Sunday, August 29, 2010

Joe Miller: Alaskan Secessionist?

The entire country is interested in Alaska's primary for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. A tea partier, Joe Miller, primaried an incumbent Republican, Lisa Murkowski, and may win the nomination. The race is close and will be decided by absentee ballots, which may not be counted for another two weeks. Of course, another thing driving the attention is that Sarah Palin endorsed Joe Miller. CBS' Bob Schieffer had Joe Miller on "Face The Nation," this morning, and he seemed skeptical that Miller could win the general election:

During the interview, Miller brought up the idea of a land-for-cash swap:
"I think Alaska ranks about second per capita of the amount of federal dollars that come in to the state," host Bob Schieffer said. [According to statistics by the Brookings Institution, for FY 2008 Alaska received $2,574.68 in Federal dollars per capita, behind only Vermont and the District of Columbia.]

"You've said that we can't afford all that federal money that's pouring into Alaska. Should Alaska get less money from the federal government?" Schieffer asked.

"I don't think anybody can [claim] - sitting at $13.3 trillion in absolute debt, by some estimates $130 trillion in future unfunded obligations - that we are in any way in a good financial state," Miller said.

"The answer to this is to basically transfer the responsibilities and power of government back to the states and the people. That is really the only answer, I think, out of this crisis," Miller said. [emphasis added]

"As we continue to tighten our belts because fiscally that's critical for the economic solvency of this nation, we also transfer it to the states more power. That means more ownership of lands. It's not a situation where you just yank the financial plug, but at the same time you're transferring over discretion over the use of the resource base," Miller said. [emphasis added]

"In this state, two-thirds of it is owned by the federal government. There really isn't a good constitutional basis for that," Miller said. "It's our position that as the money is restricted, the lands are transferred." [emphasis added]
Does Miller consider the federal dollars an entitlement?

What about the team? Isn't Alaska part of the U.S.? How would a land transfer, which amounts to a resource transfer (And to whom? Miller doesn't say.), from the federal government help the rest of the country? Isn't this a selfish position?

If Alaska's resources are as great as he seems to believe, how would the transition of ownership work? How would the state survive with raw land in exchange for federal payments? Can the resources be developed overnight?

Miller claims that there isn't a good constitutional basis for the federal government's ownership of Alaskan land; however, there may be and probably is a legal basis. States other than Alaska divided land between the state and federal government as a condition of statehood.

The legal basis for federal ownership of Alaskan land is the Statehood Act which admitted Alaska. Some excerpts:

Section 4: As a compact with the United States said State and its people do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to any lands or other property not granted or confirmed to the State or its political subdivisions by or under the authority of this Act, ...

Section 5: The State of Alaska and its political subdivisions, respectively, shall have and retain title to all property, real and personal, title to which is in the Territory of Alaska or any of the subdivisions. Except as provided in section 6 hereof, the United States shall retain title to all property, real and personal, to which it has title, including public lands. [This is simply a recognition of existing title]

Section 6 of the Act describes how some land that was not owned by the state could become state owned: a) For the purposes of furthering the development of and expansion of communities, the State of Alaska is hereby granted and shall be entitled to select, within twenty-five years after the date of the admission of the State of Alaska into the Union, from lands within national forests in Alaska ... b) The State of Alaska, in addition to any other grants made in this section, is hereby granted and shall be entitled to select, within twenty-five years after the admission of Alaska into the Union, not to exceed one hundred and two million five hundred and fifty thousand acres from the public lands of the United States in Alaska ...

Joe Miller is a graduate of Yale Law.

Updater: Article IV, Section Three gives the Congress authority to admit new states: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

Will Joe Miller continue to claim that there is no good constitutional basis for federal land ownership in Alaska? The Constitution gave the Congress certain authority ... with which Congress wrote the Statehood Act ... The Statehood Act declares ...


Joie Vouet said...

I haven't checked whether Miller's position on the debt is accurate.

Did Scheiffer claim that we are "in any way in a good financial state?"

A "transferring over discretion over the use of the resource base," amounts to the end of uniform, federal law over the environment, for example. If we're to be a nation, we may not want to do that.

Anonymous said...

sell the state to them for ..oh,say.. $26 trillion. Were today's Alaskans the original owners? U.S. bought the land from Russia. Could be they are lucky to own any of it.

snowbilly on borrowed pc said...

Is Miller pandering to the secessionists with his claim about about no good constitutional basis for fed'l ownership of the land? How would someone with his education ordinarily make a claim like that? There is some secessionist sentiment in AK, but everyone isn't in that camp. It's possible he's one of them.

If the land/cash swap ever happens, let's hope the feds set a realistic price and get full value for the land/resources.

What he is proposing to do is to wiggle out of the deal voters made when they approved statehood. Miller is treating the federal dollars as an entitlement and asking to exchange that for something the state never owned.

Too funny! How did Sarah Palin come to endorse one of the elite? Yale!

Anonymous said...

"...sell the state to them for..oh,say.. $26 trillion. Were today's Alaskans the original owners? U.S. bought the land from Russia. Could be they are lucky to own any of it."

I'm glad you mentioned that. Apparently Joe skipped class during the Indigenous treaties and land claims lecture.
The original owners DO own some of Alaska.
And then ya got yer Heritage Land Bank, University land trust into perpetuity, and some other little-known land reserves. ALL locked in at the time of statehood.

Surprise, Joe! About half of 'your' state isn't negotiable.

Of course, he's to be forgiven for his ignorance of land trust issues, bein' a Yale grad and whatnot.
Most carpetbaggers that move to Alaska really have no opportunity to learn anything about the formation of this state, although it is a high school graduation requirement now. Perhaps Bristol can tutor Joe in statehood issues, since she HAD to have taken the course in order to GRADUATE from Wasilla High.

To Joe's handlers - first, Google "commonwealth" and do some talking points for him. That's what Alaska is based on.
Second, consult with Vic Fischer before you let Joe say anything else. Vic was actually there.
University of Alaska campuses are all a tremendous resource for 'Alaskaness'.

Joie Vouet said...

Moved here from the post:

The Juneau Empire has a story, "New ballots could boost Murkoswki," which holds out the possibility that Murkowski may still win, even though she is behind by about 1700 votes. The article states that there are about 23,000 ballots left to be counted. 1700 is about 7.4% of those ballots, so if Murkowski wins about 57.4% of the uncounted ballots she will win (if that's incorrect, the arithmetic mistake is mine).

What would be best for Democrats is a Miller win. Usually, it's far easier to win an open seat than one occupied by an incumbent. Scott McAdams is the Democrats' nominee.

Joie Vouet said...

Moved from post to here:

The text of the interview can be found here.

Joie Vouet said...

Somewhere this morning I read Sen. Landrieu (Lincoln?) is bragging about how she brings home the bacon (earmarks). She says that if she doesn't get some for her state some other state will get it. That seems to be what an effective senator would do.

nancydrew said...

This Alaska blogger has written a number of informative posts about Miller. Miller's entire resume seems pretty suspect. Alaskans probably ought to dig a little deeper before the narrative gets set in stone.

His take on Caribou Barbie, Alaska history, the environment and wildlife are an interesting mix.

Anonymous said...

Let's have a look at his Yale transcripts, and what he did while there.