Enviros trade in human misery

SACRAMENTO – One of the most unusual vote-buying scams the Obama administration may have used to pass its health care socialization plan was an alleged promise to two Democratic congressmen to increase federal water supplies to the San Joaquin Valley. It’s the nation’s most fertile farm region, but a region now dotted with scenes that evoke images from the “Grapes of Wrath” thanks to a drought caused more by government policy than by nature.

Reps. Dennis Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno deny any Faustian bargain. But they agreed to vote yes on the health bill just as the administration made an earlier-than-planned announcement of an increase in federally controlled water supplies to the valley, from 5 percent of normal amounts to 25 percent. The congressmen thereby helped impose on the nation’s health system the same type of government control and rationing that is killing their own region, but the irony is most likely lost on them. It wasn’t lost on columnist George Will, who called this transaction “almost gorgeous … [T]he party of expanding government secured two votes by increasing rations of the scarcity.”

As the final arm-twisting for Obamacare took place last weekend, I was driving through the heart of the Valley, past the farms and gritty towns that define what Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, calls the Garden of Eden because of its world-renowned agricultural productivity and variety. Nunes has long been pointing out what was evident through the car window. Cuts in federal water supplies to protect a tiny fish, the Delta smelt, have dried up portions of a region that supplies the nation with much of its fruits and vegetables. I saw an entire orchard where the dead trees were being chipped into mulch. There were vast empty fields, tumbleweeds and farms going to seed, even though recent rainfall left the nearby hillsides a brilliant green.

The San Joaquin Valley is suffering. The latest figures put the unemployment rate at 21.3 percent in Merced County, 18.9 percent in Stanislaus County, 18.3 percent in Tulare County and 18.4 percent in San Joaquin County. Some smaller, agriculturally dependent towns have unemployment rates as high as 40 percent. These are higher rates than usual. It doesn’t take any brilliance to realize that a 95-percent reduction in water supplies to a farming region will lead to severe unemployment.

Rep. Nunes raised some eyebrows for saying recently on Glenn Beck’s show on the Fox News Channel that “it’s important to note that there are a couple of examples, current recent examples, one being Saddam Hussein, who starved his people of water, and [Zimbabwe’s president] Robert Mugabe, who currently starves his people of water.”

Nunes’ main point is correct: Government control of resources puts the lives and fortunes of individuals in the hands of a nation’s rulers. In California, liberal politicians are blaming the water problems on drought, but that drought is an act of legislators and judges. Our country has plenty of resources and wealth to store and move water around and to plan for those un-rainy days.

The environmental Left insists that the Valley’s plight is caused by ever-scarce water resources, yet the state has not only neglected the construction of new water infrastructure, it has chosen to use the bulk of its water resources for conservation purposes. Rep. Nunes’ senior policy advisor, Andrew House, said that 76 percent of the water that enters the Sacramento Delta – the estuary system formed at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers – flushes out to San Francisco Bay and is, essentially, wasted.

This purposeful drying up of the San Joaquin Valley is part of a “green utopian experiment,” House argued. Since 1992, state policy has been pulling more and more water out of agricultural uses and diverting it to environmental protection. “They just keep coming at you.”

Environmentalists couldn’t care less about the smelt, a little bait fish. They will use any species or any excuse to shut down water resources to people and the farms that feed people. Environmentalists love doomsday scenarios, which give them the opportunity to control water (or land) to achieve their real goal of limiting growth and constraining the human use of nature. They want people to be crammed into high-density human islands and the rest of the land preserved under tight government control.

“The radical side of the environmental movement, working with their patrons in government, is fighting a war of attrition in the San Joaquin Valley of California,” House said. “Their goal is to assume control of water resources … and deny water to farmers in the Central Valley.” Many environmentalists, he added, believe that there shouldn’t be any farming in this arid region. If you think these are exaggerations, I’d suggest reading some of the environmental literature (and court pleadings) on the topic. Many enviros want an end to these “corporate farms,” a destruction of the state’s dams and a return of California’s rural land to wilderness. They take aim at the rural Central Valley, while their allies in the Smart Growth movement take aim at the “evils” of suburban living.

A Los Angeles Times column from 2007 by author Gordy Slack echoes a common and revealingly elitist view of the Central Valley water wars: “If we drive [the Delta smelt] from existence, we will have obliterated an entire world, willingly, in order for a while longer to grow cotton, rice and alfalfa in the desert, to keep our swimming pools topped off and open, to keep the price of water cheap.”

Note the reference to growing things in a desert and the sneering attack on people who have swimming pools and use “cheap water.” Maybe it’s telling that this “era of limits” nonsense is taking hold again as the state prepares for a possible return to the governorship of Jerry Brown, who first put these dubious ideas into practice during his 1975-83 administration.

Old-time progressives, House noted, put their names on dams and constructed infrastructure that created a great farming region. These days, progressives want to shut down human progress, and are comfortable creating human misery, as they try to create an environmental paradise through the politics of scarcity.

And these same types of people will now be controlling your health care.

Steven Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Journalism Center (www.calwatchdog.com).

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

Scroll to Top