Friday, July 11, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt Reveals the Ugly Truth Behind Ted Cruz's Federal Land Sell-off Bill

by Nomad

Roosevelt, Teddy
Here's a quote by the I found from over a hundred years ago. Our 26th President has something he has been waiting patiently to tell us about tricks of the Tea Party Republicans and their conservative principles.

If there is one person who can expose the corruption of today's Republican party, it is yesteryear's Republican, Theodore Roosevelt.

Here is a 1913 snippet from his autobiography, regarding legislation protecting government- owned lands from the exploitation by the robber barons of his age.
It is better for the government to help a poor man to make a living for his family than to help a rich man to make a living for his company. This principle was too sound to be fought openly. It is the kind of principle to which politicians delight to pay unctuous homage in words. But we translated the words into deeds; and when they found that this was the case, many rich men... were stirred to hostility, and they used the congressmen they controlled to assault us- getting most aid from certain demagogues, who were equally glad improperly to denounce rich men in public and improperly to serve them in public. 

The same old tricks are being used all over again and by all appearances, half the nation has been bamboozled by the same political charlatans and puppets of special interests.
Case in point?
Senator Ted Cruz's underhanded legislative fiddling this week.

Cruz, Ted

Tea Party Teddy and the Cliven Bundy Facade

On Tuesday of this week, another Ted, Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, proposed changes to a bipartisan bill, the Sportsman Act of 2014. That draft bill was supposed to make public lands more accessible to sportsmen.
However, Cruz's changes would "force the federal government to sell off a significant portion of the country’s most prized lands in the West." 
According to ThinkProgress:
The amendment would prohibit the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of any land within one state, and requires the government to transfer the excess land to the states or sell it to the highest bidder.
As he is about most things, Cruz was pretty slippery about his proposed changes. Under his revisions, the federal authorities would be forced to auction off public lands to the highest bidder. States- already cash strapped- could hardly compete with corporations in that bidding. So it seems pretty clear who exactly would benefit.
Sportsmen's organizations were reportedly dead-set against Cruz's legislative manipulation. In a press release, one such group said 
“public lands shape the American identity, support local economies and perpetuate our sporting heritage. They should not be sold.”
Anyway, Cruz isn't representing trout fisherman. What he is really doing is pretty obvious. He is attempting to arrange the biggest fire sale of public lands in American history for the benefit of mining and oil companies and every other corporate special interest.

We don't have to imagine what Teddy Roosevelt would have said about this idea. We have his words if we care to read them.
The government, he said, must act as a protector of the public lands. That's a vital role only government can play. Without that protection, we can kiss the unspoiled beauty of our parks and the natural resources -which belong to all Americans-goodbye forever. 
Roosevelt wrote:
"..the rights of the public to the natural resources outweigh private rights, and must be given its first consideration. Until that time, in dealing with the National Forests, and the public lands generally, private rights had almost uniformly been allowed to overbalance public rights. The change we made was right, and was vitally necessary; but, of course, it created bitter opposition from private interests."
Bundy, Cliven
After the Cliven Bundy affair, this Cruz's newest and most radical initiative may sound quaintly populist. That's just part of the camouflage.

You might remember Bundy was the Nevada rancher who took up arms against federal officials. He refused to compensate taxpayers for more than $1 million in grazing fees. He told reporters "I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing."

In the same passage of his autobiography, Roosevelt wrote:
Another principle which led to the bitterest antagonism of all was this—whoever (except a bona-fide settler) takes public property for private profit should pay for what he gets. In the effort to apply this principle, the Forest Service obtained a decision from the Attorney-General that it was legal to make the men who grazed sheep and cattle on the National Forests pay for what they got. Accordingly, in the summer of 1906, for the first time, such a charge was made; and, in the face of the bitterest opposition, it was collected.
Read that, Mr. Bundy, since 1906, sheep-herders and cattle-ranchers just like yourself have been paying for the use of public lands.
Roosevelt's very common sense effort - that government must act as steward and protector of the land in the interest of the public is exactly what Bundy detests. To the point of sedition, he has refused to recognize the authority of the federal government. Not only that, he has rejected the very principle that public resources are not for private use- and certainly not without careful oversight and compensation. Our land, he thinks, means his land to do whatever he wants.
If a man went to a city park and dug up trees and re-planted them in his private back yard, it would be no different. 

Government as the Protector of Public Rights

However, it's not about sheep or at least not the wool producing kind.
The Bundy standoff- one of the most carefully-staged media events since the Moon Landing- was designed for demagogues like Cruz to find an excuse to open federal lands to exploitation to states or private industry. The cowboy imagery, the flags, the men on horses, the protecting our rights motif from top to bottom was a ploy for the benefit of corporate interests. 

The carefully-regulated use of public lands was, in fact, one of Roosevelt's greatest achievements. We have him to thank for relatively pristine America's national park system that we all can enjoy. 

water pollutionAnd no matter how you might feel about government overreach, you have to ask who else has the power to stand up to corporate exploitation? Who else can regulate them? 
A single drilling accident like the Deepwater Horizon could permanently wreck vast areas of once-protected lands. A single accident like 2014 Elk River chemical spill could permanently destroy wildlife from protected rivers and streams. Keep in mind too the affected areas would run that from the source of a spill all the way to the sea.

Even without those disaster scenarios, do we really want vast swathes of once-open land- which was effective managed for the public welfare- to be closed off forever to public access?  
In short, Bundy (and the special interests that are using him) are rejecting the clear "cut and clearly-set-forth principles" that Roosevelt advocated: That public rights come first and private interest second.

Clearly, these principles are what our Tea Party Teddy is attempting to destroy.