Exploiting Antiquities

by Rachel Blum Spencer on March 5, 2010 · 8 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Three days ago, Senator Jim DeMint blew the whistle on a presidential land-grab of more than 10 million acres from Montana to New Mexico. This sweeping confiscation was facilitated by Obama’s use of a controversial type of presidential directive: the presidential memorandum. There memos, usually unpublished and unrecorded, are a means through which presidents since FDR have attempted to establish policy by directing bureaucracies to act, all without going through the nay-sayers in Congress.

DeMint, who heard about the Department of Interior objective because the memo had been leaked to a fellow senator, is right to expose a backroom deal. Strangely, the unilateral memorandum is not the object of his criticism. His main objection is that, it would halt “job-creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development. Worse, this land grab would dry up tax revenue that’s essential for funding schools, firehouses and community centers.”

So that’s the rub. Jobs.

Some of the areas that Obama is attempting to seal off undoubtedly may not qualify for the status of “antiquities” or “national monuments.” But the thought that anyone might want to seal off a basin in Colorado to keep it from being stripped for oil and gas development or to create wildlife reserves in New Mexico seems ludicrous to Senator DeMint, nonsense from the “environmentalist left.”

This is simply “unbelievable” when the nation’s unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent. DeMint concludes, saying that, “Taking the nation’s resources offline will stifle job creation and dry up tax revenues. If anything, government should be selling land off. . . the plan would mean fewer jobs for Americans.”

One finds it difficult to sympathize with either side. Of course a presidential order that secretly authorizes a department to seize land is suspect. Perhaps more disturbing is the lens through which DeMint sees the created world. To him, it is all “resources” and fodder for “job creation.” Certainly nature should not be our god, but something is surely amiss when the right sees the created order through the narrow lens of profit, and extraction of resources shoves aside stewardship.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jonathan March 5, 2010 at 9:57 am

Sen. DeMint does mention jobs, and available energy resources (which is not a bad thing), but he also states:

“President Obama could enact the plans in this memo with just the stroke of a pen, without any input from the communities affected by it.”

“The 21-page document, marked “Internal Draft-NOT FOR RELEASE,” names 14 different lands Mr. Obama could completely close for development by unilaterally designating them as “monuments” under the 1906 Antiquities Act.”

“But giving the chickens more room to roost is no reason for the government to override states’ rights.”

“Using the Antiquities Act, President Carter locked up more land than any other president had before him, taking more than 50 million acres in Alaska despite strong opposition from the state.”

“Americans should be wary of any plans a president has to seize land from the states without their consent. Any new plans to take away states’ freedom to use land as they see fit must be stopped.”

Yes, there are statements about jobs and energy, but there is also a strong feeling that DeMint would be just fine if the states did nothing with the land, but the Fed butted out. I am not sure why you quote only his statements on jobs and resources, and none concerning expansion of Federal power.

avatar Rachel Blum March 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

Jonathan,

If you notice, I mention Obama’s action as a backroom deal, one on which DeMint was right to blow the whistle. I think I make it clear that the problem is not DeMint’s exposure of this abuse of presidential power. The problem is that DeMint himself downplays the abuse of federal power and makes the issue more about jobs than about principle. Sen. DeMint is a fine representative, and someone with which many of us would be inclined to agree on many matters. There’s no need for him to set up a dichotomy between federalism and stewardship.

avatar Bob Cheeks March 5, 2010 at 11:40 am

Well I suppose it depends on whose ox is being (Al)gored!
Let’s see, unemployment under our brilliant Dear Leader: 17%.
Unemployment under that silly, war mongering, former alchoholic, drug addict GW Bush: 4.5%.
Yeah, I sure hope SOMEONE is worrying about “job creation.” If Dear Leader has his way we’ll all be standing in a line waiting for our gummint handout.
BTW, how’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya? And, you people want this clown to run your “healthcare.” Waaaaaaaaaaaay to smart for me!

avatar Jonathan March 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Rachel,

I suppose I do not agree that DeMint downplayed the abuse of federal power in favor of jobs – they seem to get equal time (or perhaps, given that I only listed a few of his statements, the abuse gets more time).

I agree with you – there is no need to set up a dichotomy between federalism and stewardship, but I do not see that DeMint has done that, either.

avatar John Médaille March 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

Bob, when Bush left office, the U3 unemployment rate was 7.7%, not 4.5. Further, you are comparing the U3 to the U6 rate. The U6 rate was 14% in January, 2009.

Obama will not be able to revive the economy for the simple reason that it cannot be revived under current institutional arrangements. But to engage in petty partisanship at this time is a waste of time. In my view, the whole point of standing on the Front Porch is to stand above such things.

avatar Bob Cheeks March 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I know, John. I did that on purpose to see if you were reading my posts…I knew you’d have to correct me…my bad!
While I agree with you and others here at FPR re: certain criticisms of the GOP, Neocons, and Rinos I don’t buy into the line that “they’re all the same.” And, I don’t understand why you do, because you come across as much to smart for that business.
The current regime appears to be trying to economically destroy America and I don’t understand how anyone could support that, or at least not engage in a virulent criticism of Dear Leader’s “para-Marxist buffonery (Peters, BO ain’t smart enough to be a real Marxist!).”
Re: Catholic Distributism, Chesterton or not, you’ve failed to convince me…it’s reminiscent of a Marxian/Hegelian counterimage of reality.
John, Peace and love, dude!

avatar Rob March 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Is preserving millions upon millions of acres as “antiquities” (effectively sealing it from use) really good stewardship?

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