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The Small Farm

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jimmy-carter-in-his-open-neck-blue-work-shirt-blue-jeans-walking-in-the-green-fields-and-red-clay-of-his-rural-georgia-peanut-farm

The mythology of the family farm goes deep in American history. It’s only recently that presidential elections stopped using this mythology for endless ads (if there’s one thing neither candidate cared about in 2016, it was farmers in Kansas or Ohio). Remember how tied up into being a small farmer the Carter campaign was. But the family farms have been stressed and declining for nearly a century, as automation and global commodity markets made efficiency the only thing that mattered. Despite the U.S. propping up these farmers through Nixon-era crop subsidies, they continue to decline. Given the relatively small number of people involved, I can’t get too worked up over the routine stories like this about their continued decline.

That said, this is part of the larger American problem that we have not come up with any sort of long-term industrial or employment planning to figure out what these people do when they lose their farms. Where do they go? What kind of dignified life can they lead? That’s even more true if they want to stay in small-town Kansas or Iowa, but not really that much better for most if they move to the cities. The lack of such a policy is really at the core of a number of our problems right now, including the sharp reaction to right-wing white nationalist politics with its very strong economic message of “screw brown people.” With millions of people about to lose their jobs due to automation in trucking and restaurants, this is not getting better as we on the left aren’t even articulating any good ideas on this point. We are at the starting point, ceding the rhetorical field to fascists. At least we can have some great songs about it.

Of course, no one epitomizes the Trump voter more than the white farmer, so it’s not like they would support any big programs to help themselves out anyway, unless it was more cash payments that went directly to them. As Donald Worster pointed out years ago in his excellent book Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, farmers of the western Plains were big fans of the New Deal precisely up to the point where a) they saw an outsized amount of the benefits and b) the economy was so bad that they had no other choice. As soon as the New Deal was seen helping those people and the weather turned so they could be productive again, they turned back to the environmentally disastrous farming methods and hatred of the government that got them into trouble in the first place.

So there is no little irony that the California farmers who so strongly supported Trump and now worried about acquiring their cheap, exploitable labor force that has driven their agenda for more than a century.

Jeff Marchini and others in the Central Valley here bet their farms on the election of Donald J. Trump. His message of reducing regulations and taxes appealed to this Republican stronghold, one of Mr. Trump’s strongest bases of support in the state.

As for his promises about cracking down on illegal immigrants, many assumed Mr. Trump’s pledges were mostly just talk. But two weeks into his administration, Mr. Trump has signed executive orders that have upended the country’s immigration laws. Now farmers here are deeply alarmed about what the new policies could mean for their workers, most of whom are unauthorized, and the businesses that depend on them.

“Everything’s coming so quickly,” Mr. Marchini said. “We’re not loading people into buses or deporting them, that’s not happening yet.” As he looked out over a crew of workers bent over as they rifled through muddy leaves to find purple heads of radicchio, he said that as a businessman, Mr. Trump would know that farmers had invested millions of dollars into produce that is growing right now, and that not being able to pick and sell those crops would represent huge losses for the state economy. “I’m confident that he can grasp the magnitude and the anxiety of what’s happening now.”

Mr. Trump’s immigration policies could transform California’s Central Valley, a stretch of lowlands that extends from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Approximately 70 percent of all farmworkers here are living in the United States illegally, according to researchers at University of California, Davis. The impact could reverberate throughout the valley’s precarious economy, where agriculture is by far the largest industry. With 6.5 million people living in the valley, the fields in this state bring in $35 billion a year and provide more of the nation’s food than any other state.

Yeah, like he cares about you Mr. White Farmer.

Between this and $3 tomatoes in January thanks to whatever restrictions they are going to put on products coming in from Mexico, the reemergence of nutrition-based diseases among the American poor is sure going to work out for all of us!

