Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inequities in the Farm Bill

Well, they did it. Congress passed the bloated Farm Bill, President Bush vetoed it, and the Senate overrode the veto. Now they have discovered that Bush vetoed the wrong bill, and the right one will come up for a vote this week. Bush will probably veto it again and the Senate will attempt another override.

So I guess I will go through another few days of wishing that someone would have the good sense to break this bill into components and not have the assistance for the poor in terms of food stamps and food surplus distribution attached to the same bill that gives corporate farmers thousands of dollars that they don’t need.

Oh, they think they need it because the hundreds of thousands of dollars they clear each year just aren’t enough. Compare that with the small family-owned farm that sometimes can’t even feed that family. Where is the help for a farmer who has three bad years in a row and has no capital to buy seed to plant another crop? He can’t even qualify for food stamps because he owns equipment worth thousands of dollars. But even with those assets, the bank won’t lend him any money to get him through the winter until he can try again next spring.

If the government really wanted to help the American farmer and not just the ones rich enough to support the lobby in Washington, the current Farm Bill would be trashed and a new one written. The new one would not allow for a situation where a farm owned by the same family for generations would have to be sold before the farmer’s wife could qualify for Medicare to pay for dialysis. Or another farmer’s home would not have to be mortgaged because the bottom fell out of the pig market just before his were ready to go and he didn’t make enough to pay his feed bill.

Nor would any farmer have to face the ultimate humiliation of not being able to feed his family.

It shouldn’t be happening….

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ignoring the Tragedy is a Tragedy

Every day I scan news sources for “News Bits” to put on the site I manage, WinnsboroToday.com, and I am always dismayed to read yet another instance of some Third World government committing an atrocity against the people they are supposed care enough about to govern.

The most recent is the government of Myanmar, which is really Burma, taking so long to allow aid to reach the victims of the cyclone that ravaged part of the country on May 4th. Millions of people have been displaced without the basics of shelter food, and water and the government took ten days to decide to let one American plane bring food and medical supplies in. Whether more planes will be allowed to bring in supplies is still being debated.

Official government reports from the country are also downplaying the number of people who were killed in the storm, as well as the casualties from disease and starvation since then. Do they think we will not consider them heartless if only 22,000 died instead of 100,000?

That political ends play such a significant role in the response to this kind of tragedy is a tragedy in itself. And I do recall that a similar scenario played out after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Political maneuvering between city, state and federal governments held up aid response for over 24 hours, and in the ensuing public outcry, each entity was busy blaming the other.

It is beyond my comprehension that the leader of a country would not respond immediately to people in need and to hell with politics. To be bound by political rules or advantages would be like me not rushing to my neighbor’s to help put out a fire because I am not part of the volunteer fire department in this area. Sorry. Can’t step on someone’s toes, so I guess your barn will just have to burn down.