Yesterday, while traveling for work, I listened briefly to an interview with the Wisconsin Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen. Nilsestuen was appointed to the position of Secretary by Doyle in 2003.
The topic was essentially land use planning for the State and Nilsestuen, being the progressive collectivist that he is, was being as subtle as possible in all of his comments but the bottom line was that he and his cronies down in Madison seem to think that they have a crystal ball with some amazing properties, and a mandate for controlling one of the largest economic factors of production - land.
First of all, Nilsestuen indicated that he painstakingly took the time to put together a "blue ribbon" panel of people to look into every nook and cranny of Wisconsin to come up with an overall strategy for land use and land development for the State. I'm not talking about State-owned land here folks, the Ag Secretary was talking about private property regulation... The panel, he said, was composed of people with impecable credentials bla bla bla... He went on to state that the population of Wisconsin will increase by over 1 million by 2030 and that this is a clarion call to action. Thirdly, he indicated that currently 30,000 acres of land was being converted annually to "developments" (to which the WPR interviewer damn near gasped in horror) and, again, sounds an alarm. Lastly, he indicated that "we want to make sure Wisconsin turns out looking the way we want and not looking like New Jersey." New Jersey?
1. Regarding his "blue ribbon panel" - This was nothing more than a hand-picked task force not too dissimilar to the very same charade purportrated on citizens of many a school district in the state, aka Long Range Facilities Planning Task Forces. Point being, a hand-picked task force put together by a government appointed official to examine the strategy for government planning and control over land use is no different, fundamentally, from a group pulled together to examine what next to build in a government monopolized school district. Nobody on either task force is there to question its legitimacy, or the premise for their planning. In the case of school districts, for example, to suggest breaking the monopoly as a viable means of managing facilities planning (or even part of the strategy) is never broched. In the case of the land use panel, clearly there was not a representative number of private property owners and advocates for the elimination of land use arm twisting by the state, or the devolution of the DNR, or massive increases in private land-ownership, or anything else contrary to the overall Doyle command and control vision. The premise was how, as an ever-growing socialist state, should we force counties, towns and other municipalities to conform Governor Doyle's progressive
vision of Wisconsin's future.
2. The Secretary's premise for action was based upon two comments he made. First this idea that Wisconsin's population will be increasing by over 1 million by 2030. Let's briefly look at this prognostication. Current statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services indicates the State's population at 5,581,980. An increase of over 1 million to this number is approximately an 18% increase in 24 years time. The net average increase in population per year will need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 42,000 each and every year. The data from HHS
further shows the following:
If you run the numbers what you will find is that we have increased in population by approximately 31,000 per year since 2000. Projecting this actual growth forward to 2030 results in a population increase of at most 750,000 additional residents (assuming we keep pace with current growth).
But look at the components, the age group where the largest percentage increase is found will no longer live in the state in 2030... In 24 years, half of that group will be dead, and the other half living in Florida, Tennessee or Arizona! So, just using the data that is out there the Secretary was off by 25% in his premise (at a minimum). Moreover, look who is leaving - 30 to 39 year olds. And who are they taking with them (or not producing); 0 to 14 year olds. These trends do not portend massive growth in this state now or in the future. Plus, the tax consequences of the Doyle Administration will not be making things any better any time soon.
The second part of his premise for action was the comment regarding the acreage going into or converting to "development" (which during the interview he conceded included roads). Let's consider 30,000 acres of development, shall we? Sounds like a bunch of land, doesn't it... Well, the fact is the state of Wisconsin comprises 65,500 square miles of land (41,920,000 acres); 30,000 acres represents .07% of the total land mass of the state. That's right, 7 onehundreths of a percent. Even if you take out the lakes and streams you hardly change the result (.08 percent). Now, there's
a premise for a blue ribbon panel - and the spending of unknown amounts of taxpayer dollars to get er done...
3. Time and again, the Ag Secretary commented that we don't want Wisconsin to end up looking like New Jersey. Well Mr. Scandahoovian, I don't want Wisconsin looking like a socialist country! Good grief, the market place of individuals and businesses all competing for land, along with private owners doing their own due dilligence with stewardship, along with the natural course of events will shape the way the state looks. You, on the other hand, want to push your vision of what you and your state cronies would like to see the state look like. And what, pray tell, is that?
Secretary Nilsestuen came to his position from running co-ops around the state. He is a farmer by history and a farmer by trade. His vision is that of Wisconsin looking a heck of a lot more like McLean County
, Illinois than either New Jersey or the Wisconsin we all know and love today. His vision is Doyles vision and it includes massive state subsidy of corn and other biofuel Ag products. Frankly, moving currently unused land (wood lots) into corn production is a horrible idea with no sound economic or scientific rational. Moreover, mandating through whatever stick mechanism they have in mind municipalities land use regulations belys the work of the free market. The idea of state or federal subsidized bio fuels production as a underlying premise, or guiding factor, for land use conversion policy at the state level is simply one giant step towards the state owning/controlling - defacto - one of the most important factors of production; Land. When the state controls or owns the factors of production, the market ceases to exist we all become far poorer in the end. Just take a trip back in time to Stalinist Russia for a primer...
Nilsestuen is simply gaming for a incredible step by the State of Wisconsin towards big time, in your face, socialism and is in lock step with all the other proposals by Doyle and company including socialized health care, increased scope and expropriation for the education monopoly, etc., etc. Moreover, he was allowed to get away with misstating population growth arguably by over 25% and also allowed to create a "development crises" thesis with no challenge regarding an amount of land that is wholely insignificant. The fact that farm land or wood lots convert to other uses, referred to as "development" says nothing about the value received and what that capital did post purchase. Neither point was ever challenged by the WPR interviewer and in fact was simply obfuscated (all the interviewer could say was, "wow, 30,000 acres is a lot of land").
The interviewer failed to ask the Secretary what his policies imply for crop subsidization and overall taxes.
The interviewer failed to ask the question in this whole debate - the use of a property tax.
Yet, there was the Ag Secretary spewing dubious growth data and rediculous scare tactics regarding current levels of property conversions, and using it as a premise for promoting "tools" for counties, cities and towns to regulate private property further. I have heard some biased and unbelieveable intereviews over the years on WPR but this one was stunning.