- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009


On Friday, July 17, the House of Representatives met to debate … Go on, take a guess: Health care? The cap-and-tax racket? Stimulus II? No, none of the above. Don’t worry, it’s still spending your money. Wild horses couldn’t stop it from doing that.

As a matter of fact, that’s the correct answer: wild horses. On Friday, the House voted on the Restore Our American Mustangs Act — or ROAM. Like all acronymically cute legislation, its name bears little relation to what it actually does: It’s not about “restoring” mustangs. The federal Bureau of Land Management aims for a manageable population of 27,000 wild mustangs. Currently, there are 36,000, and the population doubles every four or five years.

To prevent things from getting even more out of hand, the BLM keeps another 30,000 mustangs in holding pens — or, if you prefer, managed care facilities. That is to say, under federal management, one in two “wild” horses lives in government housing. The American mustang population is road-testing the impending demographic profile of Japan and Germany: one worker for every retiree.

The welfare mustangs are supposed to be put up for adoption. But, what with the government taking all our money to fund the Barney Frank Institute of Bureaucracy Studies, many of us no longer have the necessary discretionary income to stable a mustang in the rec room.

A lot of the nags in managed care facilities are getting a bit long in the tooth and thus unlikely ever to find homes. So, rather than go on attempting to flog near-dead horses, the BLM was considering inviting the seniors to do the decent thing and sign up for “assisted suicide” — or, in the designated euphemism, “death with dignity.”

In the Netherlands, pretty much everyone older than 47 who goes into the hospital for a minor hernia winds up getting talked into death with dignity. Given that mustangs were introduced to America by the Spanish, it’s not inappropriate that they should meet a European end.

ROAM would prohibit this option. In that sense, it would be acronymically more precise to name it REAM — the Restore Elderly American Mustangs Act. Under this legislation, no horses or burros could be, ah, terminated, and they would have to be released from their holding pens after six months. To facilitate the release of the tame “wild horse” population, the act adds to their present 33-million-acre habitat (that’s bigger than New York state) another 20 million acres — or approximately the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total tab at about $700 million — i.e., chump change. If you look for it in the line-item budget, it comes down at the bottom under “rounding error.” It’s a mere $10,500 per mustang.

If you’re wondering why it costs more to keep a horse on 52 million acres of wilderness than it does to stable it at an upscale horse farm in New England, that’s because, to prevent the mustang population from doubling again by 2013 and requiring the annexation of another 50 million acres (i.e., an area the size of Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands combined), the bill mandates “enhanced” contraception for horses and burros.

John Hinderaker of the Power Line Web site mused on whether this would involve House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who is very keen on federally funded contraception) personally installing the enhanced prophylactic device on every stallion. The pay-per-view rights on that surely would be worth $700 million at least. And it certainly would stimulate the American latex industry. Or perhaps we could import the devices from overseas. I seem to recall that the European Union introduced regulations for a harmonized Euro-condom a few years back.

Anyway, the point is that somewhere in a European warehouse, piles of ill-fitting Euro-condoms are gathering dust. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of Congress to convert a few superfluous General Motors Corp. plants in Michigan into facilities for sewing together unwanted Euro-contraceptives to fit federally condomed mustangs. Just thinking outside the horse box here.

But I digress. The bill also calls for a biennial horse census (presumably run by ACORN community activists) and mandates that government bureaucrats perform home inspections before Americans can adopt wild horses or burros. Presumably, this will require a Federal Burro of Investigation or some such.

It’s hardly worth batting an eyelid over equine welfare queens. It’s a mere drop in the mountain of federal horse manure. But, in their own poignant way, the mustangs are almost too apt a symbol of where we’re all headed. The Old West has been succeeded by the new California, in which a bloated government bureaucracy rides herd on the ever-more-emaciated workhorses of the private sector. And as California goes — and it’s going, going, gone — so goes the nation.

There aren’t enough of us to pay for all this — for government health care, government banks, government mortgages, government automobiles, government horses, government burros, cap-and-trade and stimulating phony-baloney non-jobs like deputy executive associated assistant stimulus resources manager on the Stimulus Coordination and Compliance Commission.

The wealthiest 1 percent already pay 40 percent of all taxes; the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of taxes — and there simply are too few of them — or, more to the point, of you: You’ll be surprised what percentage of you fall into “the top 2 percent” by the time President Obama is through with you.

This isn’t merely Swedenization. As that insouciant, 19-million-acre annexation suggests, when America Swedenizes, it does it on a supersized scale.

The salient point of that 1,200-page cap-and-trade monstrosity was that, in its final form, it was so huge that there was no written version of the bill when the House voted it into law; congressional typists were unable to type as fast as Congress can spend. Congress is legislating on such a scale that the poor bleeding typing fingers of the House stenographers can’t keep up. That means you can’t keep up the payments on it all.

If you have a small business, you’re wasting your time. You’re going to be taxed and regulated into the ground because you’re the designated sucker. Tell your kids to forget about the private sector and sign up with the Equine Census Bureau: jobs for life, early retirement. Government is where it’s at. When in ROAM, do as the ROAMens do.

In 1971, Congress recognized mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Surely nothing captures the essence of the “pioneer spirit” more than living on welfare in a federal care facility while being showered with government contraceptives. Welcome to America in the gelded age.

Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller “America Alone.”

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