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Ray Haynes

Sacramento’s Hostages sell out on Lumber Tax

Mental health professionals call it “the Stockholm syndrome” where hostages feel empathy and have positive feelings for the captors, feelings which have been described as “irrational” in light of the danger they face. It is a form of “traumatic bonding” like battered wife’s syndrome, or even the Sadist/Masochist relationship. Welcome to Sacramento, where the entire business community (and a couple of Republicans) is now suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

I wrote last week about how untrustworthy the business community can be in politics, and why Republicans cannot be “pro-business” but must be pro-free enterprise. Republicans have married themselves (in politics) to the business community. Democrats have married themselves to unions of all types. Unions are the Democrat’s loyal spouse, but the business community is the political equivalent of an unfaithful wife. They will sleep with anyone if they think they will get something out of it.

The so-called Lumber tax bill is the best example of just how untrustworthy the business community is. The support list for that bill reads like a who’s who of Sacramento’s business community. The California Building Industry Association, the Farm Bureau, the California Forestry Association, PG&E, SDG&E, SoCal Edison, the Cattlemen Association all support this bill. Why? Because they think it protects them from some legal liability associated with fires that start on their land. The federal government, whose questionable management policies have made national forests a tinderbox, ready to go up in flames at the slightest hint of heat, has been suing everybody whose land catches fire, if the fire then spreads to national forest land. Federal law doesn’t allow the federal government to obtain much money for those fires, so the federal prosecutors use state law in California (which is very generous to trial lawyers and litigants) to collect bunches of money from landowners if the fire spreads from their land (no matter how well maintained) to the poorly maintained federal land. It’s a great racket. The feds let the forests deteriorate, so that the trees and other natural matter dies. The feds don’t clean it up, making the dead natural matter a fire danger, and when that fire danger turns into a forest fire, the feds look for some deep pocket private sector company or landowner to sue. It really is disgraceful.

So, the business community, held hostage by the lefties in Washington, look for someone to rescue them from this federal prosecutor’s nightmare. Except they are being held hostage by Sacramento lefties too, and Sacramento lefties have their own ransom demand. It’s sort of like being held hostage in Iran, and having to go to the Taliban for a rescue.

And what is Sacramento’s ransom demand for the rescue? A tax increase. Of course, it is not a tax increase on the business community supporting the bill. It is a tax increase on you and me, when we go to Home Depot or Lowe’s to buy wood. And the price is just too high.

Here is the real kicker to this bill. It may not even give the business community the liability relief it so desperately needs. When the feds heard that Sacramento was changing its liability rules, the Interior Department complained. They were told by Natural Resources Secretary John Laird not to worry. The feds can still sue, and probably get just as much money as before. Of course, if that is correct (and I believe Laird over the protestations of the business community to the contrary), then the business community will once again have foisted a tax increase on the public, and gotten nothing in return. The business community will have joined with their captors to demand the Republicans meet the demands of the captors for release, only to find that the captors lied, again.

Maybe the business community is a bunch of masochists, maybe they really enjoy the abuse they get. Or perhaps they are just like the hostages who in so many situations start to identify with their captors. Whatever the case, the tax increase is too high a price to pay for the ransom in this situation, even if the liability relief was actually in the bill. It really doesn’t matter, though. It isn’t, and, if Republicans vote for this bill, they will be as big a dupe as the business community.