‘Twas the bailout before Christmas


Before ya’ll go gettin’ cheery-cheeked and weepy-eyed for Christmas, Old Scrooge here has some sour facts that will be waitin’ for you on the backside of the holiday season.

Fact number one

After Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson’s bailout of banking giant Citigroup, the total amount of government cash thrown into this year’s credit mess is an estimated $7.8 trillion.

How big a pile’s that? Well, ciphered one wag recently, Thomas Jefferson’s $15 million purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803 would be worth, in today’s dollars, $217 billion.

That magnificent sum, though, is less than three percent of what Washington has given the corporate plungers since March.

That’s right. Jefferson got all or part of 15 states-to-be (including ag giants Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas), a slice of a coupla’ future Canadian provinces and 530 million acres for $15 million, or less than three cents an acre, while Old Hem-and-Haw Hank got nothin’ more than more promises for your $7.8 trillion.

Guess that’s the difference between ’em. Jefferson was a member of the still-alive breed of land-lovin’ farmers, Paulson a member of the now-extinct breed of investment bankers.

Fact number two

In 2007 the U.S. borrowed $800 billion, or $4 billion every working day, from the world to run its government while China accumulated a current account surplus of $262 billion — much of which was then loaned back to the U.S.

As such, argues Niall Ferguson in his new book The Ascent of Money, “(T)he People’s Republic of China has become banker to the United States of America.”

OK, so the sunny side of this is if we spend all our Christmas dollars at Walmart rather than in our rural community, China might be able to loan us, oh, say, $7.8 trillion next year so we might be able to keep juggling our debt until our children and grandchildren are forced to either catch it or be crushed by it?

‘Zactly! Hey, it ain’t much of a plan, but it’s the only one we got.

Fact number three

According to a Nov. 30, Minneapolis Star Tribune story titled “In search of cheap food,” the “U.S. consumption of palm oil has tripled from 324,000 tons in 2005 to 1 million tons today.”

Whoa, Santa.

In response to the Food and Drug Administration’s 2006 trans fat labeling requirement, most American food makers (such as Nabisco, Brachs and General Mills, the story reports) have swapped their trans fat soy oil for saturated fats like palm?

Indeed, notes the American Soybean Association. “Over the past three years, the cumulative 10 percent drop (in U.S. soy oil usage) due to the trans fat labeling requirement displaced more than 4.6 billion pounds of edible soybean oil” in America, most of which, the association adds, went into biodiesel.

(Uh oh, the old food versus fuel thing. Nah uh, ain’t going there.)

Most nutritionists agree palm oil is less harmful to your health than the trans fat in soy. Shoot, man, even the association agrees.


Both, however, quickly add any benefits from making the switch probably go by the way if you eat three times more palm oil than you did before.

But, hey, this is America; we’re still overweight, still hungry and, OK, still a little irrational.

I mean, we choose palm over soy because we worry about our health. Then we eat three times more and, later, this new appetite “now ranks Indonesia as the world’s third-largest producer of carbon, behind the U.S. and China, because of farmers’ practices of burning down rainforest to plant oil palm.”

Sounds ’bout right; right?

Hey, anybody see Tiny Tim? I sent him for a sack of coal coupla’ hours ago…

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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. farmandfoodfile.com



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