October 3, 2013

How to Keep National Parks Open? Privatize!

By: Daisy Letendre

How to Keep National Parks Open? Privatize!

The government shut down affects all Americans. This past Tuesday, however, veterans took the shutdown personally. A group of World War II veterans arrived in D.C. on Tuesday as part of a trip sponsored by the Honor Flight Network and found that their destination, the memorial erected in their honor, was closed. The World War II Memorial was ordered shut at 12:01AM EST on Tuesday as were all of the nation’s national parks. Carol Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, explained that this was not a decision made by the National Park Service but rather an act in compliance with the terms of the shutdown.
News coverage of this event is varying. Some express gratitude towards Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) for moving barricades to allow WWII veterans into the memorial. Others use the event to propose false vendettas held by politicians towards retired military personnel. Both of these accounts, however, neglect the important lessons that can be learned and applied in the future.

Representative Steve King (R-IA) was quoted saying that closing the WWII memorial is the “most spiteful act ever committed by a commander in chief.” What is puzzling about this declaration, feelings about Obama aside, is that the President himself did not decide to close the government, let alone the memorial. If anyone is “to blame” it is King and his colleagues in Congress who, in their unwillingness to compromise on the budget (a Constitutional duty of Congress,) have shut the government down. But pointing fingers is inefficient and ineffective so how then do we assure veterans and the general public are free to visit the sites they desire to visit even if government is closed? Two words: we privatize.

The privatization of the National Park Service would serve more than one purpose. It would allow important pieces of America to be seen in all circumstances of government activity and it would allow those who work for the National Park Service to receive regular and reliable paychecks, again, whether the government is open or otherwise. In this situation it is easy to feel empathy for our nation’s heroes who were unable to freely visit the memorial built in their honor. Yet we must not forget others who have also been wronged:  those who work to keep pieces of American history clean and safe and in this government shutdown are not receiving pay and are uncertain when they will again.

Ideally, the government would do its job and this discourse would be unnecessary. But while we have the opportunity let us consider the potential benefits of privatizing certain programs and services. At the very least there may be greater certainty in a nation determined increasingly by the uncertain fervors of self-serving politicians. After all, they get paid no matter what.

Daisy Letendre is an intern in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Trinity College.