The federal government shutdown has almost hit the one month mark.
Because the government exerts control over major industries, when the politicians butt heads, it damages activities such as aviation, tourism and recreation.
The problem with the shutdown is not that President Trump is holding the government “hostage,” as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, but that the government has taken hostage of too much of the U.S. economy.
What to do? Privatize government services.
Consider security screening at the nation’s 450 commercial airports. The government took over that function in 2001 when it created the Transportation Security Administration. Over the years, the TSA has generally done a poor job, caused congestion and wasted a lot of money.
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Millions of Americans and the tourism and recreation industries are being affected by National Park Service furloughs. “National parks face years of damage from the government shutdown,” a National Geographic writer said. The national parks have long suffered from deterioration and mismanagement even under normal operations.
The solution is to restructure the parks as nonprofit organizations self-funded by fees and contributions, or to transfer them to state control. Today, while the government’s Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. is closed, the well-run and private Mount Vernon in Virginia – home of George Washington – is open for business.
Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service are not affected by the shutdown, but they are losing billions of dollars on their inefficient operations and can’t make needed reforms because of Washington’s dysfunction. They should also be cut loose from federal control.
The TVA is one of the largest electric utilities in the nation. It was created as part of the New Deal in 1933 by assembling land surrounding the Tennessee River and tributaries across seven states using land purchases and eminent domain. With the advantage of taxpayer funding and federal legal power, the TVA bullied private power producers out of the way, removed more than 15,000 people from their land, and grew by selling power through municipal power distributors, which were also subsidized by the government.
The federal government owns 640 million acres of land, which is 28 percent of the land in the United States.292 It owns 61 percent of the land in Alaska and 47 percent in the 11 coterminous western states, but just 4 percent of the land in the other 38 states. The federal agencies with the largest land holdings are the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), and Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Buildings and Structures:
The federal government owns or leases 275,000 buildings, including offices, warehouses, and health facilities.335 The government also owns or leases 481,000 structures, such as parking lots and bridges. The annual operating costs for the buildings and structures is $30 billion.336 The replacement value of federal buildings and structures was estimated at $1.5 trillion in 2007.337
The federal government owns the Bonneville Power Administration, the Southeastern Power Administration, the Southwestern Power Administration, and the Western Area Power Administration. These four utilities transmit wholesale electricity in 33 states. The power is mainly generated by the 130 hydroelectric plants owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) account for 7 percent of U.S. electricity consumption.357
The civilian part of the Army Corps of Engineers has more than 20,000 employees and annual net outlays of $7 billion. It constructs and maintains water infrastructure such as locks, waterways, and flood control structures. It owns and operates 75 hydropower plants, manages more than 4,000 recreational areas, and performs other engineering and construction activities, such as dredging seaports.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation is at the center of water policy in the arid American West. For more than a century, the agency has built and operated dams, canals, and hydropower plants in the 17 western states. It owns 76 hydropower plants and is the largest wholesaler of water in the nation.376 It has 5,200 employees and net budget outlays of $1.5 billion annually.