Thursday, June 29, 2006

They shoot horses, don't they?

From the Department of Corruption Given Little Media Attention:

America's wild horses and donkeys are at risk of slaughter, all so a few welfare-corporations can over-stock public land even more.

Here's how it works. The nation's 50,000 wild horses roam on federal land – that is, land held in common by the entire American people. Bigtime ranchers also use this land to graze millions of their privately-owned cattle. Able to buy and sell politicians like so much prime stock, the wealthy ranchers have rigged up a long-running sweetheart deal (100 years old and still going strong) that gives them access to this common pasturage at bargain prices: less than one-tenth of the going market rate for private grazing land. The result is an effective annual subsidy of more than $500 million to some of the richest men in America. As always, your rootin', tootin' cowboy capitalists must be protected from the risks of the "free market" at every turn – even as they impose it, at gunpoint, on others.
So the ranchers want the horses off public land so they can cram more cows in there and make more money through their sweetheart deals. The resource at issue here is grass, not oil, but the principle is the same as in Bush's witless, pig-layer adventure in Iraq: me want, they got; kill them, give me.

And as in Iraq, Bush's horse-killing policy is swaddled with lies and fearmongering. The ranchers say they must be given even more public subsidies, or else the sacred right of all Americans to churn cheap beef through their intestines twice a day might be lost – and that would mean the terrorists win, right? Meanwhile, Bush says it costs too much to let all the wild horses live out their natural lives. Yet the total annual outlay for the federal horse programs – $50 million – is a fraction of ranchers' yearly gorging at the public trough. The tiniest increase in grazing fees could cover the programs' costs for decades – while still keeping the delicate cow barons well-protected from that mean old free market.

And where there's a government pork-barrel, there is always a protective layer of lies.

Bush claims the wild horses are eating too much grass, but in truth the private cattle out-number wild horses by 50 to 1. If the wild horses are eating too much grass, those cattle are eating too-much-times-fifty grass. Past government studies have consistently warned that rangeland is being destroyed by over-grazing, and recommended reducing the number of cattle. Needless to say, the ranchers' bought Congress-critters will never let that happen.

But we do Mr. Bush and his cohorts wrong to imply they are completely witless. Certainly they exhibit a sense of humor – of the heavy, frat-boy doofus variety – in commiting their depredations. For example, the very day after Bush consigned 20,000 living creatures to unnecessary slaughter, Congress proclaimed a new "National Day of the Horse" – a yearly celebration of the animal's "vital contribution" to American culture.

And they say Americans don't do irony.

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