the Federal Budget To Prevent U.S. Bankruptcy, Part VII:
Privatize the Interior Department
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
by Jim Grichar
note: I ask readers for their indulgence because of my extensive
use of the b-lingo bureaucrat-lingo and the detail I used in
presenting my arguments. I do this to reduce bureaucratic counter-arguments
which I expect to receive to the absurdity that they invariably
those who did not read Parts IVI of this series, total actual
cuts in proposed spending (what I call the "Cut-o-meter")
now amount to $360 billion. Those cuts came from Defense, NASA,
HUD, the Education Department, the Agriculture Department, Transportation
Department, and other agencies.
Department of the Interior is an old-line federal department, with
a variety of bureaus all with some link to the land or adjacent
water under its purview. It is a department that has largely outlived
its usefulness, except as a vehicle for special interests to get
the public to fund their pet programs. Eliminating Interior would
save $9.8 billion per year.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages non-forest lands owned by
the federal government. Ranchers out west benefit from the cheap
lease rates paid to the government, and because land is leased,
ranchers do not have to pay property taxes to states. Any time there
is a hint of raising rents on this land, a howl and cry goes up
as to how our frontier heritage is being destroyed. Environmentalists
also love BLM, viewing it as a vehicle for locking up lands and
preventing their use for mining or other activities. (They may not
like cattle ranching, but it is a convenient way to keep lands locked
up.) In total, BLM "manages" 700 million acres of public
lands plus manages the mineral rights for 56 million acres of Indian
lands. All together, BLMís budget is nearly $2 billion per year,
which would be saved if it were abolished. And sale of these public
lands would likely bring in additional billions that could be used
to reduce the federal debt. Here would be a chance for environmentalists
to put their money where their mouth is, allowing them to take title
to lands if they would only pay for them.
Minerals Management Service of Interior manages offshore and onshore
leasing of mineral rights. Its budget is about $1.41 billion, including
the payment of mineral lease royalties to states to the tune of
$1.124 billion. Get the federal government out of the mineral leasing
business and let the states lease their lands and collect leasing
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement exists to make
sure that strip coal mines are reclaimed, covered with ground and
grass, after the coal has been removed. Largely a reaction to what
happened in such states as Tennessee, where the tops of mountains
were removed to get coal and left, this office could today be abolished
and states could take care of regulating and monitoring such activity.
And this would be even more valid once federal lands were sold as
recommended above. Ending this operation would save $0.36 billion
Bureau of Reclamation, source of pork for a number of federal "water
projects," spends $1.161 billion per year, and it should all
be abolished. While some of the water projects collect revenues
and repay the federal government, the real question is why the federal
government is involved in funding projects that could be funded
by the states and their citizens? Cut out this program and save
the $1.16 billion.
U.S. Geological Survey is now a bone thrown to the geology community.
Started to survey the nationís lands in 1879, that work has been
done. Current work involves more sophisticated interpretations of
the geology of public lands, work that could be better left to private
geologists and the firms for which they work. Cutting out this vestige
of the U.S. frontier days would save $900 million per year.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a large bone thrown to
the environmental movement. These are the folks who "protect"
the spotted owl, Jimmy Carterís infamous "snail darter,"
and a host of other endangered species. Environmentalists use this
organization not only to prevent legitimate multiple uses of federal
lands but also to intrude on private citizens and businesses in
the use of their property, all in the name of saving a species or
preserving the environment. If environmentalists are really intent
on preserving endangered species, let them use their own money to
purchase land and preserve those creatures, just as the Audubon
Society currently does for birds. Savings from abolishing USFWS
would amount to $2 billion per year.
National Park Service should also be privatized under a special
sale. Currently budgeted at nearly $2.75 billion per year, the Park
Service has never been able to manage properly its lands. Often
the object of a political tug-of-war among environmentalists, preservationists,
and local citizens, citizens have not gotten value for the tax dollars.
Private firms, such as the large lumbering companies that are immensely
successful at managing large tracts of land for maximum value, would
be excellent potential owners for such properties and would operate
them to turn a profit, thus generating funds for the upkeep and
maintenance of these beautiful areas. Selling these would raise
further billions of dollars for debt reduction.
one lunatic operation within the Interior Department is another
vestige of the Wild West, and that is the Bureau of Indian Affairs
(BIA). Today, Indians profit hugely from setting up and running
gambling casinos and other businesses on their property. These entities
are all exempt from federal and state taxation and often this exemption
is used to drive other neighboring "taxed" firms out of
business. It is adding insult to injury to spend further taxpayer
monies to subsidize the Indians. Let them keep title to their lands,
and let the public save the nearly $2.4 billion spent annually on
this crazy welfare scheme, a scheme that has kept Indians in poverty
until the recent casino binge.
abolishing the operations at the Department level (or in b-lingo the head shed) would save $1.6 billion annually. Included in this
amount is welfare for various Pacific islands for which the U.S.
is trustee (give them their independence and save the money), more
welfare for Indians ($730 million!), and such useless functions
as the inspector generalís office. For those uninitiated in the
bureaucracy, inspector generals are supposed to root out waste,
fraud, abuse, and illegality in a department or agencies operations.
What they really do is help the political appointees justify and
cover up any malfeasance, all in the name of keeping constituents
from applying political heat to their Congressmen to abolish useless
and wasteful activities.
the Cut-o-meter Total is .... $370 billion
the Interior Department would save nearly $10 billion annually and
finally put to an end an organization that serves a handful of special
interests. And it would raise the Cut-o-meter total to nearly $370
Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to "un-spin" the federal government's attempt to con the
teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides
economic consulting services to the private sector.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com