Great Patriot Farmers

Quite possibly no one in a White House full of sycophants and cultists paused three minutes to consider that the first casualty in their trade posturing would be their own most dedicated voting base. In the midst of an economic boom almost a decade-long, farm bankruptcies in the Midwest have spiked.

Everything Trump touches dies. Wisconsin’s Trump-loving dairy industry is in free-fall. Soybean prices have collapsed, threatening the livelihoods of farmers already pushed to the margins of the agriculture industry. As Trump economic policies began to take hold in 2018, Trump’s farmers found themselves among the only industries (except perhaps Trump’s other favorite, coal) to see their prospects failing, with a 12% decline in net income.

Having promised that ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win’ the administration seems powerless to force compromise from foreign governments led by competent professionals. How does Trump plan to maintain his support among the Republican farmers he’s destroying? Socialism, of course.

Officials have promised generous subsidies to those Trump described in a remarkably Soviet Tweet as, our ‘great Patriot Farmers.’ The administration is now promising to use new taxes on imports paid by American consumers as handouts for farmers unable to compete in a fair marketplace. These subsidies come on top of the billions in other subsidies already deployed, without which none of these farmers would be farming in the first place. Of course, Trump will fail to deliver on this promise. Last year he paid out less than two-thirds of the subsidies he promised farmers. That’s a better rate than his employees and contractors enjoy, so perhaps they should be happy.

You might foolishly imagine that these Real Americans in the Heartland would reject a plan to live off of Socialism and “government dependence.” Never forget the First Rule of American Politics – It’s not socialism if the benefits are flowing to white people.

Republican free market crusaders would lay down their bodies to protect the hundreds of billions in federal subsidies that fund white people’s health insurance, or the billions that subsidize white people’s mortgages, suburban construction, or retirement savings. White people, especially the elderly white people who are America’s most reliable voters, live in a social welfare state that would make a Soviet smile.

The “family farm” is a 19th century concept that was never as successful in real life as it was in our collective imagination. It owes its survival to socialism. Exposed to anything approaching a free market, farming would disappear outside a few of our most fertile regions like Iowa and central California. We simply don’t need most of what our farmers produce. Thanks to innovation and automation we grow more food on less land every year. Very few farms make money. Almost 75% of American farms bring in in less than $50,000 in revenue. There are very few of them left, about 2.1m currently, a number that declines every year.

The average age of a farmer in the US is almost 60. Most US farmland is either inherited, or “purchased” from relatives. Outside a few hyper-fertile areas, family farms are hobby operations worked part-time, more an identity than a career. For the most part, profitable farms are large, post-industrial, and corporate-owned, using little labor. So called “family farmers” who are actually making money generally aren’t getting their shoes dirty, or even living in the countryside. Successful family farmers are, for the most part, Devin Nunes.

We need family farms like we need artisanal candle makers. So why do we spend billions every year keeping these useless enterprises afloat?

The answer to that question is the answer to almost every puzzling question about this country – race. Family farmers are overwhelmingly white, aging and male. They are spread out across many thinly populated states, with many Senators and Electoral College votes, while our productive industries and the bulk of our population are concentrated in few big cities. As a consequence of their race and their political heft, we have to subsidize farmers at all costs. Millions of political ads feature stock images of our amber waves of grain, most of which are destined to rot in a storehouse. Farming is patriotism because farming is white. Anyone who complains about the money we waste on our Great Patriot Farmers is an enemy of the people.

Why is Donald Trump, who probably couldn’t identify a farm in photograph, so concerned about farmers? He’s not. There’s some political power to be gained by pandering to them, but even that doesn’t get his blood flowing. We got a glimpse at his authentic interests in a Tweet.

China will be pumping money into their system and probably reducing interest rates, as always, in order to make up for the business they are, and will be, losing. If the Federal Reserve ever did a “match,” it would be game over, we win! In any event, China wants a deal!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2019

A man who makes a living on money laundering financed by impossible debts is desperate to see further interest rate reductions. Whether farmers profit or starve from this idiotic tariff gambit, it will all be worth it if Trump can shave a few critical points off his debt service ratio. Hail Dear Leader.

