We’ve talked a lot here about the conservative governors in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin and their coordinated attack on the middle class as far as work goes. Summer is almost here, so I’ve started to think about the inevitable result of conservative dogma put into practice on time away from work.
To get some idea of how this will play out, I’d like to introduce you to the person former FOX News personality and Ohio Governor John Kasich hired to manage Ohio’s state parks.
David Mustine, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources:
Mustine is a former Senior Vice President at Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP) in its regulated business unit. At AEP, his responsibilities included regulatory and issues management, support services, business planning, financial management, business development and community services. He also worked for AEP in London. Since 2008, he has served as a director of Terraseis, an oil and gas services business based in Dubai.
Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan released this week includes a proposal to open up state parks to drilling for natural gas and oil, along with expanding timber sales.
But, not to worry:
David grew up enjoying the outdoors.
That’s nice. Having enjoyed the natural spaces that better, more far-sighted persons who came before him carefully set aside and protected from all manner of greed-heads bearing campaign donations, he now intends to set his former employers in the energy industry loose in state parks.
Use it up, burn it down, and make sure and leave it worse than you found it, Dave. After all, you got your personal childhood nature experience. It’s not like any other worthwhile twelve year old came along after you grew up and left “the outdoors” behind for a lucrative career in the oil and gas industry. Protected areas were there when you showed up and used them, and that’s all that matters, really. One and done.
I wander around on the trails in state parks in both Ohio and Michigan maybe four times a year, in all seasons. I was at this lovely Michigan state park last week. Based solely on my observations, there’s an identifiable demographic that rely on these public spaces for affordable leisure time activities: older retired people and parents with young children (year-round) and middle aged, working or middle class people on longer vacation stints (in the summer). There may also be elitist liberal hikers, campers and environmentalists, but I don’t see them, since I’m walking in circles half a mile from the parking lot among the sullen teen, toddler and oldster crowd.
The same is true in the small Ohio city where I live. Working and middle class people here rely on public spaces and public entities for entertainment, whether that means the public pool, public park, public library, or spending nearly every weekend watching public high school teams play soccer, football, basketball and baseball. It’s cheap, it’s accessible and it’s fun. It’s all entirely publicly funded.
Middle and working class leisure time enjoyed in public spaces won’t survive conservative dogma put into practice, where everything is subject to privatization and a profit incentive, and no carefully set aside public good is worth preserving or protecting. I’m wondering if the effects of radical conservative governance in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin will be immediately apparent not just in our working lives, but in our off-hours too.