On Track to Lose Our Public Lands

Published on Dissident Voice, by Bill Willers, May 27, 2011.

The political right and its economists now recommend selling federal assets to pay down the nation’s debt. Recall that a federal government “of, by and for the people”, means “us”, so what is being planned in the seemingly endless array of right wing think tanks is for “us” to sell “our” assets. To the rich, of course.

What assets? Forget for the moment things like buildings and highways, and consider the most cherished assets – our public lands in the form of national forests, BLM lands, national parks and wildlife refuges. A third of the nation, ours in common, is a gift beyond price to pass to our descendants. It is a public treasure we may lose, for it is firmly in the crosshairs of moneyed interests intent on “privatizing”. Who is capable of buying such public assets? 

Think of corporate “persons” in petroleum, insurance, industrial recreation, pharmaceuticals, defense, agribusiness, banking and the like. And don’t forget their 37,000 K Street lobbyists who lavish unlimited cash on lawmakers, or of the billionaire faction of “Haves and Have Mores” George W. Bush called his “base” … //

… For anyone who has followed the issue for years, it appears carefully planned. In 2003, a report by the Treasury Department showed the U.S. facing a future of debts amounting to $44 trillion, and that preventing it would require massive tax increases. Increases! Bush did not release the report. Paul Krugman of the New York Times reported at the time that “the people now running America aren’t conservatives: they’re radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting (emphasis added) may give them the excuse they need.”

Scott Silver wrote in 2006: “The private sector will snatch up all the assets it wants when the price is right. If the economy tanks, the price for even the finest public jewels will be pennies on the dollar. Let’s not forget that the US Forest Service is already handing over operational control of most of their developed recreational facilities to anyone willing to maintain them.”

It is understood that the privatization of public domain has to be done by degrees to avoid unwanted reaction. Beckwith made this clear with his reference to “the contracting out of support services to private firms operating for profit” to be accomplished in “tentative steps”. Such contracting is increasingly common in the form of “public-private partnerships” and “competitive outsourcing”. And as those standing to benefit from privatization use their considerable political and economic might to achieve their goals, it is passing “under the radar” of the larger public mind. (full text).

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