Despite their political power, these farmers continue to fail in the marketplace, a predictable outcome of a socialist system. At this late stage of their decline, they’re willing to latch onto any huckster who feeds their egos, telling them that the inevitable won’t happen. Joining the Proud March of Workers Toward the Socialist Paradise, arms linked with coughing coal miners and aging steel workers, our farm heroes will resist their reckoning as long as we let them while battling to protect the Protector of White America.

40 Comments

  1. Here’s what I want to know: Agriculture Secretary says farmers will receive $16B from tariff revenue from China to offset their crop losses. This is in addition to a prior contribution of several billion dollars.

    How can this money be moved out of treasury without getting congressional authorization? For that matter, What is the justification to exclude other industries that have been harmed? The taxpayers who are absorbing higher prices from imported items subject to tariffs?

    https://apple.news/AgvJUoemtSOWclQvrkLpLXg

  2. This is off topic but I want to get some feedback about the logistical possibility of this strategy. Called “The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, NPVIC”, which, per the link below, would “automatically make whoever won the national popular vote the winner of the Electoral College”. There are 189 electoral votes in the hopper presently. Four more states are in play.

    https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/written-explanation

    Daily Kos reports today that: “Maine, Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon have all taken legislative action on the NPVIC in recent weeks, and we have a good chance to get it passed into law in all of these states this spring. (Minnesota will be our most difficult state, but we weren’t even expecting to have a shot there until 2021, so that we’re fighting there at all is excellent news!)

    What it all means: Winning in all four of these states would get us 216 electoral votes, with several more states on the table in 2020, 2021 and 2022. ”

    Is this realistic?

    1. It’s realistic in the sense that many states have already passed it, and those states’ chances of having a state popular vote that differs from national popular vote is relatively slim.

      It’s realistic in the sense that, provided a Republican wins a national popular vote where the state by state Electoral College would have swung the Presidency to the Democrats, nobody would challenge the results but Democrats would complain, while nodding their head and granting that the GOP did at least get the national popular vote.

      It’s not realistic in the sense that, provided a Democrat wins a national popular vote where the state by state Electoral College would have swung the Presidency to the Republicans, the results will immediately be challenged by Republicans in every state that should have gone to them and by the Republican party on the national level, probably all the way to the Supreme Court, where despite the fact that the Constitution is so vague on how states assign their electoral votes that it essentially says they can do it however they want (flip a coin, have state legislatures decide, vote for the other candidate despite state popular vote, whatever), the Supreme Court will probably throw in some ‘spirit of the law’ to ‘represent all people at the state level’. Or hey, if the Supreme Court fails to change the decision, Republican legislatures in any state with that agreement on the books will repeal them within a month of their next session.

      In short, it will only help the Democrats gain a Presidency once, provided an open-minded Supreme Court. Electoral College reform is a Constitutional Amendment issue because the Electoral College is a Constitutional law.

  3. Shared from another site that illustrates how history repeats itself and so do bad people.

    Forced displacement… (Younes Arar, Palestinian activist, follow his work on fb)

    Zionist occupation soldiers attacking and dragging a Palestinian old woman out of her home in the old city of occupied Jerusalem to take over and give to a Zionist occupation Jewish colonist, occupied Palestine, 11 May 2019.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-corporations-save-us-from-the-attack-on-reproductive-rights/2019/05/16/3166d6c6-7817-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html?

    1. The commentator who posted the Arar link notes that the same thing happened to Polish farmers during the German invasion of 1939. There is a film of this with actual footage that shows removal and installation of German farm family all in one day with them living and dinning in their new farm house that night. This is chilling, heartless and evil.

      America may be producing more food than we can consume but many of these farmers are generations deep. I don’t agree with taking tax payer money to throw at a problem you create but I do think we have to respect how hard farming is.

      Which raises the question. How can trump unilaterally shift tax dollars like this without going through the legislative process?

