You often hear right-wingers claim that government intervention in the economy is flawed because, in part, “government picks winners and losers.” Supposedly, the market ought to do that alone, though I’ve never known any example in history of a market that existed without a government to manage and police it.
So it’s no small irony that when Sean Hannity took his show to the Central Valley to try and paint the outright Depression there as the cause of liberal environmentalists stealing water from poor farmers, Hannity himself got hit by an advocate of the fishermen who have been hammered by wasteful government water policies. David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars offers the video:
Still, Hannity was more interested in demagoguing than in producing an accurate portrait of the situation, let alone helping find a resolution. He blamed the high unemployment rate in the San Joaquin Valley on the lack of water for farmers, and blamed that solely on the delta smelt lawsuits.
Near the end of the show, he had on his usual Intended Liberal Victim, for whom he could reserve such deep journalistic questions as “And I just want to know: How did you get your priorities so screwed up in life? What happened to you?”
But the Intended Victim, a fellow named Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, actually bit back, pointing out how callous and indifferent Hannity was toward the plight of the people on the coast who have traditionally made their livings by fishing salmon, both commercially and recreationally.
Neiwert also goes on to add that Bush-era water policy, from the decisions early in the administration by Bush and Cheney to restrict water releases in the Klamath basin to help southern Oregon farmers (and resulting in one of the largest salmon kills in West Coast history) to agreeing to export more water from the Delta at the expense of fisheries.
As I’ve written about here at Calitics, the water problems in the Delta and the Valley are caused by contracts written during wet years to ensure greater delivery of supplies to unsustainable land use policies in the southern San Joaquin Valley and in Southern California. The water crisis we face is not just analogous to, but fundamentally related to, the housing bubble and its collapse. Water managers wrote checks mother nature could not cash – just as the housing bubble collapsed when borrowers were unable to service the debts, the water bubble collapsed when Mother Nature was unable to provide the water to “pay” the contracts written under the Bush administration.
The Valley is experiencing the effects of both the housing crisis and the water crisis. But the solution should not be, as Hannity demands, cramming down Monterey fishermen to refloat a Modesto or a Moreno Valley bubble.
Hannity wants to use government policy to not only pick winners and losers, but to do so in the most reckless method possible. His preferred solution would ensure the death of the salmon fishery and further ecosystem collapse. And it would simply create another bubble in the Valley where jobs would be based on an unsustainably high use of water, something that is particularly reckless in the face of global warming and the declining rate of precipitation.
Farmworkers and fishermen have more in common than conservatives would have them believe. They both need sustainable water policy to survive. And that is in turn in the best interests of all Californians.
Let’s hope more fishermen and farmworkers stand up to Hannity’s cheap demagoguery. He doesn’t have the Valley’s best interests in mind.