Now that the Cliven Bundy trial has ended with a victory (at least temporarily) for the Bunkerville rancher, it’s time to ask what we can learn from this David-and-Goliath battle between a small businessman and the federal government.
Bundy had been running his cattle on federal land for many years, but in 1993 he stopped paying grazing fees to protest a BLM directive that limited his grazing area to protect the desert tortoise habitat. The feds now say he owes more than a million dollars in fees and penalties. Bundy claims that the federal government doesn’t have a right to own land, and that states own the land within their borders. In 2014, he and his sons and some armed supporters had a showdown with federal authorities trying to execute an order to round up his cattle. Threats were made on both sides, and many people feared it would turn into a shootout, which luckily didn’t happen.
The result was federal felony conspiracy and weapons charges against Bundy, two of his sons and some militia members. Bundy spent two years in a federal detention center awaiting trial, but was released in January after U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro tossed out the criminal charges because of what she called “flagrant” misconduct by federal prosecutors. The feds were so eager to punish Bundy that they repeatedly ignored the law, lied to the court and withheld evidence that could have harmed their case.
Think the federal government is out to protect our rights and enforce the law? The IRS has been caught illegally targeting conservative groups, the Clintons used the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign and the list goes on. One positive thing that came out of the Bundy case is that at least one judge believes the federal government should not be above the law.
Cliven Bundy is no hero. He threatened federal marshals with weapons and encouraged others to resist law enforcement officers with armed force. However, it’s encouraging to see one man stand up against the almighty federal government and fight for the principles he believes in, whether or not you believe his actions were justified. Many people, especially in Nevada, are sick and tired of being pushed around by the feds.
The federal government controls more than 80 percent of Nevada land, and it’s not just areas like the Test Site and Area 51. It’s also parcels of land right in our urban areas. Thousands of acres are set aside to protect desert tortoises, pupfish, sage grouse and other so-called endangered species, which often seem to get more protection than human beings.
The federal government is taking over more and more of our lives. If you own a bakery, you don’t dare refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Catholic hospitals are threatened with legal action if their employees’ health insurance plans don’t cover abortions. The EPA is likely to come calling if you break down a beaver dam on your property that blocks your access to drinking water.
Burdensome government regulations make it difficult for small businesses to succeed. One 2017 survey determined that the average small business spends $12,000 a year complying with government regulations, 44 percent of businesses spend at least 40 hours a year dealing with federal paperwork, and 29 percent spend at least that much on state and local rules. Although President Trump is trying to roll back some of these regulations, it still seems like the federal government is a silent (and unwelcome) partner in everybody’s business.
The Cliven Bundy case should remind us that it’s every American’s right to stand up for their principles, and that sometimes the little guy can win, even when the odds are stacked against him.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
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