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Op-ed Placement

Time for a Shutdown Reality Check

BY Adam Brandon
01/16/2019
Originally Published in The Hill by Adam Brandon on 1/16/19.

Mark Twain once commented “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This quote should come to mind whenever we hear the apocalyptic forecasts associated with the partial shutdown. Here’s a reality check: the partial shutdown is not nearly as bad as Democrats and pundits are making it out to be. The electricity and water still work and our roads are still paved. From what I can tell, my neighborhood doesn’t look like a scene out of “Mad Max.”

By looking at the bigger picture, you notice that things are nowhere near as bad as we’ve been told. In fact, the partial shutdown highlights why we should be proud of being Americans. Consider the fact that normal, everyday Americans took it upon themselves to clean up accumulated trash on the National Mall and in national parks across the country. Local, state and privately owned parks and museums are doing fine. These parks and museums are open, regardless if Congress decides to do its job or not.

This tells us that that Americans have a culture of volunteerism to be proud of. At the same time it shows that state, local, and privately run parks, monuments and museums are better equipped to preserve our beautiful country and its history. Private companies have even gone the extra mile to maintain the roads and bathrooms in Yellowstone.

We can look back at our history to see that this is nothing new. Take for example the Mount Vernon Ladies Association,, the nation’s oldest historic preservation society. A nonprofit organization, MVLA helped save Mount Vernon in 1853 by purchasing the land that was George Washington’s Virginia estate. The MVLA, along with a variety of similar, non-profit organizations continues to work to preserve Mount Vernon. Seeing that the federal government lacks the capacity and no-how, non-profit organizations are critical to preserving our historic sites. This is not a knock against park rangers, but against the bloated bureaucratic agencies in Washington that fail to realize local and nongovernmental groups know best what they are doing.

This even holds true in the case of airport security. Multiple headlines have heralded the dangers of an understaffed TSA. But is the TSA really the answer to our security fears? The TSA is perhaps one of the least effective federal agencies when you look at their record compared to cheaper, privatized alternatives. An undercover TSA screening check revealed more than 95 percent of weapons made it through the security checkpoint. Compared to countries such as Canada, whose privatized airport security is just or even more effective, the TSA is 40 percent more expensive. Time and time again, the TSA fails to accomplish what they set out to do, while their screening practices continue to be an affront to Americans’ civil liberties. If the TSA can’t even keep us safe when they are fully staffed, why should we fund it? Even deep blue San Francisco privatizes its airport security, to their benefit. Big-government elected officials in Congress should take note.

The same is true for the FDA. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a certification company from Illinois that performs safety tests on a wide range of products, including health and food. They operate in 46 different countries, and have been approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct safety tests. The FDA has also recently approved them to conduct premarket reviews of cybersecurity concerns on medical devices. With firms like this, the need for federal control over product screening is waning more every day, and the claim that consumers are at mortal risk while the FDA is temporarily unfunded is even more absurd

Life goes on, much as it did before the shutdown. Commentators often leave out the fact that three quarters of the federal government are still funded for fear of reminding Americans that only a small portion is indeed “shutdown.” By taking a holistic view of what’s happening around the nation, elected officials have an opportunity to get serious about the size and scope of the federal government. In almost every aspect of American life, the federal government would do well to scale back their far reaching programs and return control to states, local governments and ultimately the individual.

There are far too many issues in the United States today for federal bureaucrats to competently handle. The ongoing partial shutdown has spotlighted how Americans are more than capable of fixing problems themselves. A centralized approach only goes so far, let’s leave it to the locals who know best.