Big Business in Big Government

Republicans in Congress never tire of exuding their fulminations against Big Government. They also never tire of their sham, for they are the leading supporters of that Big Government — such as the Federal Reserve and corporate welfare payouts — that caters to the endless demands of Big Business.

Big Business is Big Government. How else can Big Business get away with so much unless it arranges for Big Government to look the other way, subsidize it and give away the taxpayer assets and natural resources to these global corporations?

A recent illustration of how the Gingrich-Dole Republicans speak with a forked tongue was the passage in 1995 of a rider to an appropriations bill that was called the “Emergency Salvage Timber Sale Program.” This maneuver, pushed by the big timber companies, is designed to accelerate the cutting of federal forests by creating a pocket of dictatorship against any rule of law or challenge to the U.S. Forest Service.

Salvage timber is defined so broadly that logging of almost any federal forest area is possible. Salvageable sections of a forest include those that are “lacking the characteristics of a healthy and viable ecosystem.” This nebulous definition is then insulated from any boundaries by the legislation in specific ways that give free rein to the timber industry-Forest Service complex.

First this radical salvage rider, which did not receive a single hour of Congressional hearings, suspended six federal environmental and forest management laws. These laws include the Endangered Species Act, the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act — crucial protections of our forests for future generations.

Next, the rider effectively repeals the rights of citizens to take the Forest Service to court for its decisions on salvage timber sales to timber companies. These companies are now using the salvage rider to secure timber sales on tracts previously off limits due to environmental requirements, including pristine, roadless areas.

Thirdly, the rider opens up previously outlawed timber sales by making null and void any prior court rulings. This is why opponents of this rider call it “logging without laws.”

For decades the timber industry has been making taxpayers subsidize its cutting of the federal forests which belong to all Americans. You taxpayers build the roads and provide other subsidies for these timber giants who place such fuzzy “wilderness preservation” advertisements on television. The General Accounting Office estimates that in a recent three year period the taxpayer losses amounted to one billion dollars.

This is not enough for the timber lobby. It pushed this notorious rider so that it could exempt it predations from the rule of law and the exposure to citizen challenges to the misbehavior or lawlessness of the U.S. Forest Service. So lawless and under the timber industry’s influence is the Forest Service that foresters, employed by the Service, formed their own professional organization in the Eighties to defend their professionalism regarding timber management from the timber industry’s grip on the Forest Service.

Earlier this year, President Clinton admitted that he made a mistake in signing this rider into law. But he has not instructed his Forest Service to use its remaining authority to restrain the fast-growing devastation on U.S. forest land.

Big Government in the grip of Big Business continues to permit the kind of cutting of trees that are not imperiled by disease, insects or fire, but are imperiling salmon fishing in the Northwest. The salmon need healthy intact forests to survive. Removing trees from watersheds and riparian areas can have destructive effects on salmon and breeding. Because of the rider, salmon fishermen, whose livelihood depends on sustainable timber harvesting to continue fishing, have no recourse to stop these timber sales.

There is a need for immediate Congressional hearings to start the process of repealing the salvage timber rider in P.L. 104-19 and to end below-cost timber sales on public lands which are costing taxpayers billions of dollars and stripmining the heritage of future Americans.

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