Monday, May 20, 2002
Was too busy with life today to get to the computer much. Wound up packing up my books for the move to Florida this morning and was busy being a fiance this afternoon. For all you Right-Wing Newsies and other fans of AgEcon-noir, here's part III
The Big Cheese
Act III-The Global Feedbag
I’m not usually inside those spiffy K Street offices, but I managed to get to Mike's office without feeling like a pig on white carpet. If it weren’t for the nice power suit, Mike could pass for a hick kid in town getting goo-goo eyed seeing his congressman.
“Well, sir, it might be hard to believe, but its worse in Europe. The EU gripes about our farm subsidies, we gripe about theirs, but it’s hard as all get out to get the subsidies lowered. Over there, the farmers really play hardball, blockading Paris if the French government even hints at lowering subsidies. “
“All politics is local, even geopolitics.”
“Yes, sir. Subsidies do have another geopolitical effect. When the government has price supports, it winds up buying a lot of product that it has to dump somewhere. Some of it goes into pushing peanut butter into school lunches, Earl cheese into the hands of the poor and elderly...”
“Earl cheese. That generic Velveeta stuff. My grandpa’s buddy Earl would always have more than he’d need after getting his freebies, so we’d always wind up with some of it. Even after giving the stuff to schools and the needy, they still have more than they know what to do with it, so a lot of it goes into international food aid. It also allows us to err on the side of having too much food.”
“As if we’ll ever starve. We export so much stuff as is.”
“Yes, and it’s somewhat important that it stay that way. In a bad year, the overproduction that the subsidies encourage could mean the difference between a famine and just a tight year. We also stand by as the feed-bag of last resort. Other countries know that the extra food to make it through a famine of their own is there. However, I think we could change things so that we did price supports more economically.”
“Cut government waste. That line’s older than ‘Come here often?’”
“The touchy area is that a lot of the subsidies are targeted at small farmers. The small family farm may be quaint, but they aren’t quite as efficient as the big corporate farms. One of the reasons the Japanese food is so pricey is that the small rice farmers have the LDP’s ear. The farmers donate to the LDP and the LDP keeps the cash coming to the microfarmers. We’re not quite as bad as that here, but there still a big mystique about the family farm.”
“Yeah, try cutting that and the Folk Song Army will be singing Woody Guthrie at the Democratic fundraisers as well as all those gag-inducing Farm Aid telethons.”
“As much as I like the little guy, we could save a lot of money by letting the big farmers have more of a market share. We don’t subsidize mom-and-pop pharmacies or hardware stores, why farms? If we do give price supports as a way to bias things towards an oversupply, why not do it straight-up rather than use it to prop up inefficient small businesses.”
“ I like Cato, kid. Bruce Lee played him well. I think you know that people respond to their fears more than their hopes. Even if its better for the country as a whole, the GOP doesn't want to face the attack ads for backing ADM over the little guy. It sounds nice, appealing to the voter's better angels, but the Democrats play to people's gut, play to their fear of a uncontrolled economy giving them an atomic wedgie. Unless your free-market proposals are a clear knock-out winner, it won't sell. "
This town saps the spirit of a lot of people. They say that there are two things you don't want to see made: sausages and laws. You have to have a strong stomach to be a wurstmeister on the Hill, since they wind up putting in everything but the squeal into a lot of legislation. You get sharp kids like Mike, who have good ideas and a good heart, coming to town to make the world a better place. You have sharp but somewhat sleazy people who help themselves and their clients get more than they deserve from Uncle Sam. The Mikes win a few, the sleazebags win a few. I make my living catching the sleazebags with their pants down, both figuratively and literally, but this town, and the country, needs more Mikes.
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