Big gov’t, the new rich, and Plum Creek

Turns out the obscenely greedy Plum Creek is at it again.  We’ve been battling a large development plan of theirs in Maine for some years now up near Moosehead Lake.  I never realized just how big and insidious they are, however, until now.  Since just about everyone in Washington (DC, that is) is in bed with large corporations, it comes as no real surprise that someone from the current administration made a deal with Plum Creek behind closed doors that would destroy vast swaths of undeveloped timber land in Montana.

Ironically, environmentalists are pining for the days when timber companies were actually loggers and miners and not real estate developers.  As someone put it in the article, clear cuts can at least grow back.  What Plum Creek is proposing here is large gated communities of homes for the wealthy.  How is it that they can propose such an enormous development in the midst of a housing crisis?  It’s because the new breed of super wealthy are largely unaffected by the current economic downturn (and we’ll get to why in a minute).  So these homes that are being proposed will generally serve as second, third, or even fourth homes to most of their owners who will spend little actual time there and, in the process, further diminish wildlife habitats and close large areas to hunting and fishing.

So why is the economy not affecting this new breed of super wealthy?  Call it a gut feeling or call it that growing paranoia that comes from being a libertarian (or is it the other way around?), but it seems to me that we’re entering a new type of economy.  Traditionally, the wealthy relied on the less-well-off as both the source of their labor as well as, in many cases, the consumers purchasing their goods.  But now it seems as if the super wealthy are becoming self-supporting.

Automation and outsourcing are increasingly reducing the supply of manufacturing and even service industry jobs and while fewer products are directed at the average citizen.  Certainly this is a small portion of all the goods are jobs out there, but points to a disturbing trend – the wealthy don’t necessarily need the rest of us anymore.  As such, they can buy up all the land and force everyone else out.  It has been happening here in Maine for years – rapid gentrification such that not just working class families but also middle class families find living here to be difficult.  I like to call it Aspenification after Aspen, Colorado where even the town’s doctors and lawyers supposedly must live elsewhere and commute since they can’t afford the cost of living in Aspen.

So, despite the housing crisis, the super wealthy can still buy homes, cars, etc. with abandon.  Despite being a libertarian, I think something needs to be done about this.  The trouble is that in order to get to Washington to begin with, you have to get into bed with corporations and you have to be wealthy.  Face it, does anyone in DC really understand what it’s like to try to make a living these days?  Democrats and Republicans alike are so utterly out of touch and don’t really care since they know the system is such that if they lose someone just like them will be elected instead.

But what is the solution?  It is definitely not federal intervention in the traditional sense since there seems to be less difference between federal government and corporations than ever before.  So, for instance, I am – as are many Mainers – utterly opposed to a North Woods National Park up in northern Maine.  Many outsiders see it as a way to preserve the wilderness (which really is working forest and not true wilderness).  But many Maine residents correctly see a National Park as suddenly opening the flood gates to streams of RVs, poor forestry management practices, drilling, and other things.  The Feds would do better to put more power in the local populace.  As the article above shows, the people who actually live in that part of Montana are by and large opposed to this plan.  Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a voice.

Damn, I sound like a liberal.  Well, at this point I don’t care.  Things like this only do more to fuel the greatest divide in this country – and perhaps the world – right now: class differences.  There was a time when the classes needed each other to survive.  That time seems to be fading.

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