crackdowns are still happening at places the federal government doesn’t even control or scarcely patrols:

— More than 1,100 square miles of popular fishing waters in southern Florida have been declared off-limits by Washington, according to the Miami Herald. Have the fish been told they can’t swim there?

— San Francisco’s famous Cliff House restaurant, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, was ordered closed by the National Park Service because the private eatery, which receives no tax dollars, sits within Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The restaurant was allowed to remain open during the 1995 federal shutdown. (See a trend here?)

— At Mount Rushmore, the National Park Service took the extraordinary step of coning off roadside viewing areas outside the attraction. The Buffalo News reported that effort denied visitors from Western New York the ability to even take photographs of the monument. Again, putting up the cones required more work at more taxpayer expense than leaving the viewing areas open.

How phony is this shutdown? On Saturday, the Pentagon ordered 350,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work. If the defense secretary has the power (and the money) to put the equivalent of a mid-sized city back to work, why won’t the interior secretary reopen every closed national park?

The answer is simple: the president won’t allow it.

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