February 12, 2006

Miser Refuses to Sell Land to Support Family - Who is he and why?

What do you think of a miser who owns more land than he needs or can maintain, and yet he refuses to sell any of it to support his family? He says that he wants to save the land for his future grandchildren, but his own children need money for school and living needs today. In fact, he even demands that other people pay his bills so that he does not have to sell the land at all. What kind of selfish idiot is someone who hoards possessions rather than handle his obligations? Well, you ask, just who is this miser? Why, he's no more than liberals and the Democratic Party that are fighting efforts of President Bush to sell excess and useless federal land to raise money for schools and roads in those rural counties hurt by reductions in logging on nearby federal lands. The Democrats are opposing the sale of government property partly because they don't like the seller, President Bush, and they don't like possible buyers, businesses that can make this property productive. Here are excerpts about the sale in a story from AP with underlined emphasis added:

The Bush administration on Friday detailed its proposal to sell more than 300,000 acres of national forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools in 41 states. The land sales, ranging from less than an acre to more than 1,000 acres, could total more than $1 billion and would be the largest sale of forest land in decades.

...Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs forest policy, said the parcels to be sold are isolated, expensive to manage or no longer meet the needs of the national forest system. The administration expects to have to sell only about 200,000 of the 309,000 acres identified Friday to meet the $800 million goal, he said. "These are not the crown jewels we are talking about," Rey said in an interview.

The proposed sell-off would total less than half of 1 percent of the 193 million-acre national forest system. The money would be used for roads, schools and other needs in rural counties hurt by sharp declines in timber sales, in the wake of federal forest policy that restricts logging to protect endangered species such as the spotted owl.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management, which previously said it will sell another 125,000 acres, said BLM land to be sold would be identified at the local level. The lands are typically part of a checkerboard pattern of small parcels surrounded by suburban or urban areas, Interior officials say, and have been identified as holding little natural, historical, cultural or energy value.

To be fair, let's see what is being said by those who oppose the sale.

At The Wilderness Society, Dave Alberswerth said the plan would privatize treasured public lands to pay for "tax cuts to the rich." Another spokesman, Mike Anderson, said, "I am outraged, and I don't think the public is going to stand for it for one minute. It's a scheme to raise money at the expense of the national forests, the wildlife, recreation and all the other values that Americans hold dear. It's the ultimate threat to the national forest."
(My response: Oh, it's a scheme! And, the government is selling a checker board of less than 200,000 out of its 193,000,000 acres, and that's a threat to the national forest!?)

From the Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA called it "a terrible idea based on a misguided sense of priorities. ...Here the administration wants to pass more tax cuts for the rich, and to pay the bill, they want to sell off public land - our nation's natural heritage." Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM said, “"Our hunters, anglers, campers and other recreational users benefit from — and depend on — access to public lands,. Selling public lands to pay down the deficit would be a short-sighted, ill-advised and irresponsible shift in federal land management policy. ...just to make the administration’s budget numbers look better.”
(My response: So, let's not sell excess land and get the money from "the rich" instead, and let's not help Bush balance the budget. Well, it sounds like wealth envy plus intentions to sabotage a balanced budget.)

Lynn Adler runs the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving open space for big cats. She says each mountain lion needs 100 acres of space- about the amount of acreage that's proposed for sale in the Angeles National Forest."
(My response: Yeah, let's raise more mountain lions close to where people live. Children and pets taste good to them!)

At the Huffington Post, the headline states, "National Forest For Sale! Bush Admin. To Sell To Highest Bidder..."
(My response: Gasp! How awful. Not to the highest bidder!)

And, besides the benefits listed in the article above, what are we hearing from those who support the sale?

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs forest policy, said, "This is a reasonable proposal to take a small fraction of a percentage of national land which is the least necessary and use it for those in need and achieve an important overarching public purpose."

Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute, said "Private property will end up in the possession of those who value it the most. That is an iron law of economics."

The administration says this plan will extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, signed by President Clinton in 2000 and set to expire next year, by using the land sales to offset the program's cost. This act has sent over $1.5 billion to counties hurt by reduced timber sales on national forests.

My view? If this country has excess assets, then it should sell those assets to offset the national debt and fund worthwhile programs. In addition, private enterprise can use this land productively and pay local property taxes that the counties don't get now. Unlike the miser, there is no need for hoarding--unless you're a Democrat who can think of one need...to hurt the Republicans at the expense of our citizens.

Posted by Woody at February 12, 2006 03:10 PM | TrackBack

For years we've been hoping folks would be reasonable and pipe down and compromise, quivering a bit at the political damage these eruptions cause -- see ANWR, for example.

