The park service’s senseless giveaway to seniors

Glaciar National Park by Shutterstock.com

Article Highlights

  • The National Park Service offers seniors over the age of 61 the opportunity to purchase lifetime passes for $10.

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  • A one-time ticket to the Grand Canyon, just one of the National Parks, costs everyone else $25.

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  • This policy caters to a specific special-interest group that is chosen to receive benefits no one else receives.

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The National Park Service currently offers seniors over the age of 61 the opportunity to purchase lifetime passes for $10. That is $10 for perennial access to 410 national parks as well hundreds and hundreds of recreation sites managed by the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

To put this into perspective, a one-time ticket to the Grand Canyon, just one of the National Parks, costs everyone else $25.

This policy illustrates a number of frustrating features of federal government policymaking. First of all, it caters to a specific special-interest group that is chosen to receive benefits no one else receives, in this case the elderly.

Second, much like programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which provide benefits to senior citizens that far exceed the contributions they made to them, it redistributes funds from poor to old under the assumption that Ponzi schemes never fall apart. Third, it is an example of utterly unnecessary spending (or, more precisely, foregoing of revenue) at a time when many agencies, including the National Park Service, are being forced to tighten their belts thanks, in particular, to the automatic budget cuts put in place under sequestration.

Fortunately Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, is on the case. During a House Oversight hearing she told National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarves the following: "$10? At age 65? I think we need to look at that. There's a lot of people who can pay more than $10 for the rest of their lives."

Indeed. It may be peanuts in the grand scheme of things, but if even these kinds of reform are out of reach, all hope is lost for more comprehensive fiscal fixes.

 

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About the Author

 

Stan
Veuger

  • Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI.  His academic research focuses on political economy, and has been published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. He writes frequently for popular audiences on a variety of topics, including health and tax policy. He is a regular contributor to The Hill, The National Interest, U.S. News & World Report, and AEIdeas, AEI’s policy blog. Before joining AEI, Dr. Veuger was a teaching fellow at Harvard University and Universitat Pompeu Fabra. He is a board member of the Netherland-American Foundation in Washington and at The Bulwark, a quarterly public policy journal, and was a National Review Institute Washington Fellow. He is a graduate of Utrecht University and Erasmus University Rotterdam, and holds an M.Sc. in Economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, as well as A.M. and Ph.D. degrees, also in Economics, from Harvard University. His academic research website can be found here.


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