Friday, December 2, 2016

Rural America Needs the Electoral College & Robust State Governments

By Jim Beers

Imagine Presidential Candidates Jeb and Hillary campaigning for the 4 months leading up to the Presidential election by constantly flying in an imaginary racetrack in the sky between constant stops in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City with only one  stop per trip in either Boston, Miami, Denver or Seattle.  Imagine further the things they would offer voters in those locales in return for their votes.  I submit they would promise the same things all Presidents (except Reagan) since Nixon have been offering and delivering since Nixon and Ford passed an orgy of new laws that were subsequently hijacked by federal bureaucracies and used by Democrat and Republican Presidents ever since to please those numerous and concentrated urban voters that have remained largely exempt from and ignorant of the harms they were causing the residents, economies and community governments of Rural America.  Welcome to a Rural America without an Electoral College.

I am speaking of  here of federal Endangered and Threatened Declarations under the Endangered Species Act; Wilderness Declarations; Federal Land Acquisitions and Easements; Historic/Scenic Designations; EPA actions like closing the last lead smelter and lead mine in the nation, attempts to claim jurisdiction over “All Water of the US”, and coal use prohibitions decimating entire state’s economies; and the sadly routine actions on federal lands by the US Forest Service/US Fish and Wildlife Service/National Park Service/Bureau of Land Management to eliminate renewable natural resource management and replace historic state authorities and jurisdictions based on contrived regulations and court decisions obtained in “friendly” courts by lobby organizations working with federal bureaucrats

The result of this 45 year tsunami of federal overreach has been growing Rural American desolation.  Consider the cumulative effects of: farming losses from federal endangered species declarations (smelt/suckers, etc.) and irrigation system destruction (Klamath); power generation from dam destructions (Columbia/ Snake Rivers, etc.) and rights-of-way denials (grouse); animal husbandry and commodity production losses caused by grazing reductions, wolves, grizzly bears and land closures; timber management and sawmill closures (with attendant economic collapse and local government losses) due to owls and woodpeckers; hunting and fishing reductions due to federal wolves, federal grizzly bears, federal Asian carp, federal pythons and constrictors plus rampant illegal uses of hunting and fishing license fees and Excise Taxes; the intentional federal non-management of the federal estate’s fish and wildlife; and catastrophic fires resulting from federal agencies’ purposeful massive fire fuel accumulation on federal lands, eased lands, inholdings, and neighboring residences, businesses, towns and families. 

Additionally, consider all the associated harms created for Rural American businesses; real estate values; local government revenues; historic state authorities and jurisdictions; the rural “domestic Tranquility” and “general Welfare” (mentioned in the Preamble to the US Constitution as a primary reason for forming a federal government) and the simple safety of human lives and property jeopardized by wolves, grizzly bears and an increasing army of federal enforcers and federal ideologues acting under the color of these recent laws.  One more thing to remember; none of these laws harm those concentrated urban voters that would decide Presidents without an Electoral College, indeed such voters would be and are greatly pleased by what they wrongly imagine results from more and more of these federal activities “out there” in Rural America.

After 16 years of writing and speaking about these problems and possible resolutions I can assure you that even the mention of repealing these laws is sneered at by rural (“they’ll never let it happen”) and urban (“we’ll never let it happen”) voters.  Even attempts to discuss amendments are considered stupid dreams that will never happen.  Thus we are reduced to the now familiar mantra, “we’ll reduce regulations” as in “for every new regulation, two will be eliminated”.  As a 30+ year federal bureaucrat, such talk is like recommending an aspirin for a disease.  Regulations are like playdough to bureaucrats, they come and they go and there are myriad ways to create an illusion for four or eight years only to have them all come back with a vengeance from where they had once only paused.  As long as these laws exist, this danger is all too real.

Like Prohibition (once a Constitutional Amendment, a much higher bar than a simple federal law) regulatory manipulation was no remedy for all the corruption and harms it created: the only remedy was repeal.  If that was so, what remedy is there for all these harms to Rural America if repeal of these new laws is unrealistic?

For the layman we might say there are two sorts of federal laws.  The first kind implements Constitutional Rights and provisions (i.e. Freedom of Speech, Religion, Bearing Arms, Voting, etc.) and duly ratified Treaties like the Migratory Bird Treaties to protect listed birds from things like windmills.  The second kind reflect the latest federal imaginings of new federal roles, authorities and jurisdictions like federal oversight and federal standards for animal husbandry, native v non-native, animal welfare, woodlands, prairies, wild animals, grazing, timber management, hunting, fishing, silviculture, rural developments, rural business, rural activities, public land acquisitions and closures, energy rules and development, etc. despite no interstate or other Constitutional nexus for such laws and the regulations and bureaucracy they spawn or the harms they cause to an increasingly voiceless rural populous.

The first kind of law I just mentioned is not the subject of this recommendation.  It is the second kind that affects Rural America (federal imaginings for lack of a more accurate term) and cannot be repealed or amended thanks to urban voters; such laws must be otherwise limited if Rural America is to play its role in the coming Administration’s plan to make America great again.

A simple and straight forward federal law could be passed to require annual State government approval of all federal expenditures, programs and actions within each state under the authority of the following laws: think here of what is appropriate like The Endangered Species Act; Wilderness Act; Organic Acts or Administrative Acts of the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management; Scenic or Historic Preservation Acts; Environmental Protection Act intrastate actions; etc.  Such a law would, at a minimum, open a dialogue between state residents and remote federal bureaucrats in Washington.  It would reinvigorate State and Local government’s responsibility for, and tax revenue from, their rural precincts.  It would give Rural Americans a say in what is or is not being done to their communities, families and livelihood.  At best, federal programs would either be tailored to Rural and State demands or be forbidden in a particular state based on the entire spectrum of State interests both urban and rural; thereby reducing federal overreach, federal budgets and federal interference in the economy and lives of Rural American communities.

The expected reduction in federal expenditures and an expanding Rural American economy would go a long way toward making America great again and by association the National economy. So Rural Americans should fight to keep the Electoral College and to breathe new life into their increasingly moribund State governments by supporting a law as described here.  Given this President-elect with a House and Senate that support him as I write; ask yourself, “If not Trump, who?  If not now, when?”

Jim Beers
522 Brooklyn Court
Eagan, MN 55123
703-585-0211

Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish &Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades. You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to: jimbeers7@comcast.net 

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