But maybe the tide has turned, as with the judicial nominees. Perhaps the hour is now, to give them free rein, not try and change the subject and hope that cooler heads prevail. I think we're gaining two moderates for every one we're losing at this point.

We've always had the reasonable people, but that's never a majority, y'know?

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at February 12, 2006 08:38 PM

The lands are typically part of a checkerboard pattern of small parcels surrounded by suburban or urban areas, Interior officials say, and have been identified as holding little natural, historical, cultural or energy value.

Can you clarify the postion you are taking on this?
If you are saying , based upon a 'reasonable' analysis, that unneeded assets can be legitimately disposed of in order to fulfill immediate goals then who could not agree?

If however you are saying that it is merely a matter of serendipity that the assets can be classed as unneeded , and that State Property is ALWAYS better in Private Hands, then I have a very large problem with that conclusion.

These are related but completely distinct concepts upon which to build a social policy.

We should NOT despoil our remaining Natural Heritage merely to satisfy the unsustainable demands of the present. I do believe that we have a duty to the future to preserve something other than an endless variety of strip malls and concrete devastations.

It is the State that has preserved the Natural Systems insofar a they have been preserved and NOT the Private Sector which, let's be frank here, could not care less, about things which cannot be easily calculated in a balance sheet.

The reason why the 'green' loonies managed to become so influencial is precisely because of the short-sighted depradations of much of the Private Sector. I too support 'moderation', but it truly has to be 'moderate'. I support Amwr as well, but only because I have been convinced that it can be accomplished with minimal damage to the systems, and that the newer technologies are much more 'green.

Everything is a trade-off, but simply because something CAN be done is not a sufficient argument for actually doing it. Nor is --- But I NEED the MONEY.

Posted by dougf at February 13, 2006 10:56 AM

DougF, these tracts of land are not needed any more than many military bases that have been closed across the nation. If the land for the military bases can be sold to private enterprise and used productively, which they are, and if money from the sales reduce taxes or offsets spending, then sell them. Same with surplus equipment. If we have some odd forest acres here and some odd acres there that we don't need, then sell that, too. It doesn't matter to me particularly if the sales cover short-term needs or long-term needs, but I do consider education, which is the need in this case, to have long-term benefits.

Also, it takes sheer gall for the government to say that taxpayers need to pay more when the government has plenty of "second hand junk" stored in the government attics and garages that can be sold. We need more yard sales like this.

I don't know that I agree that private enterprise impacts the forests negatively. In fact, thinning of forests is a necessary part of maintenance--especially if we don't let nature thin them naturally. Lumber and paper companies have an interest in restoring the lands to grow more tree crops for the future.

In short, if the government has excess land and materials and truly sees no long-term benefit in keeping them, then it should sell those assets--all of them. We should do a national inventory and sell any unneeded assets to raise money for debt reduction or investment. Refusal to do that is typically politics and not good stewardship.

Posted by Woody at February 13, 2006 03:02 PM

" We should do a national inventory and sell any unneeded assets to raise money for debt reduction or investment. Refusal to do that is typically politics and not good stewardship."

Fair enough. The only thing to be defined here is 'unneeded'. I think there are probably a lot of assets that could easily be disposed of and converted to cash without adversely impacting the overall policies.

I just think these decision must take into account all the needs of society and not just short-term demands for CASH and immediate gratification.
There would not even have been a National Conservation System if the long-term had not been considered. There should be a transparent process that everyone can see in action. There probably is but what the Government should do is ensure that it is clearly understood.

I like the idea of using the proceeds to reduce the National Debt since the accumulation of these assets very probably was financed by public expenditures.
If Education is to be paid for then that is a current expense that should be paid for with current revenue. Otherwise it's like me selling the family furniture in order to dine out as I wish. Eventually I run out of furniture, excess or not.

I am an economic ignoramous but I have never quite understood how it is 'bad' for an individual to get into so much debt that it can never be repaid, but the same process is 'neutral or laudible' when done by a State. If you want something then pay for it and if you can't pay for it now or ever

Posted by dougf at February 13, 2006 04:46 PM

dougf, what is "unneeded" cannot be defined by politicians, as someone always needs some asset--for political points if nothing else. Therefore, I volunteer my services to define those things for the nation.

I disagree that education is a current expense vs. an investment. We don't build schools and universities out of current budgets, but out of bond issues or other long-term funding. I would sell my furniture if I needed that to pay for my kids' college.

Regarding debt. one of the measures as to whether or not it is bad is how much debt you have to equity. This puts individuals in a more tenuous position than government, but I still consider debt by government as undesirable.

Posted by Woody at February 13, 2006 05:24 PM

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