War With The States

Historians generally point to the Whiskey Rebellion as the point at which the American public accepted the authority of the new federal government. The aftermath established the limits to and avenues for resisting the federal government. You could organize to get your people in Congress, but you could not burn down the local offices and hang the federal agents. In other words, the people had embraced the authority of the new government as legitimate and therefor defensible.

The Civil War ushered in a new relationship between the citizen and the national government. The states were no longer sovereign. If a state cannot leave the union, it is no longer sovereign as a practical matter. Put another way, the original republic was a government of consensus among the states. After the Civil War, that consensus was no longer required, as the states were now subordinate to the national government.

What is difficult to grasp is how it undermined the foundation of the Republic. The government created by the Founders pitted the power of sovereign states against the power of the federal government. Certain rights were granted to each exclusively. The idea being that this tension would put limits on both, thus providing the maximum amount of liberty to the people.

Here were are 150 years on and this broken relationship staggers on. The reason for this is that America is a big country with loads of resources. Being rich and powerful cures a lot of ills. Even so, those contradictions are there, slowing becoming fissures in the country. There’s a limit to this papering over the problem and we may be reaching that limit. The Bundy Ranch imbroglio is possibly a hint of what’s to come.

Wealthy interests allied with powerful members of the national government are stealing the property of citizens. All the technical nonsense aside, that’s what is going on here and all over the country. The federal government no longer represents the people, but rather it represents the ruling class to the people. It’s job is to impose the will of the ruling class, which is no longer connected to the people.

The trouble is the states are effectively bankrupt. That is, they are not able to meet their cash requirements. They borrow to cover the gaps, but that only delays the inevitable. As public pension liabilities come home, the crisis will overcome the state’s ability to pay their bills. According to the numbers, 32 states have been borrowing from the Fed to make ends meet. Demographics tells us the problem is just starting. Simple mathematics says it must get much worse.

In order to avoid collapse, states will be looking around for money. They will be looking at the state resources that Harry Reid wants to sell off to China. This means we are heading to a very serious problem.  The states are already making noises about regaining control of their lands.

It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.

More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.

“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”

Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was flanked by a dozen participants, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee addressed the group over lunch, Ivory said. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented.

The summit was in the works before this month’s tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said.

“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” Lockhart said.

Fielder, who described herself as “just a person who lives in the woods,” said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

“Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” Fielder said, who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls.

“We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms,” Fielder said.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed by the state have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than have lands managed by federal agencies.

“It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Bedke said. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”

Ivory said the issue is of interest to urban as well as rural lawmakers, in part because they see oilfields and other resources that could be developed to create jobs and fund education.

Moreover, the federal government’s debt threatens both its management of vast tracts of the West as well as its ability to come through with payments in lieu of taxes to the states, he said. Utah gets 32 percent of its revenue from the federal government, much of it unrelated to public lands.

“If we don’t stand up and act, seeing that trajectory of what’s coming … those problems are going to get bigger,” Ivory said.

He was the sponsor two years of ago of legislation, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, that demands the federal government relinquish title to federal lands in Utah. The lawmakers and governor said they were only asking the federal government to make good on promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act for Utah to become a state.

The intent was never to take over national parks and wilderness created by an act of Congress Lockhart said. “We are not interested in having control of every acre,” she said. “There are lands that are off the table that rightly have been designated by the federal government.”

A study is underway at the University of Utah to analyze how Utah could manage the land now in federal control. That was called for in HB142, passed by the 2013 Utah Legislature.

None of the other Western states has gone as far as Utah, demanding Congress turn over federal lands. But five have task forces or other analyses underway to get a handle on the costs and benefits, Fielder said.

“Utah has been way ahead on this,” Fielder said.

In fairness, there’s a bit of emotion and romanticism at work here. But, money is at the root of the issue. The federal government owns a lot of land. That land has value the states would like to exploit. The resulting collision is inevitable. Bandits like Harry Reid versus the states. Maybe this time we can address the errors of Lincoln.

1 thought on “War With The States

  1. “…it undermined the foundation of the Republic.”
    He was the American Marius. I thought that I was the only one in America who knew that. Thanks for proving me wrong!

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