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  • CP

    As Donald Worster pointed out years ago in his excellent book Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, farmers of the western Plains were big fans of the New Deal precisely up to the point where a) they saw an outsized amount of the benefits and b) the economy was so bad that they had no other choice. As soon as the New Deal was seen helping those people and the weather turned so they could be productive again, they turned back to the environmentally disastrous farming methods and hatred of the government that got them into trouble in the first place.

    IIRC, it’s notable that even with the hard dose of reality that was the Great Depression, the “coming to their senses” thing was still very transitory for the rural heartland. By 1937, the South had joined with right wing Republicans in forming the Conservative Coalition against the New Deal, and by the 1940s, Western states were already starting to go Republican again.

  • LeeEsq

    As far as I’m aware, very few governments ever thought about what do you do with x group when their livelihood is no longer viable because of y changes. Part of this is because doing so might require wealthy people to pay taxes to support programs that could help, never an easy task. Another reason is that humans tend to be short-sighted or at best medium-sighted regardless of their politics. Very few people like to think about the potential negatives sides of any change, particularly when they think the change will be universally beneficial.

    • Linnaeus

      Part of this is because doing so might require wealthy people to pay taxes to support programs that could help, never an easy task.

      Yes, I think this is a big part of it, though I’d also add that it wouldn’t require just wealthy people to pay more.

    • Phil Perspective

      Part of this is because doing so might require wealthy people to pay taxes to support programs that could help, never an easy task.

      Even now, the Democrats biggest problem is that they don’t want to upset their wealthy donors. That’s why they’re up shit’s creek at present.

    • At the state and local level, Connecticut has done a pretty good job of both supporting farmers and managing open space. There are a lot of initiatives that help in one way or another, but I think the biggest has been buying development rights, which gives farmers an influx of cash while preserving open space. At least locally, we’ve had a lot of success in convincing even conservative voters to agree to vote for funding by using a property value argument (i.e., less development keeps that value of your house higher and open space makes the town more attractive which also supports pricing). There’s also a sort of reverse-NIMBY effect: People will come out to support farmers in their communities in the same way they’ll oppose anything new moving in. Heavy support for solarization has helped, too.

      The ongoing budget mess here isn’t helping, though.

    • keta

      I think most elected officials do consider long-term effects on things like employment and the environment. For about five minutes. Then they realize long-term solutions demand sacrifice in the short term, and asking the electorate to make those sacrifices is anathema to getting re-elected.

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      The assumption since forever has been “economic growth –> jobs” for mainstreet USA. When we had powerful unions, strong stable industries and progressive taxation, that was a workable assumption. Between globalization, union busting and all the ways we’ve engineered the economy to sluice wealth away from workers upwards to the investor class, that assumption is now broken. But many don’t recognize it yet, and many aren’t comfortable with the steps needed to create jobs given the new reality.

      • Linnaeus

        As a certain French economist might put it, r>g.

  • AlanInSF

    Thanks a lot, Erik, for my first gritted-teeth motherfucker moment of this rainy morning in fortress California. I’m gonna go make a latte now.

  • I’m getting serious heartburn from all these stories about people who voted for Dump because they didn’t believe he would actually do what he said he was going to do. So that leaves them liking his racism, misogyny, vulgarity and bullying.

    • Hayden Arse

      As for his promises about cracking down on illegal immigrants, many assumed Mr. Trump’s pledges were mostly just talk.

      There should be a punishment beyond the obvious “be careful what you [vote] for, you just might get it” that these people should suffer. The people who thought he wouldn’t gut healthcare, the people who didn’t expect an incompetent kleptocracy, the people who assumed that the white nationalist rhetoric was just a campaign tactic shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying that they didn’t expect him to make good on his evil promises. Trump is doing exactly what you should have expected if you were paying attention. How about “I was wrong to vote for an evil man, I will pay attention next time and not do it again, I’m sorry for my culpability in making the country worse.

      • Gregor Sansa

        And both sides do it!

