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Hullabaloo


Sunday, January 08, 2017

 

Would England give away the Crown Jewels?

by Tom Sullivan


Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana. Centennial Mountains and Wetlands Picnic Creek meanders in the foreground with marshes and wetlands stretching to the Centennial Mountains in the distant. Photo by James N Perdue.

Dylan Ratigan's epic 2011 "America is being extracted" rant comes to mind this morning.

In addition to the House ethics fiasco and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve. King's attempt to encroach on the Supreme Court's turf, on Tuesday a House Republican introduced a rule to make it easier for the United States to rid itself of public lands We the People own. Think Progress reported:

A new rule, written by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), establishes as fact that any legislation to dispose of public lands and natural resources would cost taxpayers exactly $0. This paves the way for the new Congress to get rid of vast swaths of public lands — all at the expense of the American taxpayer.
Bishop spokesman Parish Braden told The Hill:
“In many cases federal lands create a significant burden for the surrounding communities,” Braden said in a statement.

“Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues, as well as reduce the need for other taxpayer-funded federal support, either through Payments in Lieu of Taxes or other programs like Secure Rural Schools,” he continued. “Unfortunately, current budget practices do not fully recognize these benefits, making it very difficult for non-controversial land transfers between governmental entities for public use and other reasons to happen.”
House Natural Resources Committee spokeswoman Molly Block repeated the talking point to the Washington Post, saying, “in many cases federal lands create a significant burden for the surrounding communities.” She went on, almost as if from a script:
“Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues” she added, as well as reduce the need for some federally-supported payments. “Unfortunately, current budget practices do not fully recognize these benefits, making it very difficult for non-controversial land transfers between governmental entities for public use and other reasons to happen.”

But many Democrats argue that these lands should be managed on behalf of all Americans, not just those living nearby, and warn that cash-strapped state and local officials might sell these parcels to developers.
One might infer that is the intent of the divestiture.

Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva issued a statement critical of the move:
Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a notice to Democratic leadership today highlighting a significant change the Republican Conference has proposed to House rules. The new provision would help House Republicans pursue their long-stated goal of giving away National Parks, Forests, Public Lands, Wildlife Refuges and other federal areas – currently owned and used by the American people – by requiring the House to pretend such giveaways have no cost.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) already significantly undervalues federal land conveyances. If enacted, the proposed rule change would ignore even this meager accounting, allowing the 115th Congress to claim giving away public land has no cost to the American people, even if CBO determines otherwise.

“The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd,” Grijalva said. “This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.”

State and local governments are unlikely to have the budget or staffing resources to actually own and manage large units of federal land. If House Republicans succeed in giving public land to states or localities, they would likely be forced to sell the land to the highest bidder.

“The proposal is one more example of the Trump Republican’s plans to use federal resources to enrich wealthy developers by making it easier for them to get their hands on invaluable federal lands currently owned by, and open to, all Americans.”
After a search of the non-digital archive inside my skull, I seem to remember conservatives in the 1970s opposing "radical" land reform efforts in third-world countries. Private property was sacrosanct. Redistributing land from rich, large landholders was insidious, creeping communism. Giving land to poor peasants might seem to liberals like a feel-good way to empower them, but really most cash-strapped peasants would simply sell their small plots right back to the oligarchs for cheap and in the long run be no better off. Or else, you'd have to prevent them from selling, in which case the property wasn't really "theirs" and you turned the peasants into serfs bound to the land. Dumb, freedom-hating liberals, etc. That was then.

Now Republicans consider We the People the rich, oppressive landowners. Our public trust properties must be redistributed to cash-strapped (mostly) red states so they can be quickly sold off for a short-term gain. Just not back to government oligarchs. To private ones. See how much better that is?

Ratigan called plans not to address the extraction he saw underway "reckless, irresponsible and stupid."

I've traveled by car to every state except Hawaii (for obvious reasons). America's wild lands are our Crown Jewels and belong to us all, to We the People. But we are being ruled by thieves eager to plunder our national heritage to enrich their already rich friends. Fight these bastards.