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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Government Keeps Rural West Going


The 187,000 acres on which sits the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge never belonged to the state of Oregon, much less the band of cowboy exhibitionists who’d taken it over. This and other federal lands were acquired through conquest over, purchases from or treaties with Mexico, Russia, Spain, England, France and Native Americans.

The federal government lets loggers, ranchers and other businesses make a subsidized living off public land, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. The fees ranchers pay for grazing on federal land are considerably below those charged by private landowners. The government loses money on nearly all timber sales on public land.

Now that we’ve gotten this off our chests, let’s sympathize with the hardworking people of the rural West, losing a beautiful way of life to harsh economic realities. The growing poverty in the sparsely populated high desert of south central Oregon is shared by communities far from the region’s booming cities.

The good folks of Harney County certainly did not deserve this invasion by outsiders. They are entitled to resent the closing of the refuge along with threats against neighbors working there. The disruption spread through the community.

It’s true that the federal government owns massive amounts of Western land. It’s true that tighter environmental restrictions have curtailed some economic activity on this property. And we must recognize that many local complaints about federal management of the land have merit.

But a federal retreat from the rural West would spell economic disaster. Thinking people throughout the West understand this. In Harney County, government paychecks account for 60 percent of earned income.

Consider this headline in The Missoulian newspaper: “Rural western Montana counties struggling mightily with loss of federal funds.” This happened during the 2014 budget wars, when Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act and Community Self-Determination Act. Gone was $300 million in subsidies for roads, schools, government jobs and other programs.

Rural Westerners might ask themselves why so many of them buy into the “government is evil” philosophy. The conservatives they send to Washington have made common cause with Easterners eager to save their taxpayers some dollars.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases.” One was “if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

You don’t have to be a small-government conservative to question the trainload of subsidies that keep many rural economies moving. If a shoe factory in Massachusetts can’t make a profit, it closes. Why are the rules so different for Western agricultural businesses?

It’s easy to blame environmentalists and ignore the biggest killer of logging jobs: automation and a large forested landmass called Canada.

Rural areas benefit from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program — whereby Washington sends money to counties with large tracts of federal land that local governments can’t tax. (The fairest of subsidies, the funding was cut under sequestration.) Some suggest changing the program to direct more money toward the poorer communities.

A wildlife refuge is itself an economic asset. The federal government pays salaries and other costs of maintaining an amenity that also brings in tourists.

Do the state and local taxpayers care to bear these costs? Or would the plan be to let industry pay for the right to savage the land, except for the nicest vistas, which would be sold to billionaire “ranchers”?

An estimated 47 million bird watchers in America spend $40 billion a year on their passion. Having a federal wildlife refuge in your community seems not a bad deal at all.

As Reagan said, “Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at

Photo: Occupier Duane Ehmer rides his horse Hellboy at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart


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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
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  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
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