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Your Property Rights: Born, and Maybe Dead, on the Fourth of July

Your Private Property Rights: Born, and Possibly Died, on the Fourth of July
July 4, 2013
By Josh First

One hundred and fifty years ago today, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, America’s most hallowed ground was established. Over fifty thousand casualties among both Union and Confederate forces resulted from fierce acts of bravery and heroism on both sides over just a few days, including Pickett’s famous last-ditch assault on the Union center, into the teeth of point-blank cannon fire, canister, and grape shot.

The ferocious hand-to-hand fighting along Pickett’s front established the “high water mark” of the Confederacy, and produced the most focused military effort to date by the Union, the success of which gave impetus to the North’s final push to end a malingering war. To make those sacrifices and take those personal risks, you’ve got to really believe in something, a truth summed up brilliantly in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The fact that the battle culminated on Independence Day was not lost on either side.

Ten years ago, I had the honor of purchasing the last outstanding parcel of land on which Pickett’s Charge occurred, at the far eastern end of the field, where the Ohio 8th Regiment was dug in. Over the prior 19 years, the National Park Service had unsuccessfully pursued the “Home Sweet Home” motel, a 1950s-era no-tell hotel on two acres there. It paved over a hasty trench and a temporary field hospital where men from both armies had been treated, before archaeology became vogue.

By 2004, the motel and its blacktop were themselves things of the past, the site archaeology was done, and the final resting place of so many distinguished soldiers was returned to serene grass. It was one of the high points of my career, and I worked so hard on it because, like other Americans who visit Gettysburg, read the Gettysburg Address, and understand Gettysburg’s role, its meaning inspired me. Preserving the Union meant continuing and expanding the American dream. Protecting the Home Sweet Home site meant preserving Gettysburg’s symbolism, protecting that hallowed ground, and enshrining the American Dream of opportunity for all.

One of the most inspiring aspects of America, and core to the American Dream, is the universal concept of private property rights. Because of America’s unique private property rights system, generations of immigrants have moved across mountains and oceans to become Americans, toil hard, and take risks and make sacrifices to improve their standard of living. For hundreds of years, anyone who was willing to work hard could use their private property rights to shelter and feed their family, purchase an education for their children, and build equity for the day when their hands and back might no longer be able to physically toil.

But here in Pennsylvania, just days ago and, oddly, just days before Independence Day, the state legislature passed a two-sentence bill gutting the private property rights of landowners who have leased their land for oil and gas exploration. It was a shameful thing to do, and it is an echo of the midnight legislative pay-raise that cost so many incumbents their seats a few years ago. It is the shady act of some self- anointed few to enrich their political friends, at the huge cost of Pennsylvania’s private landowners.

As I understand it, Governor Tom Corbett is weighing whether or not to sign it into law. I hope he does not sign it. To enact such a law flies in the face of everything that is American. It is against everything that Independence Day stands for. It is against everything that the men at Gettysburg fought and died for, and against everything that America’s Founding Fathers and brave patriots fought for in 1776.

I wish you a happy Independence Day today, and in its spirit I ask that you call your state legislators, and ask them if they voted for this un-American oil and gas bill. If they did, vote them out of office, and show them that the Spirit of 1776 still stands strong. You deserve better, I deserve better, America deserves better.

Join our conversation at www.joshfirst.com or on our Facebook page, Josh First for PA Senate

Property rights, anyone? Republicans? Hello?

My fellow Republicans have just passed a two-sentence law that single-handedly strips away private property rights from private landowners in Pennsylvania, and Governor Tom Corbett is weighing whether or not to sign it.

To wit: If you signed an oil and gas lease that is still in force, and it is silent on being unitized with some other gas drilling unit miles away, why then, the gas company can put you in that unit, begin paying you some paltry sum, and your lease never ends. The gas company can come back for your gas decades later. You are completely stuck and do not have the opportunity to renegotiate better terms for a new lease.

Never mind that the same “Republicans” who propagated this anti-American Communist plot are also the same ones who were championing forced pooling, too.

Some of these jokers are in the administration, so more on them later, on an as-needed basis. Keep in mind that some of these guys, and one person comes to my mind immediately, have never made a dollar in the private sector. Rather, their entire Republican careers have been spent on the taxpayer dole, in some public role or another. And here they have the cajones to try to strip private landowners of their private property rights.

Many voters know me as an American political activist first, and a Republican last. This recent vote in both the PA House and PA Senate reconfirms for me that my beliefs best lie with the more independent-minded, and not with the partisans. It is a sad fact that Democrats are for forced pooling, too, and also believe that private property rights are best managed by government or its corporate buddies.

But that is not my fight. I am a conservative and a Republican, and by God, when I see something that stinks this bad, I am calling it what it is: Crap.

The Republican Party ought to be made of better people who know better. For shame.