Saturday, May 18, 2002

The Big Cheese
Act II-Home on the Grange
Mary Lou put down her nail file and looked up as I came through. “Swedish press attaché debriefing her husband?” “Nope, she wants to get to the bottom of the GOP switcheroo on the farm bill.” “President didn’t miss winning Iowa by much last time. A few more happy farmers wouldn’t hurt.” Mary Lou proceeded to give me the skinny on farm economics. There are times where having a transplanted milkmaid as a secretary isn’t the best for this line of work, but it paid off in spades here. “Without price supports and loan guarantees, a lot of farmers, including Uncle Billy and Grandpa, would have gone under years ago.” Turns out that farmers are small businessmen who like to pay taxes about as much as I do, so they tend to lean conservative. However, I know all too well that every man has his price. Give them a nice check from Uncle Sam and they’ll vote for anyone who’s writing them the check. I looked up my old friend Sam, an old-school reporter from one of the Kansas papers. I don’t work the Hill much except if somebody wants to pay me to see if some lady lobbyist is having her ways and means with a client’s husband. Sam’s good for all the little dirt you don’t see in Roll Call or the Post. Buy Sam a couple rounds and he really opens up. “Check the Senate. The small states get two senators just like the big states, so it’s a lot cheaper to get at them than the big state guys. The small farm states in flyover country tend to lean Republican, but Democrats can buy the farmers with good farm subsidies.” “Yeah, but why would the GOP start becoming big government fans? Isn’t that more than a bit hypocritical?” “You of all people going goo-goo on me? You’ve been in town long enough to know that you call people who don’t make deals either freshman or ex-congressman. If the GOP doesn’t play ball with the farmers, the Democrats will. A few cheap attack ads on why the GOP loves the big agrabusinessman but doesn’t give a crap about the family farmer and you start seeing Democratic senators and congressmen.” Sometimes my idealism shows, but life then kicks it in the short-and-curlies and it goes away. “Is there more to it than just cheap politics? If it were, then my client’s buddies would be roasting Dubya slowly over a mesquite flame.” “Yep. Call up Mike over at the World Info Center. He’s got the big picture stuff down.” Sam usually doesn’t run with that kind of multinational crowd, but he explained that Mike’s his niece’s husband. “Yeah, Susie went to K-State and fell for a Ag Econ wonk who went straight from K-State to K Street.” On to Part III

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