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Why I’m joining the Tea Baggers

Michael Boss

Michael Boss

I know my faithful Idaho Business Review readers (thanks again, Mom) must be reading this blog title and double-checking the byline to be sure which “Michael” this is.

Yep, it’s really me, folks. I’ve seen the error of my leftist-leaning, Obama-loving, socialist-sympathizing ways. My motto henceforth is, “have gun, will tea bag” – provided, of course, that the Tea Bag movement is willing to take on the greatest of all threats posed by Big Government.

No, I’m not speaking here of the current administration’s obvious efforts to expunge the Second Amendment, turn the world’s greatest system of health care delivery into a bureaucrat-run Death Panel, remove the Bible from public discourse, or supplant Canada as the largest socialist state in the Western Hemisphere. These components of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Gang of Three are child’s play next to Big Government’s fait accompli in its agenda to enslave all real Americans: the hijacking of our food system.

What makes this accomplishment all the more insidious has been its stealth. To quote Kevin Spacey’s character, Verbal Kint, from the movie The Usual Suspects, “the greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing us that he doesn’t exist.”

But I digress. What is called for here is some explanation by way of a short history lesson – and for that we need to go back to the New Deal.

Between droughts and price-collapsing surpluses, American farmers in the 1920s and ’30s were experiencing bankruptcy on a massive scale, proving yet again that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In an effort to stabilize the family farms that fed America’s industrial might, New Deal programs established a target price for agricultural goods based on their cost of production. Whenever prices dropped below that target, quoting from Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “…the farmer was given a choice. Instead of dumping corn onto a weak market (thereby weakening it further), the farmer could take out a loan from the government – using his crop as collateral – that allowed him to store his grain until prices recovered.”

The New Deal programs that led to what was known as the “Ever-Normal Granary” came to their end under Earl “Rusty” Butz, Richard Nixon’s second secretary of agriculture. Responding to consumer outrage over inflationary food prices in the early ’70s, Butz set about dismantling New Deal farm policies with bills that removed the floor under grain prices and replaced loans to farmers with subsidies that bridged the shortfall between production costs and market prices. The net effect of subsidizing every bushel of corn that farmers could produce was to encourage them to produce more, and further depress the market through oversupply.

But there has been a more insidious effect of what one Iowa farmer subsequently described as “the plague of cheap corn:” the effort to sop up this surplus through Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, and the transformation of “cheap corn” into “cheap beef” as a result. Author Pollan talks about the coincidence of the exodus of humans from urban centers to the suburbs at the same time that farm animals were making the reverse journey from farms to urban-like concentrations of fellow creatures in feed lots. “The ‘urbanization’ of America’s animal population could never have taken place if not for the advent of cheap, federally subsidized corn,” Pollan notes.

So, what’s wrong with cheap food, you ask? Well, for starters, the “blow back” of the Nixon Administration’s farm policies (which created a strong Republican base among farm communities at the same time they sowed the seeds of their destruction) was to split an elegant solution (cattle raised on grass pasturage renewed by the very animals it sustained) into two intractable problems: a fertility problem (remedied by petro-chemical fertilizers) and a pollution problem on the feedlots (yet to be remedied). And while one could dedicate any number of blogs to the health implications of CAFO-raised beef (starting with human ingestion of growth hormones and antibiotics used to subvert nature’s design for ruminant animals), I’d like to address a cost that I believe is much closer to the Tea Baggers’ hearts.

From a Tea Bagger perspective, which posits “that government that governs least governs best,” cheap food created through Big Government subsidies and market manipulation, with a healthy dose of lobbying dollars by the likes of ADM and Cargill, are part of a larger conspiracy to deprive Americans of their God-given freedom and self-reliance and transform us into Matrix-like drones.

When you stop to think about it, aren’t cheap beef and Wal-Mart the 21st Century American equivalent of ancient Rome’s “bread and circus” domestic policies? Go ahead and outsource our jobs, drive down working wages and salaries through cheap imports that simultaneously transform us into a debtor nation, and sublimate our outrage through Big Macs and flat screen TVs purchased on credit cards – whatever it takes to stave off the unthinkable scenario that we might do something extreme and dangerous … like organize into unions or demand an end to “fee for service” health care.

So, Tea Baggers, I’m turning to you to speak truth to power. The Republicans and Democrats have too much of a vested interest in the status quo to wrest control of our food supply back from Washington. No, my friends, they are the problem, not the solution. This is a task that rightfully belongs to a true maverick. And would I be willing to renounce my elitist Democrat apostasy, return to the “real” America, and vote for Sarah Palin for “Rogue-in-Chief” if she had the guts to storm the ramparts of Big Government agriculture policy? You betcha!