  4. I was thinking of some of Chris’ past columns when I read this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-corporations-save-us-from-the-attack-on-reproductive-rights/2019/05/16/3166d6c6-7817-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html?utm_term=.c26b9e6430fe

    My favorite snarky comment on the mess Alabama’s put itself into- If a doctor performing an abortion on a 13 year rape victim can get far more time in prison than the actual rapist, then yes, the GOP is waging a war on women.

    1. “When it comes to poor white Trump-voting areas, the right wants these communities to die out because they’re economically worthless and unproductive. The left wants them to die out because they’re racist, sexist, and morally backwards.”

      I’m not personally wishing death on them, but I’ve washed my hands of them because too many of them put hurting other people over helping themselves. There is no constructive communication to be had with them until they can admit to how they are getting played here. Helping yourself is a choice you have to make yourself.

  5. How do republicans still seeking relevance comment about the problems being caused to the American people by trump’s heavy-handed (read that as “bullying “) tactics ?
    They deflect because they don’t have the courage to call it like it is. The emperor has no clothes but there is not one republican who is willing to say so.

    Poor, pitiful Little Marco. He is, indeed.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2019/05/15/daily-202-marco-rubio-slams-ceos-for-bad-china-deals-short-term-thinking-and-not-investing-in-u-s-workers/5cdaf5841ad2e544f001dd1a/

    1. Republicans understand trump is a despicable person whose obnoxious behavior is so shocking that it cows those who don’t know how or want to get in the gutter with him. Such was the the analysis of a former economic adviser of GWB who said it might work to their advantage just the same. Expect more “look the other way” behavior from republicans. Why? As last no as Trump is willing to be the bad guy in exchange for power and glory, the party will continue to look the other way. Don’t look for them to utter a peep.

      https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook-pm/2019/05/15/what-george-w-bushs-economist-said-about-trump-behind-closed-doors-436955

  6. We are living among such selfish, short-sighted (aka “willfully stupid “) people who know how to seize control in politics to achieve their end goal….Regardless how it may impact others and the future. All in the name of paying fewer taxes. There is no concept of “the common good” in the republican domain.

    Here is a prime example. Not only did this selfish group of conservatives throw out a very good and environmentally responsible water conservation plan, but they put themselves and others downstream in harms way for subsidence and flooding.

    How can underground water be considered “private property “? How can aquifers that occur naturally be private property? These republican groups got their way and that’s all they care about. All of these communities are wealthy. They’re also very short-sighted and selfish.

    Their illogic is repeated across a wide range of issues: from women’s rights, gun rights, healthcare, the environment and the rule of law – the latest victim in their greedy grasp for more power. It’s sickening.

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Political-takeover-upends-Montgomery-County-s-13845700.php?

    1. So you’re saying that markets improve outcomes? Couldn’t agree more.

      I am curious though how the government was able to pull this off, and whether they can stand up to continuing pressure. All the things you’d expect seem to be happening, as smaller farming operations die off and larger, more technologically advanced farms take their place. Have farmers there just lost their political pull?

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/opinion/95476745/whats-gone-wrong-with-new-zealand-farming

  7. I listened to a fascinating interview of David Wells on his new book, “Uninhabitable Earth” which looks at the impact climate change is going to have on all aspects of our lives – globally. Every aspect from farming, transport, construction and more will be altered.

    https://www.npr.org/books/titles/706516496/the-uninhabitable-earth-life-after-warming

    An example of this shift is already happening in alternative energy in its inexorably march to shift from fossil fuels.

    https://cleantechnica.com/2019/05/13/us-offshore-wind-industry-sucking-up-talent-from-oil-gas/

  8. In ‘Democracy In An Age Of Transience’ you discussed how rural towns, many of them being the kind with subsidized family farms, are shrinking and dying out. You posited Universal Basic Income and Universal Healthcare as solutions to enable those places to be genuinely livable, alongside enabling low-skill immigrants to move there:

    “Increased immigration would add vitality to otherwise dying, shrinking communities. We’re not talking about the competition for high-skilled, knowledge economy workers who would be drawn into the already booming cities, but the desperate, determined people looking to build life and community in a safe place. They could bring energy, innovation and much-needed tax revenue to places left behind while strengthening community bonds.”

