Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ranchers like Cliven Bundy are moochers

It's clarifying, in a way, that embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy directly injected race into the controversy over his standoff with the Bureau of Land Management by remarking offhand that "the negro" may have been better off held in slavery than "under government subsidy" because race has not been far from my mind since the story first hit the papers.

From day one, I've tried to imagine the reaction if a young black man living in my gentrifying neighborhood reacted to some adverse change in government policy — perhaps funding cuts led a bus line in the neighborhood to get shut down — by stealing a bus. Then when the cops come to take the bus back, he brings out fifty friends, some of them armed, and starts talking about putting the women out front so they'll be shot first. My overwhelming presupposition is that he'd end up shot dead, along with his armed buddies, and that would about be the end of it. There would be no partisan political controversy about whether or not it is appropriate to react to changes in WMATA's route planning with violence.

You may want the government to provide excellent bus service to where you live, but in life you can't always get what you want.

And make no mistake about it. Ranchers like Bundy who graze their animals on federally owned land are moochers, pure and simple. According to the Congressional Research ServiceBureau of Land Management fees for federal lands are drastically lower than fees charged by private landowners — $1.35 per animal month-unit (AUM) versus an $8-$23 fee on private land. What's more, the federal agencies who administer this grazing land "typically spend far more managing their grazing programs than they collect in grazing fees." The net result is that federal grazing programs are an enormous giveaway to ranchers that carries both direct and opportunity costs for the rest of us.

What happened to Bundy is that due to a BLM policy change, he lost access to this valuable subsidy.

That he's pissed about this is understandable. Who doesn't like a valuable subsidy? That he is still walking around a free man despite blatant refusal to comply with the law is odd. That he's doing it while bemoaning the sorry state of "the Negro" and his dependence on government handouts is somehow perfectly fitting.

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