        By which I mean that on our side, we had people who assumed that Clinton would give special treatment to her foundation’s donors, that she would enjoy nothing more than a nice war with Iran or Russia, that she would happily stick the dagger in the back of an otherwise-viable single player plan, that she’d hand-picked Micheletti to succeed Zelaya and run the coup PBSUCCESS-style.

        Now, don’t get me wrong. On all those issues (except maybe the first), there were reasonable, deep criticisms of Clinton from the left. But there was also a bullshit caricature of Clinton that made her out to be something not recognizably human, and there were plenty of people on the left who really believed that bullshit.

        Give me the Mr. Hopey Changey bullshit caricature over the Hillmonster any day. Yes, sure, we have to be ready to press our leaders for more, but first we have to get them into leadership.

        • rea

          But there was also a bullshit caricature of Clinton that made her out to be something not recognizably human, and there were plenty of people on the left who really believed that bullshit.

          We’re still seeing people spout this “Clinton monster” nonsense here every day.

        • Hayden Arse

          No disagreement here. I was very annoyed by the Obama voters who were expecting him to bring the age of Aquarius to the Congress, and blamed him for the categorical refusal of the GOP to negotiate in good faith. Obama basically did as much of what he promised as was possible given the circumstances. Bush basically did what he promised.

          It does not take a very high level of sophistication to understand campaign promises in the context of party platforms and congressional make-up to be able to fairly accurately discern how a presidential candidate will govern. People and pundits who claim to “know better” based on the character of the candidates have a long track-record of being wrong.

        • liberal

          …that she would enjoy nothing more than a nice war with Iran or Russia…

          The idea that she was itching for war with Russia was silly.

          But the idea that she could get us into a war with Russia by a series of escalations in Ukraine…how is that bullshit?

          • Because the story that she was an escalator of crises was part of the bullshit.

            • Gregor Sansa

              Obviously, Trump was the escalator candidate.

          • so-in-so

            Your evidence? As opposed to Trump’s obvious intent to destabilize the entire Western alliance and saber-rattle with China at the same time?

            Splinter – beam, but, you know, EMAILS!

            • rea

              Trump is far more likely to get us into a war in the Ukraine (but on which side?), precisely because of his intent to destabilize the entire Western alliance and saber-rattle with China at the same time.

              • Dennis Orphen

                precisely because of his intent to destabilize the entire Western alliance and saber-rattle with China at the same time

                That is Putin’s intent. Trump is just following orders because he’s on the clock.

              • erick

                Yeah, my best case scenario is Trump’s incompetence and general laziness means 4 years of nothing getting done.

                Worst case is WW III and we’re on the wrong side this time.

                • I’m not convinced there is a right side to WWIII. There is a nonzero chance of a nuclear war occurring with Tangerine Torquemada in office.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Our only hope is to plant the virus of ironic cynicism deep in the heart of the Republican base. “Yeah, Trump says he will show those Mexicans and Ay-rabs who’s boss, but everybody knows he’s just gonna be using the drones to take dirty pictures. And he talks tough about your job but if your boss’s boss’s boss is a regular at his golf course he’ll just give them a few tax breaks so that they’ll replace you with a robot instead of a [Chinese person].”

          Ah, forget it. I can’t do it. Cynicism and MiniTru don’t mix. We’re screwed.

    • CaptainBringdown

      I’m getting serious heartburn from all these stories about people who voted for Dump because they didn’t believe he would actually do what he said he was going to do.

      Well, he hasn’t come through on taking on Big Pharma or Draining The Swamp, so there’s that.

      • so-in-so

        Yeah, he said so many things, some people heard something they liked and ignored everything after that. Early on he said that of course taxes on the rich needed to be higher, once. Some lefties heard that and decided that was his REAL position, never mind that for months after he said the reverse.

        As others note, “his flip-flops mean that he REALLY will do what I want, while when Clinton changes it means she will REALLY stab me in the back, because I’m a misogynist dumb-ass”.

    • CP

      I’m getting serious heartburn from all these stories about people who voted for Dump because they didn’t believe he would actually do what he said he was going to do. So that leaves them liking his racism, misogyny, vulgarity and bullying.

