Remember that guy Cliven Bundy? A few years ago he made headlines by protesting grazing fees on federally owned land in Nevada. He hasn’t paid them for over 20 years. The Bureau of Land Management, armed with a court order, showed up to evict his cattle. He stood in front of the gates, armed with his personal firearms, accompanied by armed supporters, and challenged the Feds to a gunfight. And, he won the day. The government backed down.
|The standoff over federal grazing fees|
He was a conservative hero for a few days until his racist remarks had his political advocates distancing themselves from him.
But, here’s the thing. He shouldn’t have been a conservative hero. He should have been a liberal hero.
But, I am getting ahead of myself.
My last post (Let’s understand just what socialism means to us) excoriated democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and, by extension, his supporters and those who advocate his beliefs. One reader called it a rant. After rereading it, I had to admit he was right and apologized. Another accused me of contributing to the demise of civil discourse. Another mea culpa!
Notably, no one refuted the core of my argument – that capitalism is superior to socialism or even democratic socialism.
Then I got an email from a friend on the left coast. It included a link to a New York Times op-ed piece titled “Socialism, American Style”. The article promotes the idea that state government ownership of real property serves the interests of conservative politicians. How? Charging fees for its use raises revenue and enables state governments to reduce taxes. The authors provide examples of socialist enterprises in conservatively governed states including Alaska, Texas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Tennessee.
Like most punditry masquerading as analysis, the column gets the facts right but ignores alternatives that don’t fit the author’s bias. What alternatives, you ask.
When commenting on fiscal matters, conservatives are fond of making analogies to household budgets or running a business.
How’s this for an analogy?
If a business doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover its expenses – the equivalent to governments running a budget deficit – they often sell assets to raise cash. The federal government owns over 640 Million acres of land or 28% of the area of the United States.
So, here’s my challenge to conservatives and to conservative politicians, if any are listening:
SELL THE LAND!
If you believe that private enterprise is the surest path to American prosperity, sell the land. Private owners will convert it to its highest and best use. It will generate more personal income for its investors. They will reinvest it; they will spend it; and, it will boost economic growth. If you believe in supply side economics, you should expect to generate more tax revenue without raising tax rates if the property is converted to a more economically productive purpose.
The Federal land is estimated to be worth about $128Trillion. The practice is most prevalent in the 11 adjacent states that constitute the American west, where the federal government owns 47% of the land.
Sure, some of it houses military bases and government buildings. But, most of it – including 85% of the land in Cliven Bundy’s home state – is wilderness. We could pay off the federal debt with proceeds from the sale of only 15% of it.
Much of it is grazing land of the type that old Cliven, the conservative hero, was using to feed his cattle. What would happen to that land if it were sold to a private owner? No one can be sure. Maybe the new owners would build condos or a health spa and resort. Maybe they would grow genetically modified corn and feed the world’s hungry with cheaply grown food.
But, if that were to happen, Cliven would be out of business. What would he do? Lead a march on Washington? After all, his government benefits will have been cut. Aren’t we concerned about social outcomes?
The Wildlife News made this point succinctly, referring to him as “a freeloading, welfare rancher who has an inflated sense of entitlement.”
Like I said, Cliven should be liberal hero.
WHO WILL LEAD?