The Tiny State of Nevada

Nevada isn’t really that big of a state. Oh, sure, it appears large on the map.

But 81 percent of that land mass isn’t Nevada. It’s federal government property, run by various branches of the nation’s central government in Washington, D.C.

Much of the controversy surrounding the Cliven Bundy ranch, and the rustled cattle, and the standoff with the federales, has to do with federal government land.

From my reading of the Bundy family ranch affair, it appears that the legal question is not one of taxes, but of usage fees; not of endangered tortoises, but cattle. But mostly about land. My sympathies are with the Bundies. They seem to have a very old adverse possession case against the government.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that federal judges didn’t look very kindly to the Bundies’ customary rights. Federal judges prefer legislated law to common law. We’re a long way from our roots, folks.

But the issue lurking behind all other issues is the over-dominance of the federal government in twelve western states. Five of them have over half of their land titled to and run by the federal government: Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Utah and Nevada. This imbalance gives just too much power and purview to federal agencies, who are then tempted to run roughshod over locals. That is, state citizens.

Cliven Bundy may be dead wrong legally, but politically, he has a point.

The federal government should privatize all or most of its grazing lands and desert lands. Its forest lands should at least be “state-ized” — given back to the states.

This is a federal republic, right? Not an empire?

The states are not supposed to be mere conquered provinces.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Rand Paul’s No-Special-Deals Petition

Are you tired of members of the political class foisting burdensome laws on us from which they liberally exempt themselves? Sign the petition.

I mean the “No Special Deals” petition expressing support for “Senator Rand Paul’s Constitutional Amendment to stop Congress from passing legislation that doesn’t apply equally to U.S. citizens, the Executive Branch, Congress and the Supreme Court.”

This is one of those amendments with the job of shouting “Read and adhere to the document I’m attached to!!!!!!!” We need almost as many such amendments as there are constitutional provisions, considering how chronically the Constitution is violated.

The spur is Obamacare, the latest package of law and politics to combine crippling mandates for most of us with special deals for those with political pull. Some people are deemed more equal than others when it comes to “equal protection of the laws” and so forth.

The rationale for equally applying laws that are tyrannical? To discourage tyrants loathe to be battered by their own bludgeons. And to disallow their divide and conquer gambits.

That’s the hope, anyway.

But if officeholders find a way to tyrannize to begin with, and don’t hesitate to tyrannize, will any formally enshrined demand for equality of tyranny serve to deter them?

No, sadly, Sen. Paul’s amendment won’t prevent assaults on our rights that aren’t already supposed to be prohibited by the rest of the Constitution. Not by itself. But the amendment could help and certainly can’t hurt.

(Hurt us, that is —  if it hurts our lawmakers, that’s the idea.)

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Free Money

If an email popped up offering free money, what would you do?

Delete it? And wonder how it got past your spam filter?

Me, too.

Well, some Washington wags — call them re-distribution professionals — say we’re crazy.

As are Republicans in the 19 states that have refused to expand their states’ Medicaid rolls as part of Obamacare, and in the five states — Indiana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — still debating whether to do so.

Republicans are “rejecting what is more or less nearly free money from the federal government,” says a baffled Josh Barro of the New York Times.

Karen Finney, host of MSNBC’s Disrupt, sneers that these GOP-led states are “leaving money on the table.”

“It’s free money!” exclaims an exasperated Joan Walsh of Salon.com, adding that, “It’s stimulative money.”

Under Obamacare, the federal government first demanded and now urges states to expand the Medicaid rolls well beyond those at the poverty line, with our central government generously offering to pay the cost for the massive expansion fully for three years . . . and then 90 percent after that.

One local newspaper identified one major issue, trust: “The trademark of Obamacare is broken promises.”

Will the federal government keep paying nearly all the cost? In Virginia, before any expansion, Medicaid already accounts for nearly one out of every four dollars in state spending.

“This is another picture of how extreme this Republican Party has become,” according to Walsh, “that you had this organized backlash to taking money that once would have been a no-brainer.”

This is the new GOP extremism, refusing to be bought off?

It’s no vice.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

This Is the Government We Pay For

We live in a time when the governing political party and the dominant strain in the major media constantly harp on two themes:

  1. Capitalism is wasteful, not environmentally sound, and
  2. We need more regulation from government.

So, it is especially droll to witness the Food and Drug Administration pounce upon an age-old recycling practice between breweries and farms. In the name of “better regulation,” and “safety,” of course.

For well over a century beer brewers have disposed of their spent grain product — the non-beer product of the beer-making process — by giving or selling it cheaply to farmers, who feed it to livestock.

It would cost a lot to dispose of this in landfills, so brewers save money by letting farmers take the dregs off their hands.

But now the FDA, in a new set of proposed rules (proposed not by Congress, by the way), wants to protect cattle’s food supply by requiring brewers to dry the spent grain before shipping it off.

That’s a killer cost. One Oregonian brewer referred to it as an “enormous burden,” and warned that higher consumer prices would be the result.

I’m with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D), who demands that the agency go back to the drawing board.

“I don’t know everything about beer,” Wyden has been quoted, “but I do know when a federal agency acts like it has had one too many.”

For my part, I don’t see this as aberrant behavior from a federal agency. I see it as typical.

Typically drunk on power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Ten Trillion Dollar Decade

It’s Tax Day tomorrow. Waiting till the last moment to file because you’ll have to write a check?

It hurts, but you must be financially better off than the federal government, which itself owes $17.5 trillion, all because Congress and the President refuse to balance budgets.

In the last ten years, according to a convenient Department of Treasury website, the federal government’s debt has not merely doubled, it has ballooned … by more than $10 trillion.

During the Reagan Administration, we were aghast at the idea of a “mere” one trillion dollar debt. I remember “No Trillion Dollar Debt” signs.

Waving signs didn’t help.

But something’s gotta give. As J. D. Tuccille writes, “you have to think that it’s going to occur to people that the United States government seems neither willing nor able to stop borrowing, and to start paying the sum down, even a little bit.”

Debts must be repaid, with interest. That goes for the last decade’s additional ten trillion tonnage of “bricks” now hanging over our heads.

Writing your check to the government isn’t made any more pleasant by pondering how paltry your payment is compared to what’s needed to make a dent in the debt. Moreover, even amid constant talk about “cuts,” federal government spending continues to increase. Thus, getting out of debt is not about writing checks to government. It’s about government writing fewer and smaller checks.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: Old Media Curses the Wind

Two American freedom fighters share April 13 as their birth date: Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and Jane Jacob, my mother. Happy Birthday to you both, Tom and Mom!

There, you have read the ending to my current Townhall column. Why not read the rest of it? Click on over. Then come back here for more reading:

Video: More Competitive Political Races?

Campaign finance regulation is in the news. Today’s video of former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith speaking to a Cato Institute audience about the impact of the Citizens United and Speech Now decisions is not news (a year old), but it is an important message, too seldom heard.

Smith argues that these court decisions have “made races more fluid” because “it is possible to get money into a political race much more quickly than used to be the case.” He recognizes that “most incumbent politicians tend to view that as bad.”

He points out that since the FEC (Federal Election Commission) was created in 1974, the incumbent spending advantage over challengers has grown from 1.5 to 1 to a whopping 4 to 1.

Smith also urges ending restrictions on contributing to political parties, which happened last week with the Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Next, let’s end the limits on what an individual can contribute to an individual candidate.

We’ll be talking more about that — right here at Common Sense.