      This is why my sympathy for them is nil. I forgive people for being idiots, but not for being assholes. It would be one thing if they voted for Trump because they sincerely believed he’d make life better, but what you see time and time again from these voters is that they voted for Trump because he promised to make life worse for all the Undeserving out there; they just never thought they’d be among the Undeserving.

      It’s hard to see them getting what they wished on other people good and hard as anything other than poetic justice (though, since the rest of us have to suffer too, equally hard to take any pleasure in it).

      • delazeur

        That’s precisely the thing: when people say “I never expected that he would actually do this” what they really mean is “I never expected that he would do this to me, too.”

    • Abbey Bartlet

      So that leaves them liking his racism, misogyny, vulgarity and bullying.

      Thus my general desire to see them all suffer and die as much as the rest of us.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    “nobody epitomizes the Trump voter more than the white farmer”

    #notallwhitefarmers

    • Johnnie

      My grandfather would certainly take umbrage with that quote. Granted, he’s retired now, but he’s also old enough to appreciate the value of rural electrification.

      • Yep, I’m not old enough to remember but I’ve read history — the Farmers Alliance, the Democratic-Farm-Labor party, the Non Partisan League — it used to be a whole different thing.

      • DrDick

        My grandfather, dead for over 45 years, was a solid new Deal Democrat, also a huge fan of rural electrification.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          DrD: I apologize for being really jerky with you a week or so ago- was uncalled-for on my part, could have made my point any number of ways that weren’t rude

          • DrDick

            Don’t worry about it, as I have already forgotten it. I know you are a good person and we can all be jerks sometimes.

    • I serve on various boards and committees with farmers here – at least in northeast CT, there are a lot of solidly active Democratic farmers – mostly on competency grounds.

      • so-in-so

        Glad to hear it, because in the same area I passed way to many Trump signs.

  • pianomover

    I grew up in the Central Valley of California. One highlight that the Ag majors (sons of the farm and orchard owners) at my high school would brag about was the shaking down of migrant workers right after payday. This was usually done after the last of the harvest was done. I have no sympathy for the Central Valley farmer.

    • wjts

      Is the Central Valley where Victor Davis Hanson does his Cincinnatus impression?

      • redrob

        Yes. And complains about the transformation wrought by the immigration of Mexican farm laborers. More in sadness than anger, of course.

        • pianomover

          But usually over a breakfast of Huevos Rancheros.

    • The Dark God of Time

      We’re in a flood watch zone for later on today, at the Gateay to the Gateway to the Sierras.p

      We used to call them Goat Ropers, back 40 years ago.

      • AlanInSF

        In fairness, Trump said when he was president we’d have all the water we needed, and damned if it hasn’t rained every day since his inauguration.

        • pianomover

          “If you can’t swim here comes a flood!!”

    • Origami Isopod

      I’m on the UFW’s and a few similar organizations’ mailing lists. The way these Upstanding Sons of the Soil treat their workers is sickening. Fuck them all.

      • pianomover

        Remember the short handled hoe!!

  • Yankee

    Obviously those farmer folks don’t yet get that there’s plenty of cheap exploitable labor right here in America, and it will be grateful to move out of those horrible crime-ridden war zones.

    • Karen24

      Or import those unemployed mine workers from Ohio and Kentucky. I’m sure they would be very grateful for the chance to cosplay “The Grapes of Wrath.”

      • The Dark God of Time

        In the WPA book on California, it has a picture labled Texas drought refugees. This was published relight around 1940.

        In the 50s and 60s, calling someone an Okie was an invitation to a fight in the bars around here.

        • pianomover

          Then suddenly they were boot scooting to Merle and spinning donuts in the Tulare dust

          • The Dark God of Time

            I’m old enough to remember when KAFY wasn’t country.

            • pianomover

              I listened to KRAC radio out of Stockton.

