One of the things to keep in mind when the ‘tyranny’ of the Bureau of Land Management is raised regarding the radical militants in Oregon is that the BLM first acquired a lot of land in Oregon because the local and state government was incredibly corrupt and giving the land away for a song–and bribes (in 1946, when the federal government wanted to give it back, the state of Oregon didn’t want it due to the expenses of maintaining those lands). Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same (boldface mine):
The leaders of this occupation — the Bundy brothers, Jon Ritzheimer, Blaine Cooper and Ryan Payne — are demanding that the government hand over a huge amount of wealth to a bunch of conservative white people, on the grounds that they want it. Ammon Bundy has a video on his own Facebook page, making it clear that a huge federal giveaway of lands to the people that live near them is what this is all about.
There’s no reason to embroider this. The Bundys and their supporters want the federal government to hand over federally held lands, free of charge, to the people in the area, so they can enrich themselves off those lands without paying the taxpayers back for what they use. Some of the folks want to graze animals for free, some want access to the minerals under the ground to sell without having to buy them first, and others want to cut down trees they didn’t buy and sell them at a profit. The common theme here is that the taxpayers should give them a bunch of stuff we own, because “freedom” and “constitution” and “the people” and whatever nonsense words they are flinging around to say they want free stuff.
What’s frustrating is that it’s not entirely unreasonable for citizens of the U.S. government to want access to federal lands, within reason. It does belong, as Bundy says, to “the people.” But the fact is they are already getting this. Ranchers in Nevada only pay the government $1.35 per cow per month to use federal lands for grazing, compared to the average $15-$18 that private land owners get. This difference amounts to a huge federal giveaway to ranchers. But getting $13 per cow per month in free cash isn’t enough for these greedy monsters. No, they want the federal government to cover the entire cost of their cattle grazing. Because “freedom” and “the constitution.”
..It doesn’t get blunter than that: If white people are getting government-subsidized land in order to feed their cattle and make money off it, that’s just “freedom” and “liberty.” If black people are getting government-subsidized land to live in so that they can take care of their families, that’s somehow illegitimate. You can get into the weeds of this, pointing out that most people receiving government assistance do work and aren’t lazy, as Bundy assumes, but the most important takeaway here is the highly racialized notions of who deserves government help, and for what, and who doesn’t.
I would take their calls for freedom and concerns over federal control far more seriously if they gave a shit about D.C. statehood (or at least voting representation in Congress). But for some mysterious reason (whatever could it be?), they don’t seem to be on board. Can’t fathom why that is…