    One problem is that, aside from the UBI, the immigrants moving there and taking advantage of inexpensive property will still in all likelihood need jobs. The jobs I’ve seen in these towns are retail or service jobs at the Wal-Mart or the local chain restaurant, but there’s also the subsidized farms that would offer jobs. Farming is becoming increasingly automated, yes, but there is still a need for manual labor. I can see those farms maintaining their political weight and throwing it around for a good while until automation and entrepreneurial efforts in those towns phase them out.

    Another thing is that you say that these immigrants will bring innovation to the rural towns. Innovation requires education which probably isn’t the best in rural towns saddled with flagging public school systems, modern education needs computers which those public schools and immigrant families may not be able to get a hold of easily even with UBI, and those computers will require Internet access which is disgustingly sparse and slow in rural areas thanks to powerful broadband monopolies and a corporate-captured FCC. Alongside the UBI and Universal Healthcare, an overhaul to education and schooling is needed. We also need Net Neutrality reinstated on ISPS and ISPs reclassified so that they fall under Title II of the Communications Act, recognizing broadband service as the utility it truly is. Laws need to be passed in Congress that override the local and state laws that ISPs bribed through passage that made it so that cities, towns, and municipalities from starting their own municipal broadband services. Municipal high-speed broadband has been a massive boon for towns looking to attract people and talent and already-existing businesses.

    Good Internet and good schools combined with the UBI and universal healthcare you proposed would encourage the young and educated children of those immigrants to stay in their hometowns rather than fleeing for the cities, keeping those community bonds strong and the towns more populated and moving in a new direction away from subsidized agriculture. It will also attract existing knowledge-economy talent and investment. You say that you don’t think that stuff like trying to convert Omaha into a tech center isn’t the way to go, but that’s looking to be the way that things will *have* to go to ensure that the future U.S. is not one where half the population lives in just 8 states.

    1. Crowley,
      I saved this article about Utica, New York from CNBC almost a year old now. They have dutifully tracked metrics on the 16k refugees they accepted after the wars in the Former Yugoslavia. It also has some interesting data from the American Community Survey (a branch of the US Census) back when government was trying to work and gather data and metrics and found that cities, towns and regions that took in refugees move up in most economic development metrics…though there are some caveats about when they arrived, and the level of local support. The article is interesting because Utica now has a 30 year history and requisite data to illustrate their experience with large scale resettlement of refugee communities. Utica….lovingly referred to as our NY version of the Rust Belt is a much more vibrant and healthier city due to its modest investment in refugee communities.

      The Bosnian Muslims settled there were later joined by former Soviet States refugees from Moldova, Dagestan and Chechnya. Many towns of this New York region would like to expand their own version of the Utica project but….. (wait for it) we aren’t accepting ENOUGH refugees. It is anticipated this year only 45k refugees will gain entry to the US. In Obama’s last year in office it was closer to 116k and had fluctuated between 115k-132k during his term. I think Chris or Creigh had an article sometime back that in the future western democracies will be fighting over immigrants and refugees as a means to maintain economic vitality and employment replacement as our societies age and have fewer children.

      https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/02/how-refugees-continue-boosting-new-yorks-rust-belt-economy.html

      https://medium.com/@colin.fraser/refugees-to-the-united-states-pay-21-000-more-in-taxes-than-they-receive-in-benefits-and-other-47bda863c091

    1. I doubt any of these urban farming ideas are going to play out for the simple reason that we’re already so heavily oversupplied with food. As populations start to decline it will only get more extreme. We really can support our food needs with farming in California’s Central valley, the eastern portions of KS & NE + IA, and a few speciality farms in the Rio Grande Valley and Florida. Almost all of the rest is already non-viable from an economic perspective. It will become downright silly as populations peak.

