was with great pleasure that I read of your comments in the Financial
Times this Saturday imploring the US and EU to end farm subsidies.
If it’s any consolation, my friends and I have been making the
same request for years. While we don’t have a similar soapbox
from which to send our message, we like to think that our ideas
go to an audience who cares about what is best for our country,
the citizens who care enough to research the issues and vote accordingly,
while you delivered your message to the caudillos attending
the Clinton Global Initiative meeting. But I quibble. If we can
align our efforts – you speaking to those ignoring the wishes
of their subject populaces while I inform my fellow Americans
of the damage government interference exacts in the sensitive
workings of the markets – perhaps we can effect some positive
change. At this point, as I am sure you will agree, any progress
would be a victory.
a little history. You may not be aware of a few premises that
are vital to understanding American socialist agriculture policy.
In the US farms, farming, and farmers are all sacrosanct. One
would have better luck pulling souvenir teeth from a live shark
than finding an American who would badmouth a farmer. For the
first hundred years or so of my country’s existence we were an
agrarian economy. However, as time passed, agriculture began to
shrink as a percentage of our GDP as industrialization spread
rapidly. Nonetheless the sustaining myth of the "nation of
farmers" expanded in inverse proportion to agriculture’s
shrinking share of the overall economy. During that same time
period we had a war between several of our states. When the bloodbath
ended, states did not really exist in the same manner as before
and most of the ruling power ended up in the non-state of Washington,
DC (which I fear you know firsthand).
farmers not only occupy a lofty aerie in the American hierarchy
but they often get treated better than the rest of us by the government.
And it’s not just in the areas you mentioned. For example if an
American were to die in 2005 with something greater than $1.5
million dollars in the bank, our federal government would confiscate
a large portion of what he was planning to voluntarily leave to
his heirs. But if that same American were a farmer, or to be more
legally punctilious, his entire estate were comprised of a farm,
then he would not have to pay any tax upon his death. I know,
you are probably shaking your head incredulously and muttering,
"So one guy has $3 million held in a bank safe deposit box
and the other guy has a $3 million farm and only the first guy
pays this so-called ‘estate tax’ of yours? That makes no sense."
Trust me, I am not making this up but I am trying to buttress
our case. I just wanted to make sure you knew how insidious our
common foe is.
noticed that your country produces a lot of corn, wheat, and sugarcane
and I am sorry to inform you that you could not have picked more
politically charged commodities with which to start this fight.
You see, we love our corn so much that we now use it as a substitute
for sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Despite the
fact that it does not taste as good as pure sugar and is quite
a bit less salutary too, our Secretary of Agriculture under Nixon,
Earl Butz, convinced the government that it was a better way to
sweeten things. "Better" in this case essentially means
more lucrative for Midwestern corn farmers who needed to expand
their markets in the early 1970’s but let’s not split hairs as
the American waistline expands faster than the national debt.
You can read all about it in Fat
Land by Greg Crister.
too is one of our main agricultural products and sugar is a nightmare
sui generis. Suffice to say that if you bump into anyone
from America’s first family of sugar, the Fanjuls,
during any of your fancy political shindigs (they attend many
of them regardless of who’s hosting), you might take the conversation
off-line with them and plead your case. I can guarantee that if
you go the usual route of talking to our elected officials and
waiting for them to check with the Fanjul’s lobbyists, several
crop cycles will have passed. The family’s heart does seem to
be in the right place though. Several years ago one of the brothers
lost his dog here in NYC and was gracious enough to offer a $5,000
reward for its return. Seems a little less genuine when most
of us view it as a chance to get back some of the corporate welfare
they grab from us annually.
word has it that your country is producing some excellent wines.
We just had a fight about that here. Believe it or not, wine producers
in some states could not ship their wine to buyers in certain
other states despite the fact that our "states" are
nothing more than administrative offices of our Federal Leviathan.
Our Supreme Court stopped the shenanigans but all is still not
well. So hold off on the wine unless the Fanjuls encourage you
Mbeki, I think we may be on to something. While the authorities
probably find most of my threats to be as menacing to the status
quo as a nursery school revolt, the two of us together might have
a chance. It is not a high-probability chance but it is a chance
nonetheless. In reality sir, no American has been able to break
the stranglehold that the agriculture lobby exerts on those of
us who just pay taxes but don’t hire fancy lobbyists to steal
some money from that bottomless trough that the Leviathan funds
through confiscatory taxation and its currency printing presses.
I have a spare bedroom in my apartment so next year you can stay
with me while you fight the dastardly forces that make Americans
historically pay roughly double
the world’s sugar price at your unseemly UN confab. And if
we can get the US Constitution amended in time to allow for someone
not born in the United States to be our President, there could
still be time for you to run in 2008. Heaven knows you speak more
economic sense than anyone currently in office here in the States.
Mark G. Brennan