L. Neil Smith's

Number 20, December 15, 1996.

Return to the Welfare State

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Let's not pretend to be surprised.
         President Clinton managed to campaign for re-election by claiming credit for the modest Republican "welfare reforms" which he reluctantly signed under election-year pressure in September, while at the same time promising his core supporters -- unionized government welfare workers -- that he would promptly "fix" the bad parts of that law once he was re-elected.
         What needed to be "fixed"? The president was pretty frank about that, too, proclaiming more than once that if the hard-hearted Republicans were serious about requiring some recipients of government charity to actually do a little "work," it was clearly now the job of government to create enough make-work "jobs" to keep them looking busy.
         And we'd better throw in some new federally-funded day care, too.
         The voters evidently bought this, judging by the vote count Nov. 5. So it should come as no surprise that the Associated Press reported Nov. 27 "The White House may ask Congress to restore about $13 billion in welfare spending that was axed in a bill signed by President Clinton last year to overhaul the welfare system."
         "One proposal under consideration by White House staff would restore food stamp eligibility for many legal immigrants who have not become citizens," reports Ron Fournier for AP in Washington.
         "Another idea would increase the number of food stamps given to families with high housing costs," while "A third proposal would relax the tough work requirements for able-bodied adults who have no dependents. ... The Congressional Budget Office says 800,000 to one million people could lose food stamps under this provision."
         Yep, President Clinton actually signed on to a plan that could have reduced the number of people on the dole, and (eventually) the size of the tax-hungry office cadre assigned to hold their hands every step of the way. And he actually stood by that plan ... for nearly two months.
         We can all let out our breaths now. That was a close one.

# # #

         Common in the "woman at the mall" interviews these days is the annoyed assertion that our representatives in Washington should stop their partisan bickering so they can get down to the serious business of legislation.
         The follow-up question which never seems to get asked: With so many thousands of unread statutes already in effect, lying there ready to ensnare the unwary, why do we need more?
         One vital piece of legislation which was rushed into place back in 1978 was the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, passed during a brief panic over reports that stealthy foreigners might be buying up loads of prime United States real estate, for purposes unknown.
         And so the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service has continued to keep dozens of highly paid federal bureaucrats at work, year in and year out, quietly churning out annual reports as required by this Act.
         This year, for instance, the service reports that scurrilous foreign interests have managed to acquire a whopping 1 percent of America's agricultural land.
         Maine suffers the worst ignominy, with 16.4 percent of her private lands in the hands of scurrilous foreigners -- mostly Canadian timber interests, while 4.7 percent of Nevada's private land has now been surreptitiously acquired by inscrutable foreign nationals, most of it pastureland or mining claims up Elko way, held by a Canadian corporation or a firm out of the British Virgin Islands.
         These facts are essentially meaningless. Foreign investors enjoy no extraterritorial right to bring in strange alien customs, as foreign traders were once excused from obeying local laws in 19th century China. No hiker in the Humboldts has yet been oppressed by a gang of mean-spirited Mounties.
         The West was opened in large part through British investment in the cattle companies of the late 19th century; this doesn't seem to have resulted in schoolchildren being taught to sing "God Save the Queen" in the public schools of Laramie or Bozeman.
         Anyway, that 4.7 percent is only 4.7 percent of the approximately 13 percent of Nevada which isn't already owned by the federal government. If Nevadans -- or anyone in the West -- really want to look for a massive landholder not subject to local regulation, which has seized (without making any known payments, getting the permission of the Legislature, or even registering its "titles" at the local county seat) and removed from the tax rolls vast stretches of our lands, we need shift our gaze no further than Washington City.
         In truth, most nations actively seek foreign investment, because it brings in more wealth for development. The citizens of the United States are the single largest group of land-holders in foreign nations -- we can only suffer if we join in this absurd paranoia about "foreign control."

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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