      There might be one reason to do it – putting the agriculture where the labor is. But of course, the labor just might not be that important going forward. It also might be useful for growing speciality items that are climatically unsuited and hard to transport – exotic fruits, etc. We’ll see, but that’s not something I’m betting on.

      1. Among my talents is gardening. I have raised chickens, rabbits and grown many a vegetable garden.I also have fruit trees. These are hobbies. You can buy food cheaper than growing it your self. A lot cheaper. Many people do this as a hobby. Tractor Supply caters to people like me , hobbyist farmers and ranchers.

      2. Nothing I’ve ever bought at a store can beat my backyard tomatoes. And my God, the raspberries…

        But yes, with a full audit, I’d have to admit that the price per calorie might be unreasonable.

  9. Chris,
    OR Dear Running Capitalist Dog,

    Before your bones rot under the rising sun of the revolution I just want to say thank you for these old propaganda posters…many of which hung in my Russian language classes in high school and college (they are excellent case construct examples)…so they actually served an educative purpose. I have read many articles in the past 3 months of how the mid west farming community is being pushed to the brink and I am genuinely empathetic for people so self identified and tied to their vocation and place that change must be very hard. That said, I am grateful to finally hear someone say the obvious truth…if these were people of color making spats in a shop they would get their measly last paycheck and pushed into the street.

    I am looking forward to Creigh’s comments on a Blue State currency because as this madness drags on its just a matter of time before a left leaning populist starts talking big about how the successful states are carrying the Dakotas and Arkansas and Mississippi’s of the country and perhaps are better off without them. We are already politically sorted by region and economic links…why are we continuing with this 19th century construct of a democracy? да здравствует революция!! (said very safely in Manhattan).

    1. Also, maybe this is a good time to admit a little ignorance of Communist propaganda. I have never understood the “running dogs” insult. I have no idea what it means/suggests. And is it purely a Chinese thing? I can’t remember the Soviets using that phrase.

      1. EJ

        They didn’t use the term in the DDR, at least.

        Soviet propaganda loses a lot in translation; in English it aounds awkward and stilted, but in their original language, most of the phrases are actually very cleverly constructed with allusions and poetic multiple shades of meaning. They rhyme, they have good rhythm, and they get stuck in your head.

        A good comparison might, of course, be advertising, which is fundamentally the same thing.

      2. Communist idioms:
        In fairness it is Chinese. A running dog is unprincipled, deceitful and allows itself to serve evil if fed. There is no worse insult in Chinese.

        The Russian version is улыбающийся капиталист “smiling capitalist” meaning essentially the same thing. In Russian propaganda representations of the capitalist west was always a smiling industrialist or politician (always fat)…smiling without familial or a close personal friendship as context is duplicitous and predatory. Someone who is trying to steal from you.

        It gets complicated due to the fact that eastern slavic and asian languages lose a lot in translation and its the cultural context that conveys the real message NOT the words themselves.

      3. “In fairness it is Chinese. A running dog is unprincipled, deceitful and allows itself to serve evil if fed. “

        That is a spot-on description of today’s GOP.

        “There is no worse insult in Chinese.”

        We need an American equivalent, and there’s plenty to pick from.

  10. Farming has gone to automation with fewer and fewer people needed. Most of the old farming population has long since gone on to manufacturing. Manufacturing has gone full automation needing far fewer people. So people have moved on to services. Which include most knowledge industries. Most people lack imagination and try futilely to hang on to the old familiar ways. The world is busting with opportunity but people fail to see that. Change is happening no matter how much the know nothings resist it. Politics are in a roil. Same old story keeps coming repeating it’s self as most people are historically illiterate. My kids have fully adapted and are thriving. One is developing a business in pest control. An entrepreneur. The other is a bank card fraud expert. Both are in technical services. Neither one of them are afraid of brown or black people. Indeed their best friends are brown and black. They are competitive and know they are competitive. In any change there are winners and losers. My family are coming out winners. So history repeats it’s self again. We will come out OK.

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