Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Idaho benefits from federal government relationships

Russ Fulcher’s call to resist the U.S. government (or “feds,” his demeaning term for it) published July 23 presents a number of issues that require addressing for the sake of accuracy, if for no other reason.

“When the feds say jump.” Who is that, really? It’s the government of the United States of America, not some invading force. When former Idaho state Sen. Fulcher speaks of acquiescing, he has it exactly backward. It was Idaho that petitioned to join the federal government as a state. It was the United States that acquiesced. Idaho accepted a number of conditions in order to join the union, to become one of the United States. One was to accept and follow the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Another was that certain lands within what would become Idaho’s borders would remain under the ownership of the United States government. Fulcher’s “acquiescence” is simply living up to our commitment.

Fulcher goes on to compare the popularly elected government of the United States to the monarchy of 18th century England. This has to be the granddaddy of all false analogies. There is no King George III here. Government in the United States is of, by and for the people. The comparison is a serious insult to American democracy. And equating today’s resisters to American colonists comes dangerously close to advocating armed insurrection.

It’s hard to make the case that anyone in Idaho is “oppressed” by the U.S. government in any meaningful sense of the word. Our representative democracy gives every state a seat at the table. It is the envy of the world. And Idaho has a better deal than most states.

Each U.S. congressman represents about the same number of people. But in California there is one U.S. senator per about 16.4 million people. There is one Texas senator per about 13.5 million. Florida and New York both have one senator per about 10 million. Idaho has one senator per about 800,000 people. It’s obvious who’s getting the better deal.

Much of the complaint about “heavy-handed” federal actions comes from people who, frankly, won’t approve of anything that isn’t exactly what they want. All federal actions are taken under laws voted on by Idaho representatives. No law is imposed by executive fiat. Every regulation has a statutory basis. Everyone won’t always be pleased at what happens, but everyone is heard as laws are made. However, being heard doesn’t equal getting your way.

Fulcher states that Idaho should take over federal lands because they (a) can’t be utilized like private land and (b) produce “offset money” that comes with onerous conditions.

There are private leases on public lands all over Idaho. That the land isn’t being utilized is patently untrue. As for the payments in lieu of taxes, in Fiscal Year 2013 the PILT payment to Idaho totaled $26 million, or .002 percent of the more than $12.88 billion in federal dollars that came into Idaho. If the strings attached are so oppressive, we can buy our way out of them pretty cheaply. But Idaho’s legal claim to those lands, if there ever was one, extinguished with statehood.

Fulcher says that compliance with federal requirements is a weakness. I say it is a strength of America that we all work together within the framework of our Constitution. Idaho should be proud to be a member of the United States, not finding ways to insult its governance. Benjamin Franklin issued this warning at the founding: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” I believe it remains wisdom for today.

George Moses is a Boise resident, former U.S. military officer and former congressional aide.