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November 10, 2019


Professor Kennedy in her blog of yesterday humorously entitled her offering “Old McDonald had a Farm,” and then proceeded to attack Trump’s tariffs and welfare checks to farmers who lost their export markets to China. She also found fault with Republican repudiation of their former views of open competition and free market economics. This is a topic I have often written about elsewhere, and I responded to her blog, slightly edited, as follows. 

The automakers received 12 billion dollars from Obama for bailouts after Bush’s Great Recession (bailouts which were roundly criticized by Republicans as “socialism”) that saved the industry, but were not welfare but rather loans that were repaid and therefore cost taxpayers nothing, while the 28 billion dollars (so far) of our tax money for farm subsidies Trump has paid or proposes to pay farmers does not call for repayment, which means (irrespective of Republican spin) that it is inaccurate to say (as some do) that we the people are paying over twice as much for farm subsidies as we did for Obama’s automaker bailouts. The real comparison is 28 billion (so far) to nothing, and that does not include the billions in higher costs of goods to American consumers occasioned by Trump’s tariffs or the loss of our soybean market in China (a lost market currently supplied by Brazil, Russia and Argentina), thousands of jobs saved under Obama vs. thousands of  jobs lost under Trump, and not to mention that our farmers did not even get bailed out – quite the contrary – both farmer bankruptcies and suicide rates are accelerating and our welfare payments to farmers may be far from over. Brilliant (if catastrophic) leadership, Don. Thanks.

Much of the 28 billion paid or in the pipeline does not go to American farmers but rather goes to foreigners such as those in Brazil, but it is not just Brazilians who are recipients of Trump’s largesse. American corporate farmers are sharing big time in Trump’s welfare scheme as well as foreign investors who are buying up American farmland at an accelerating rate. Likewise, it is not only Chapter 12 bankruptcies which are cresting among American farmers; suicide rates are increasing as well. Thanks again, Don.

So who is paying for this market mayhem and these tariffs? You and I, not big business and their financiers, who instead pass such costs along to consumers and spend their (literally) trillions of dollars propagandizing us peasants with “free trade” and Adam Smith bologna and putting down the evils of what they define as “socialism,” while  conveniently ignoring the total socialism involved in Trump’s giveaways versus Obama’s capitalistic approach of loan and repayment.

In a broader discussion of our economic setting I here note that Big Brotherism (total control) can show up in any economic system and is clearly present today in what we call our “mixed” capitalist-socialist system, a “system” which isn’t working for the vast majority, and which is any event is a bifurcated system of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the rest of us. Those who warn of the evils of socialism have chosen to be blind to the evils of capitalism as currently practiced while knee deep in socialism themselves.

From the foregoing one could infer that I am a socialist in every sense of the word. Wrong. I still cling to the fleeting hope that capitalism can work if big business and its financiers join the rest of us in ending wage inequality and yield to more regulation of their activities in the marketplace (which is ours, not theirs), all with a view toward fair play in the distribution of the wealth and income to all of us in this economic enterprise and not just shareholders but consumers, workers, environmentalists et al.

So am I by virtue of such observations just another unrealistic dreamer who (sans evidence) chooses to discount the terminal greed of present day capitalists? I hope not, since as I often write, I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me, and because as I see it, present day capitalists are either going to recognize the rest of us as active participants and not mere ciphers in this economic enterprise or, alternatively, they are likely soon to be forced to abandon their view of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the rest of us since our current messy economic marriage is destined for divorce, but if they don’t agree, then what? A Lenin-like St. Petersburg street scene from the early Twentieth Century reincarnated a century later? No one needs that.

To wax a bit philosophical, there is an old saying that if a tree won’t bend in the wind it will break, and that may have application in our economy what with accelerating wage inequality and a stratospheric Dow that rewards its participants unfairly, and since broken economies often presage failed or badly wounded states, I think it is time for capitalists to contain their profit-driven instincts in favor of a more inclusive marketplace lest there be no marketplace for them to exploit. So when to begin the necessary reforms? Today.     GERALD           E

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