Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Government of the fat cats, by the fat cats and for the fat cats


Legislative observers who monitor the states are seeing double—again. It's not just the unseasonably high temperatures in the West that are causing double vision.

The American Legislative Exchange Council's been at it again, and the results are showing up as an attempt to revive the old Sagebrush Rebellion (see "political history, Reagan administration").

Like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the idea that the federal government should cede federal lands to the states just won't die no matter how many times it's declared unconstitutional in courts of law.

Today, Republican legislators in Utah and Arizona are pushing legislation that would demand that the federal government turn over lands to the states that aren't national parks, military installations or wilderness areas. In Utah, that would be about 50 percent of all the land in the state. In Arizona, it would be 40 percent.

The legislation has been blessed by ALEC, the conservative café funded by some of the richest corporate barons and richest companies in the world.

ALEC is a legislation mill that brings together state legislators and corporate fat cats in a push by big businesses to wield widespread political influence. It wields that influence by giving legislators resources—staffers, researchers, legal wordsmiths and model legislation—that they can't afford on their own.

In Idaho, 64 percent of the land is controlled by the feds. So it's a good bet that our state, a reliable sucker for piling on almost any effort to take a swipe at the federal government, will entertain similar legislation when it meets again next winter.

But why would it? A stack of legal precedents say the land grab doesn't stand a chance of success, though it has a great chance of costing taxpayers millions to defend in court.

And if the states succeed? Taxpayers couldn't remotely afford to take care of the lands now in the hands of the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Nationally, the Forest Service alone has a budget of $4.86 billion.

So how would the successful rebel states cope? (Drum roll, please.) They'd do what people with excess stuff do: They'd sell off prime pieces to the highest bidders.

Westerners would kiss their hiking, horseback riding, ATVing, hunting, fishing, boating, birdwatching and camping lifestyles goodbye as private mining, timber, energy and agriculture companies throw up fences and No Trespassing signs.

It's an election year. Idahoans should let legislative candidates know that they're content with government of the people and have no wish to exchange it for government of, for and by the corporate fat cats at ALEC.




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