About Michael Boss

54 comments

  1. Michael, thanks for the apology. And no, I don’t know of any Tea Partiers who refer to themselves with the derrogatory term used in your title. If you don’t want to “intentionally seek to belittle anyone,” now that you know the difference, might I suggest asking Robb or someone at IBR to re-title your post?

  2. Beto,

    I humbly apologize for my reference to Tea Baggers vs. Tea Party. It was an error made in ignorance, rather than with the intention of insulting anyone. I honestly thought that this was a moniker the Tea Party folks applied to themselves as a bit of self-deprecating humor.

    I totally agree with you that name calling is an impediment to creating real dialogue. There is too little civility in our political and social discourse as it is, and we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard before we point the finger at our political representatives. Thanks for calling me out on this. I’ve agreed to disagree with a lot of great people whom I’ve held in high esteem, and I would never intentionally seek to belittle anyone, however I may differ in my opinion on an issue.

  3. Michael,
    Thanks for the humor with the Orderly Manor bit. I do appreciate your wit. However, when you repeatedly use a slur like Tea Bagger, it’s hard for me to assume that you’re not being defamatory. In fact, as I read your piece I had to really ignore it in order to see your point. I think part of the problem with the right and left is that they gravitate towards emotionally charged labels. Yet, if you name call, how do you expect people that embrace other points of view to react? My guess is that they’ll be mostly defensive and not receptive to your message. To get a real dialogue going here we need to move past the name calling and instead focus on the facts; and you bring some very interesting facts to bear. Subsidies are not a good solution and go against the Tea Party’s philosophy. I completely agree. I think going to a Tea Party meeting and bringing this up would be very interesting. I look forward to reading about it in a future column.

  4. Spot on Michael. Berto is also correct most people don’t want higher taxes or more government control contrary to the Right’s perception of the Left. But as your article points out the ag business is so unique and dependent on tax dollars it’s unbelievable. Farmers are paid to produce with the support subsidies and tax exemptions of every flavor and color, at the federal and state level. They’re also paid not to produce if they choose to travel the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) path which was also established to reduce crop inventory and over-production. What a sweet deal, get paid to produce and get paid not to produce.

    Bottom line every dollar that goes to farm subsidy, whether to support price floors or control crop production, requires an equal dollar of tax (gotta come from somewhere). Plus there’s the government overhead of administrating the programs, audits, legal actions, etc, etc, etc. Want fewer taxes and smaller government (the Tea Bagger’s objective)? Eliminate the subsidies and exemptions; let the free market prevail. Dang I just fell out of the right side of my chair with that last sentence.

  5. Excellent article and love the snark. It was a great hook for me since I came to ridicule Tomlin again. I’m a little surprised you didn’t mention academy award nominated Food Inc. which features Pollan prominently. I’m a gonna find some time to cross post this and plug the movie.

    And if you get too much flack for the snark its welcome over at our site any time. ;-)

  6. Berto, I’ve with local Tea Party folks, and I’d love to attend a function, although I think the one that Sarah spoke at was intended for a more well heeled crowd than yours truly.

    Hey, you got me dead to rights on the snarky tone, but my intention was not to defame a legitimate and powerful political movement, but to suggest that if it REALLY intends to live up to its credentials it would better serve ALL Americans if it addressed some bigger issues that the two parties are unwilling to face.

    Do I want to pay higher taxes? Well, that depends on where my share of our collective obligation to one another gets spent, doesn’t it? Over the past decade my tax liability has actually decreased while I just got hit with a 14 percent hike in my health insurance premiums.

    And by the way, the “orderly manor” sounds like a great place to live. Maybe I’ll se you there?

  7. Haha. I meant manner not manor. Orderly manor sounds like an English lake country estate.

  8. While I agree with the point of your article Michael, I completely disagree with the snarky tone. The majority of Tea Party goers really don’t stand for anything that is extreme. Who in America really wants to pay higher taxes? Who really wants more government control? Who isn’t fed up with irresponsible spending? Most of these people are simply doing something about that disgust and they do so in an orderly manor. Then again if all you do is listen to cable news talking heads you’d think everyone associated with the Tea Parties is a gun toting sociopath. I’ve been to a couple of their functions and most people there are decent, hardworking folks, from all walks of life that simply want their government to listen to them. Have you ever been to a Tea Party function? Maybe you should attend one of their functions.

  9. I think anyone fed up with the corporate cronism thats taken over Washington would be interested in the fast growing Group GOOOH, “Get Out Of Our House”. The principle is to vote out this fall every one of the 435 state representatives. Replace all “career politicians” with normal people who will serve 4 years and then go back to their real job. Campaigns will not be funded by corporations, and lobbyism will never be the same. Its time to clean up.

    To really send a message to BIG government we need to go big, and WAY bigger than Sarah Palin. There is a local GOOOH chapter here in Boise and other cities in Idaho. Here is the main site…
    http://goooh.com/home.aspx