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Lloyd Omdahl: File your claim for reparations today

Before launching into our main topic this week, I want to demonstrate that if you hang around long enough you can see history repeat itself. Case in point: federal revenue sharing.

Back in 1967, U.S. Treasury people were shocked to discover that the nation had more money than it could spend. So they started talking about giving some of this surplus to the states and called it revenue sharing.

Well, the National Governors’ Conference was not about to pass up free federal money so it quickly organized an 11-member committee headed by Gov. George Romney of Michigan. Yes, the dad.

Representing Gov. Bill Guy on the committee, I headed for the first session at the O’Hare Airport in Chicago where we hammered out a preliminary draft and agreed to meet again in a month.

When we reconvened, we were besieged by every vice president of the National Association of Counties who argued persuasively to include counties in revenue sharing. So, to keep them in the boat, we promised them a share.

At the next monthly meeting, we were assailed by the National League of Cities, which claimed to be the backbone of American society. Besides, if we didn’t take them aboard, they would oppose the plan and kill it. So the cities were included.

Needless to report, the townships heard of the scheme and demanded a share. By this time, every conceivable government was standing at the treasury door waiting for the payout. But, as President Lyndon Johnson said, it is better to have them in the tent peeing out than to have them outside of the tent peeing in. So we took them all in.

(When you are around long enough, you can even quote Lyndon Johnson. In Lyndon Johnson’s day, you didn’t say “pee,” either.)

Now this governors process took about a year, 1968 to be exact. By that time the Vietnam war had gobbled up the surplus so there was no revenue to share. But the gears of government were moving and could not be stopped. So Congress borrowed the money to fund a 6-year revenue-sharing plan when there was no revenue.

There is now muttering in Congress about giving reparations to the victims of slavery. Pay reparations to all African-Americans, sort of like backpay. You can bet that if the idea moves to implementation, we will see a repeat of the revenue-sharing fiasco.

Every Native American tribe in America will be filing for a share and they probably have as good a claim as the African-Americans. And if they are not included in the distribution, they will scuttle the program.

Of course, when the Mexicans whose land was stolen after the Mexican War hear about this, everybody south of the border will put in a bill. These will be followed by the Japanese-Americans who were robbed of property in World War II.

By the time we tally up all of the damage we have done, many will just look at the price tag, tear up their deeds and head back to Europe.

Lesser Items

The Legislature held the bill for a new ethics program until the last day and during the noon hour it was stolen.

To control illegal immigration, the United States is building a wall while the Mexicans are digging tunnels and never the twain shall meet.

We finally have a presidential candidate everyone can support. You haven’t heard of her because the Democratic field is so full of other unknown candidates. Marianne Williamson announced twice before she got noticed. She is for love and peace. Who can oppose that?

The people who build bridges report that 10.8 percent of North Dakota’s bridges are “functionally deficient.” So you can be assured that 90 times out of 100 you will make it across the next bridge.

The president of the Board of Higher Education is wondering how many chairs should be set up for the next meeting.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former professor at UND and state lieutenant governor.