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George Fisher 1981/82 

These last few weeks the problems in Greece have edged closer to political disaster. Her creditors want certainty with her economy, and she has needed to bring in unpopular cuts in public services. Indeed there is even talk of selling off state assets.  Der Bild, a German tabloid, suggesting last summer that they should flog off a few Mediterranean Islands to clear the debt.  Terrible one might say, terrible, of course it could never happen in America.

Oh no?

The debt of America Inc is totally unbelievable.  It presently stands someways north of $14 Trillion dollars and is climbing every minute. The interest alone is humungous and the only reason the pack of cards has not fallen in so far is simple belief in America.  Obama has done little to deal with this debt problem, and should matters become difficult in the next year or so, should unemployment not fall, should housing collapse, this might come to America too.

So does America have a plan to pay off its huge debt?  Perhaps Obama might choose to hit speculators who drive up oil prices, or perhaps eliminate the $40 billion (over ten years) subsidies for oil companies already making obscene super profits, or maybe he might be pushing for fuel efficient cars to drive up economies in America and aid exports abroad?

If not, maybe Obama has a plan for a yard sale of the century in mind, and if so what on earth could he sell?

Well, to foreigners and maybe even to Americans themselves, it comes as a real surprise to find out just how much of America is actually owned by the state.  The United States federal government holds an astonishing 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly 30% of its total territory.  A colossal estate which if lumped together is larger than whole states.  Vast swathes of these federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds.  Other tracts are nature parks and reserves whilst some remain as the last toeholds of the original occupiers – the Indian reservations.

And if you divided the debt by the land it could be yours from just $22.00 an acre!

Of course it’s not left there sitting doing nothing, just looking beautiful. Chunks of it are leased off already to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by a host of different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management,
the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.  All of whom could be trimmed of staff, pensions and costs if the lands were let go

This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:

  1. Nevada     84.5%
  2. Alaska      69.1%
  3. Utah         57.4%
  4. Oregon     53.1%
  5. Idaho       50.2%
  6. Arizona   48.1%
  7. California 45.3%
  8. Wyoming 42.3%
  9. New Mexico 41.8%
  10. Colorado   36.6%

“Come on then if your hard enough….”
Source :BBC

Unbelievable? Well in straight laced old Britain the policy of selling off the nationally owned forests to cut the appalling mess that is our debt, was only beaten this last month  after a wholesale assault from the British middle classes.  The government was fended off by a battalion of hairy smelly hippy types, and stout elderly ladies in sensible shoes smelling strongly of lavender and horse liniment.   So selling the family silver is very much on Government minds all round at the moment.

It’s not actually a new idea.  The cartoon at the top of the page is by the late great George Fisher of The Arkansas Gazette, and dates from way back in 1981 or 1982 when Ronald Reagan appointed James Watt to be Secretary of the Interior.  Watt was very keen to squeeze every last cent out of the use of federal lands. His policies were met with a robust defence.   Thankfully most of it got stopped.

Today the oligarchs are back, sniffing round the land that is the peoples, in the hope of taxing them further by withdrawing these assets from the common weal, and selling them off.  And whom could they sell to in a time of recession?  Not to the hard pressed common man who finds his  home financially underwater, or the small businessman strapped for cash because fuel prices keep rising. No, they look to their own, that small percentage enriched by the public purse who were bailed out from their folly two years ago, those same still well lubricated by Bush tax breaks.  Those who fund political careers.  To those that hath shall be given but to those that hath not even that which they have shall be taken.

Three oligarchs are putting together such a land grab for their own.  Utah Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz suggested in March a Bill to sell off Government land.  Its full Sunday title being, Chaffetz bill HR 1126 The Disposal of Excess Federal Land Act.  Chaffetz’s father was previously married to the wife of Mike Dukakis the former Governor of Massachusetts and the Democrat nomination for President in1988.
Chaffetz is supported in this by Senator Mike Lee of Utah.  Mike Lee is a second cousin to US Senator Mark Udall, of Colorado, and Senator Tom Udall, of New Mexico and also of former Senator Gordon H Smith of Oregon. A family I dealt with previously in Oodles of Udalls.  They are supported in this land grab by Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Its a lot of land eh? 

They claim that this will help America be energy self reliant, strong, solvent, and provide jobs.  Just the kind of lies James Watt was peddling all those years ago.

The lands he sees as being sold “land” he says “that serves no public purpose and is identified [in a 1997 Clinton Administration report] for disposal” are all in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and Nebraska.

Surprised? I’m not.

Why should I get so heated over this?  Well, like the ladies in the forest above I believe it’s all one world and everyone’s fight, and Britain (and especially Scots) had a large part in saving these American lands from strip mining, clear felling and oil pollution the first time round.  The picture I leave you with is of three eminent Scots at the very heart of the idea of America’s national public parks.  Dr Anstruther Davidson, medical doctor; botanist; entomologist and lecturer at University of Southern California at Berkley, and incidentally my great-great uncle.  John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, the man who established the parks at Yosemite and Sierra Forest Reserve, lobbyist and the first “green “ protester in the United States, and Andrew Carnegie, the famous philanthropist who provided the money and political clout.

left to right : Dr Anstruther Davidson, John Muir, Andrew Carnegie.
Los Angeles, California 1910
Copyright: Holt-Atherson Special Collections Usage applied for

Copyright David Macadam 2011