The Defense Budget Sequester and Obama’s ”Copper Trust” Moment

Butte Montana has an extremely  fascinating history, featuring the period in the late 1800’s and early 1900s known as the War of the Copper Kings.

One particular episode that comes to mind was the Copper Trust case, and centers around three prominent Copper Kings; William A. Clark, Marcus Daley and Fritz Hienze and a portion of mining law known as the Apex Law, a law which allowed the owner of the land on which a mineral vein surfaced to have all rights to the minerals emanating from that vein no matter whose land the vein passed under.

Fritz Hienze started out in Butte as an underground surveyor whose job was to keep careful records of the underground holdings of his employer. Fritz did his job well, but apparently also kept records for his own use as well.

In due course, Fritz and mining engineer T.R. Trerise  made claim on a very small piece of unclaimed ground smack in the midst of several large mining operations. The piece of land was a mere 0.009 of an acre, about the size of a small room. Immediately after filing his claim and obtaining legal title to it, Hienze invoked the Apex Law thus claiming the vast mineral wealth already being mined in the adjoining cluster of the Anaconda holdings.

Of course the owners of the other holdings immediately filed suite against Hienze’s Copper Trust. But Judge Clancy, the judge of the case, was in Hienze’s pocket and issued a temporary injunction in favor of Fritz and shut down the mines putting some 3,000 miners out of work; this in January.

The judge got wind of 3,000 angry miners with empty lunch buckets, and their wives, with lynching on their minds, heading his way. The judge quickly left town.

What does all this have to do with the Defense budget?

Barack Obama has laid claim to the fiction that the wealthy, those making more than $250,000/year are not paying their fair share of taxes, and is using this claim to cripple American  security by way of the Defense Department budget.

Think I’m kidding? What do two top military leaders have to say!

This from the Huffington Post: Large new cuts in defense spending would “terribly weaken” U.S. national security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday as he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton used a rare joint interview to argue that the nation cannot afford to keep playing partisan chicken with its finances.

And this from former Charman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt,” he told CNN Wednesday. “And the reason I say that is because the ability for our country to resource our military — and I have a pretty good feeling and understanding about what our national security requirements are — is going to be directly proportional — over time, not next year or the year after, but over time — to help our economy.

If you’ve been paying attention to this issue, then you have been seeing reports of massive layoffs among defense contractors all around the country, both large and small companies.

The scheduled cuts, on the order of $500,000,000 most likely will evaporate and be swamped as early as this year by a war with Iran (again, pay attention to the winds of war,) and the belated but necessary military buildup that is sure to come.

Of the many failings of this president, one of the most egregious is his absence as Commander in Chief.  A real Commander in Chief would have grabbed this bull by the horns many months ago and made it his highest priority, a priority even higher that re-election.

So, hopefully those many defense contractor workers (I haven’t seen that DOD Civil Servants will be in the same boat) facing layoff  will rise up like the miners in Butte with their empty lunch buckets and vote for a new Commander in Chief; this time a real Commander in Chief.

Don Johnson  — August 2012


2 responses to “The Defense Budget Sequester and Obama’s ”Copper Trust” Moment

  1. doyourhomework

    Maybe you need to read on this a little more. Reports of real massive layoffs or reports that there will be massive layoffs if Congress does not act and if the President does not sign what Congress produces? Bit of a difference, don’t you think? Also interesting that you are all fired up about defense spending and not about all of the other cuts that are part of the sequester. I think the history of the last 50 or so years shows that the defense contractors will be ok. They know how to make a buck or two. And how to manipulate the message to get people like you all fired up.

  2. Thank you for your remarks. I do keep tabs on this, the latest being a press release Cubic Defense Systems, a company I worked for one two separate occasions since 1976. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, including this one today, Mackenzie Eaglen: Defense vs. Food Stamps—What Would You Choose? points to the potentially massive cuts.

    My main point in my article is to point out the seriousness of the debt problem this nation faces, and the absence of a Commander in Chief at the front lines actively leading a solution to the problem. What we have instead is the head of the marketing department of the Democrat party flying around in his magic jumbo jet doing who knows what; certainly not doing the Presidents job.

    About defense contractors being OK. I have worked side by side with DOD Civil Servants over the years, and have been wondering if they will face the same layoffs as their contractor co-workers. I suspect not, and the WSJ hints at that by pointing out that the DOD civilian workforce has expanded by 10% since 2009.

    And don’t loose sight of the almost certain DOD buildup in the near future because of war in the middle east which will wipe out DOD budget cuts and then some.

    Again, thanks for your comments.

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