Republican Senator Tom Coburn has opened up a hornet's nest among the Michigan Congressional delegation and Michigan outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen. He has said that spending federal money on Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw National Historic Park is wasteful.
Let's cut straight to the chase here: why should the federal government be involved in parks services at all? To keep certain areas pristine and free from development? But why? What true national interest is there when attempting to 'maintain' an island which is rather inaccessible and scarcely 16,000 folks per year see it? Why, in the case of the Keweenaw holdings, are we trying to keep up mining sites?
One could argue, for recreation. But isn't that just another code word for special interest? After all, when a scant 16,000 people care to visit Isle Royale, we are most certainly speaking of a narrow interest. Yet even beyond that, whether or not we have national parks should not be about numbers. They should be about a truly general interest before Washington should care about parks.
Or they ought to be held privately by people who actually care about them. Remember the Obama Administration trying to close Mount Vernon, only to find out that it's privately and reasonably maintained? Why should we imagine that a government which can't build a decent website but can increase health care costs under the thin veil of helping the people be able to keep parks clean and available?
We aren't sure that any national parks truly serve a general interest. But to the degree that they might, the standards should certainly be higher than they are. As it is, we're spending an awful lot of money on pork. Senator Coburn is right to draw attention to this. The oinks from the sties of the likes of our own Senator Carl Levin or Representative Dan Benishek are we really need to hear to know that the Oklahoman is on target.