Not knowing beans about seed corn


Love him or hate him, controversial filmmaker Michael Moore has his self-described “America’s biggest slacker” act down pat. Jowls big enough to hold four, maybe five, jelly doughnuts. A plodding, ask-me-if-I-care walk. T-shirts that could double as rain ponchos.
Yet Moore is anything but. Two Oscar statues adorn his Manhattan mantle and he has banked $200 million from the Bush-burning film Fahrenheit 9/11.
Who’s your daddy? Nope, America’s biggest slacker is America.
Day after day, economic data show a nation, as farmers might note, eating its seed corn. On Oct. 20, the U.S. national debt hit $7.438 trillion. (It grows by $1.7 billion per day.) In fiscal 2004, the U.S. Treasury took in $1.880 trillion and sent out $2.292 trillion, adding $413 billion to the crimson tide.
Congress, the White House and the presidential campaigns say little about this swift boat to budgetary and economic chaos.
Stalwarts. Today the nation sits flat broke, unable to borrow until Congress increases the nation’s debt ceiling. The White House and Congress, which pushed the debt limit up by $934 billion just 16 months ago, have conspired to keep that public act private until mid-November. Then the gassy group will gather to raise the ceiling – by another $690 billion – for the third time in four years. What courage.
Simultaneously, the U.S. trade deficit grows fatter than a fructose-addicted school kid. In August, the nation imported $54 billion more goods and services than it exported. And that’s when crude oil was $45 a barrel, not $55. The current rate promises a job-crushing $600 billion trade deficit for 2005.
Here they come. Like all debt, these shortfalls carry big risks and some of those risks, like chickens at sundown, are coming home to roost.
On Sept. 9, according to the Washington Post, the Treasury – as it must – went to Wall Street to sell $9 billion in T-Bonds to tide the nation over. But that day foreign investors, the biggest buyers of U.S. debt, balked; they wouldn’t touch the offering. Bond prices then fell and interest rates rose, an ominous sign that predicts more trouble for the U.S. economy.
Foreign feet getting cold. It wasn’t the first time this year that foreign investors stiffed over-spending America. In August, reports the Post, foreigners sold $4.4 billion more T-Bonds than they bought. It was the first time in more than a year that cold feet moved them out of the U.S. market and moved the U.S closer to the gaping abyss.
But these signs continue mean nothing to Congress and the White House. In the closing moments of the legislative session on Oct. 11, Republicans in Congress rammed through another $100 billion in corporate tax cuts. It mattered none that current corporate tax revenues equal just 1.4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the lowest level since the 1940s.
Who will pay for this stupid, clearly unsustainable spending?
Spear in the chest. Farmers and ranchers already are. To underwrite disaster relief money for two years of weather-related crop problems, Congress approved robbing $3 billion from the out-years of the multi-year, $9 billion Conservation Security Program.
That unprecedented maneuver not only cripples CSP, it carries huge woes for U.S. producers because it opens the 2002 Farm Bill for more cuts – more seed corn eating – as budget deficit problems swell. Farm groups, wide awake to that danger, fought the CSP robbery but Republican tax cutters simply ignored them.
Hey, what are good farm friends for if not to take a spear in the chest every now and then, right?
Follow the moneyed. Three days later, the Associated Press reported that $23 million of USDA Rural Development money “meant to bring the worldwide web to rural America instead will underwrite fast Internet service to affluent Texas suburbs represented by House Republican Leader Tom DeLay


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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children.