As I already mentioned earlier this week, President Obama just unilaterally designated five new national monuments and parks to the federal government’s keeping, and it might be easy to dismiss any partisan objections to his decision as just the complaints of those gosh darn spiteful, stubborn Republicans for whom the president can’t do anything right. After all, for what reason could anyone possibly object to something as seemingly benign as bringing a few more properties under the federal bureaucracy’s stewardship?
Oh hey, here’s a pretty good reason.
The federal government owns or leases between 55,000 and 77,000 vacant properties. But it’s impossible to tell exactly how many. No precise inventory has been kept.
Selling them off, though, could save taxpayers between $3 billion and $8 billion a year, according to various analysts. That’s nothing to scoff at as the government grapples with a mounting debt and sequester-tied spending cuts. …
Tom Schatz, of Citizens Against Government Waste said: “This is a problem that has been identified for years, and every time someone in the White House says ‘let’s sell property,’ the red tape is simply too much for this process.” …
Former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., notes that Congress is full of people who’ve never held private-sector jobs. “There is nothing wrong with that. But it means they have never really been in the position of running something, of making hard decisions, of having scarce resources and having to set priorities.”
It is both fiscally and environmentally irresponsible for the federal government to continue to add more lands and properties to the already bloated and widely unkempt federal estate, since we have the money for neither new acquisitions nor their maintenance. Here we are going berserk over $85 billion in sequester cuts, but we could save at least several billion every year merely by getting rid of the top-heavy regulations that make it an inexcusably major headache to shed excess properties.
The tens of thousands of properties noted above aren’t candidates for new monuments or anything, but it all comes down to the federal government being far too eager to assign public ownership to areas that would be better served by the private sector. A lot of these vacant properties have just been sitting idly and off the market for years, and as for monuments, Mary Katharine pointed out earlier this week that Mount Vernon is run by a private group that receives no federal funding; there are plenty of other historical sites and parks that could be doing the same thing, running at a profit and receiving the more careful stewardship that is part and parcel of private property.