#42 Around the Campfire; End Welfare Subsidies
While it is often thought that there is no socialist strength in America and that “welfare as we know it” is dead, a mighty block of U.S. senators, representatives, and state governors shove a lineup of socialism, welfare handouts, and entitlement rights. They fly below the radar screen of folk and news-business awareness because they cowl their Big Mother scam with high-flying ballyhooing of the free market, individual rights, and no governmental butting-in. I am not talking about an undercover cell of Maoists, but about pork-barrel “conservatives.” Mike Smith, an assistant secretary of the Department of Energy in the Bush Junior administration, laid out their goal in one talk, “The biggest challenge is going to be how to best utilize tax dollars to the benefit of industry.”
Anticonservation attorney Karen Budd-Falen stamps her foot down that federal land agencies must “protect the economic or community stability of those communities and localities surrounding national forests and BLM-managed lands.” Then-Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska (later governor), at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Forest Service, January 25, 1996, said, “These people [loggers in southeast Alaska] are great Americans. Blue collar Americans. They work hard and look to us for help. We should be able to help them.…I have constituents out there who are real people, and they are entitled to a job.…These people rely on the government to provide them with a sustainable livelihood.” It might be fair for Murkowski to call on the federal government to underwrite jobs for his folks. However, he should not call himself a conservative Republican and should come clean that he is a welfare socialist. (Alaska is by far the most socialistic state in the union, its make-believe rugged individualism notwithstanding.) And, by the way, who is not a “real person?” I wonder if those who fling the line about have been watching too many vampire and zombie shows on television. I would say that corporations are not real persons, even though they have been blessed with personhood by twisted law.
Here’s what philosophers call a “thought experiment.” Daydream that these lines from Smith, Budd-Falen, and Murkowski came instead from a Democratic member of Congress, say a black woman from East St. Louis. Why, the Republicans would be all over themselves calling her a socialist, even a communist. Some might have heart attacks, their wrath boiling enough to pop arteries. But, when said by other Republicans, it’s good, old, all-American conservatism and free-marketism. Their rugged individualism is a toddler’s rugged individualism. You don’t have to be a world-weary political scientist with a Ph.D. to be clever enough to understand that all this job talk by right-wingers is a two-fold scam. One, it’s raw meat to toss to gullible voters, who, if they were smart enough to vote for what’s good for them, would never vote for such Republicans. Two, forsooth, it’s meant to get government handouts to big business under the hoax of helping them make jobs for “great Americans, blue-collar Americans.”
Not only do these so-called conservatives back government job-making and handouts for resource extraction businesses, the subsidies they back help the worst players stay in business. Without government help, the ecologically most harmful ranchers and loggers on public lands would not make it. At the heart of a free market is business wipeout.
Jared Diamond, a wide-roaming scientist who lays out eye-burning bright insights in his books, enlightens us on this tangle when he writes that in Australia and the United States, “rural people are considered honest, and city-dwellers are considered dishonest. If a farmer goes bankrupt, it’s assumed to be the misfortune of a virtuous person overcome by forces beyond his control….” This Myth of Rural Moral Superiority has been used like a never-dying gunslinger to uphold the wants of the old-timey economic elite in the West (and elsewhere).
Dave Foreman is the founder of The Rewilding Institute, co-founder of The Wildlands Project and Earth First!, and author of several acclaimed books on wildlands conservation. Books: Rewilding North America | Man Swarm: How Overpopulation Is Killing The WIld World | Take Back Conservation …among several other Rewilding books you can find here. [Photo: Dave Forman in the barren grounds of Nunavit, Canada © Nancy Morton]