Legislators are always looking for ways to pull America out of its bajillion-dollar deficit. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) came up with his own master plan that is totally not crazy at all — sell off America’s national parks one by one.

At a February town hall meeting, Stearns (who, BTW, is also a birther and a major figure in the attacks on Solyndra) spouted off about how America doesn’t need any new national parks — and, in fact, we’ve got too many and should be hawking the ones we do have. He said:

I got attacked in a previous town meeting for not supporting another national park in this country, a 200-mile trailway. And I told the man that we don’t need more national parks in this country, we need to actually sell off some of our national parks, and try and do what a normal family would do is — they wouldn’t ask Uncle Joe for a loan, they would sell their Cadillac, or they would take their kids out of private schools and put them into public schools to save to money instead of asking for their credit card to increase their debt ceiling.



So national parks — environmental jewels rooted in history that are open to all Americans — are the Cadillacs and private schools in this metaphor? Right, guess there’s no bigger elitist luxury than something everyone’s allowed to use. We’d better save that money for the oil subsidies Stearns supports so adamantly.

Not only is Stearns’ sentiment weirdly classist, it’s completely inaccurate. Statistics show that America’s national parks actually bring in a significant amount of dough for the country — more than a Cadillac and a private school combined!

In 2010, Florida’s Everglades National Park generated 2,364 jobs and over $140 million in visitor spending, and Florida’s 11 national parks in total provided $582 million in economic benefits. The National Park Service also reports that America’s parks overall created $31 billion and 258,000 jobs in 2010. In addition to their economic impacts, national parks have important value in that they are available to all of us for recreation, not just the wealthy few.

Looks like Stearns will need to come up with another half-baked money-making scheme. Maybe he can sell off America’s endangered species to furriers, or turn historic preservation sites into luxury condos.