Today, I have a guest article for you from Elaine William of CERA (Citizens Equal Rights Alliance). Many of those who are acquainted with the problems of tribal law, federal policy regarding tribes and reservations, and the financial issues that abound there are watching Hawaii carefully to see how those same factors will come into play if the Akaka Bill passes. If you’re concerned about Akaka, these are issues that you cannot afford to overlook. (And for those who are interested in the complex problems that arise out of the conflict between civil liberties and tribal government, you’ll want to check out their website at www.citizensalliance.org.)
The New Industry That Is…Too Big To Fail!”
By Elaine Willman, Board Member
Citizens Equal Rights Alliance
Imagine a major Indian casino, the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, reporting that its slot revenues reported to the state in April have “stabilized,” slipping only 1 percent. The same casino reported $1.3 billion (with a “B”) in gross revenue for 2009. However, the economy is still dark, customers have less disposable income to slough into the tax-exempt slots, and the casino is facing a $15 million lawsuit for a head-on wreck caused by a drunken customer.
So every member of Connecticut’s congressional officials (except for one on travel) wants to ensure that the Mohegan Sun does not fail; that its “job creation” is always protected. These fool elected officials have promoted and now awarded Stimulus funding of $54 MILLION dollars) in the form of a guaranteed loan from USDA to this mega-wealthy tribe.
And if they default? No problem. Tribes have sovereign immunity. Taxpayers whose taxes are already annually subsidizing this and 565 other Indian tribes in 35 states for all basic needs—housing, health, law enforcement, roads, environment, scholarships, language, cultural preservation—Yes, you and I, our children and grandchildren, will just continually pay off the casino debts in perpetuity across the country.
Taxpayers get to: 1) annually fund all basic needs of tribal governments: 2) cover all tribal uncollectible debt due to “sovereign immunity;” and 3) keep throwing dollars into tax-exempt tribal slot machines across the country so our local economics get sufficiently and systematically drained of tax revenues and small businesses. To make this work, taxpayers must faithfully commit to frequenting tax-exempt tribal government businesses. But now it doesn’t matter if you choose not. They’re too big to fail; the federal agencies will step in and bill you for their losses, anyway.
There are 245 other tribes in the lower 48 states entitled to the same perks as the Mohegan Sun. Fortunately, the 228 tribes in Alaska who receive the basic-needs funding, at least don’t have casinos yet. Alaskan tribes are non-profit corporations without jurisdictional authority or gaming so they focus almost entirely on their culture. What a concept!
First a few facts: 565 federally recognized (tax-exempt) tribes are located in 35 hosts states, of which 246 tribes are gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Every host state to numerous tribal tax-exempt and tax-eroding tribal governments and reservations are coincidentally the states experiencing the largest state budget deficits.
The impossibility is calculating the annual cost of this race-based socialist system spreading across the country. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke reports $94 million in Stimulus Funding for the tribes in Washington State alone. We’re hearing 4 billion annually just for tribal health care; many more billions for housing, law enforcement, etc. And these dollars do not include the “Tribal Priority Allocations” doled out annually by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are 29 federal agencies – each with a separate budget for funding the 565 tribes. And worse, state governments that have no “trust relationship” with Indian tribes (such as Washington, Oregon, Montana and others) have set up separate state budgets to supplement federal dollars going out to tribes. Strike Two for taxpayers. All of these federal and state dollars are serving less than 1 million enrolled tribal members of our 300+ million American population.
Who can blame the Native Hawaiians for wanting in on this lucrative industry, forever chaining down American citizens to the galley oars of a feudal federal Indian policy system? Pray that the Akaka Bill (Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act) fails again in Congress this year, or these numbers will considerably worsen.
Since the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 federal Indian policy has been a 76-year private conversation between federal agencies, elected officials and tribal leaders, with the whopping bills deducted from your federal and state tax contributions annually. We simply can no longer afford to sustain and grow this socialist erosion spreading across 35 and perhaps 36 (Hawaii) states.
One of our astute Supreme Court Justices assessed our predicament accurately when he noted the following, over fifteen years ago:
“Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution’s focus upon the individual. …To pursue the concept of racial entitlement – even for the most admirable and benign of purposes – is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.” Justice Antonin Scalia, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 534 U.S. 103 (1995)
Here is the problem: Over 35 years ago, in 1975 Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education (IDEA) Act to promote economic self-sufficiency for tribal governments. Apparently this was not working well enough, so 22 years ago, Congress added the economic steroid of a tax-free gaming monopoly for Indian tribes when it passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988.
In March of this year, George Skibine, an Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was a keynote speaker at the 2010 Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) conference in Washington, D.C. Mr. Skibine was asked: “Has the Department of Interior (DOI) or Bureau of Indian Affairs ever developed criteria or measuring systems by which a tribal government might be deemed economically self-sufficient, and no longer in need of federal funds?” The answer was no. Not in 35 years so far. Not even with a gaming monopoly. The follow-up question: Does the DOI/BIA have any interest in establishing such economic indicators so that federal subsidies could be redirected to either write down our national deficit, or redirected to the poorest tribes? The answer was no again. Why should they? The behemoth BIA bureaucracy grows as the number and needs of tribes grow.
Also at the CERA Conference Mr. Skibine was asked if the BIA or federal government could ascertain the total annual federal funds expended for tribal governments? His response: “We tried to do that once, but were unable to.” Astounding! No one knows the annual bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars supporting tribal governments.
So there you have it. We are enslaved forever by our Congressmen to a burgeoning number of private tax-exempt governments that we are forced to fund unknown annual billions in perpetuity. And now we must assume the responsibility for all failed tribal government debts. This is on top of the disastrous oil spill, the failing housing and banking industry, and government takeover of health care.
What can you do? Try any or all these suggestions:
- Howl at every talking head on radio and television.
- Get firm commitments from incumbents or candidates to put a “sunset” or end game in place for this tax-enslavement.
- Get federal legislation that prohibits gaming tribes from receiving stimulus funds of any sort.
- Get legislation in place that ends any further “federal recognition” of wannabe tribes.
- Educate everyone you know by circulating this article, and getting it web-posted everywhere you can.
We are stuck with the horrendous oil spill disaster. We are stuck with the present administration throwing more huge tax dollars out to tribes. We are stuck with the government takeover of multiple industries in this country under the present administration.
We are not stuck with our elected officials. We can get responsible commitments from federal and state elected officials, or get them out office, beginning in November 2010. We are not helpless.
And we best get busy. Tribal governments claim to plan for seven generations. That is a long time for Americans to be subservient custodians of our fellow U.S. citizens. Menominee Tribal leader, Ada Deer once said, “We use the system to beat the system.” It is time to end the abuse of the “system.”
Elaine Willman, MPA, is the author of Going to Pieces…the dismantling of the United States of America. Ms. Willman is past Chair and current Board member of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, an organization focused on the equal rights of tribal members who have no protections under the 14th Amendment, and serve at the mercy of private tax-exempt governments annually subsidized without inquiry or consent of American taxpayers.