      • Bubblegum Tate

        +1 for “cosplay The Grapes of Wrath.”

        Also, too, that whole “move to where the jobs are!” spiel gets really annoying, really fast. Like, conservatives screamed it at liberals nonstop when the Bakken Shale field was booming. “Stop whining that you don’t have a job and go to North Dakota, where there’s tons of them!” And yet that same calculus never, ever applies to downtrodden Heartland Murricans. They must have jobs brought to them no matter what, for it is their birthright. Hence, the coal miners are positive Trump is going to “open the mines again,” presumably by putting coal back in the ground and banning any form of automation.

        • Domino

          He’d also have to massively jack up the cost of natural gas, so that fracking isn’t as profitable. Of course, those jobs employ many heartland ‘Muricans, so Trump appears to have quite the conundrum on his tiny hands.

        • Joe Bob the III

          Even though I have no education and obsolete or non-transferable work skills, I want a high standard of living while in a tranquil and beautiful rural area even though there is not enough income-producing activity here.

          And I would like to live on a nice piece of forested land with a view of Lake Superior but there aren’t any damned jobs there for architects so I live in the city where the work is.

          Goddamn, here I am a liberal and I want to tell these people to they aren’t entitled to squat and they need to do something to help themselves instead of voting for a fucking fascist because the government isn’t doing enough to support their preferred lifestyle. The sacred Free Market doesn’t care if your family has lived in Bumfuck County for seven generations. If you can’t sustain yourself there then you need to move. Migration is a fact of human habitation on the Earth.

          As a taxpayer I am willing to subsidize rural broadband or whatever else might work to allow Bumfuck County to transform itself. But let’s face it, sparsely populated remote areas inhabited by people without in-demand job skills are not magnets for enterprises that provide good wages and benefits.

    • Jenna

      The war on drugs is where all the cheap labor will come from.
      Prison labor.
      And it will be a lovely moneymaker for some owner of a private prison.
      It will probably be a whole industry. Arrest all the people, confiscate property under asset forfeiture laws(asset forfeiture is the part that buys the cops), rent the people out as farm labor or cheap assembly in a factory. Works for the new more draconian drug law enforcement, immigration detainees, and all those pesky rioters and college students.

  • tsam

    Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counseled one and all, and everyone said, “Amen.”
    Major Major’s father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could.

    • ZakMcKrackenAndTheAlienMindbenders

      ha ha ha wow. i actually came here to post (well in my case cut and paste) exactly this passage.

      • tsam

        One of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books.

        A recent re-read has done me lots of good.

    • pianomover
  • Nobdy

    Apropos of the header image, I thought this was a pretty sharp Onion piece a couple weeks ago, and appropriate given Nordstromsgate.

    http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/you-people-made-me-give-my-peanut-farm-i-got-be-pr-55143

  • Murietta

    Given that California looks prepared to go to war with the Trump administration over a host of labor and environmental issues, the ability of the administration to retaliate by deporting California’s labor force and triggering a depression in the state is really scary. The fact that that will reverberate across the entire US food supply is, I’m confident, no disincentive to these lunatics.

    • Timurid

      That’s a feature, not a bug.

      • Murietta

        Oh, absolutely. But most people in California that you talk to, even on the left, don’t seem to understand how the threat of deportations could be weaponized against California’s desire to protect its autonomy on issues (like the environment) that are currently being treated as distinct.

        • Phil Perspective

          Maybe people will finally wake up and help those less fortunate then. Drastic measures will probably be necessary. I’m sure you’re smart enough to think of what they might be.

    • Karen24

      They won’t deport the labor force for the wealthy part of the states that voted for Clinton. The migrant workers work for the Trump voters in California.

      • Jenna

        They might offer to let them use prison labor. Prison labor isn’t done in CA, but, if other states are using prison labor to bring in crops(prison labor was offered to Trump for the wall, if you recall) the farmers could be used to pressure CA’s government.

    • FMguru

      Since agriculture is something like 3% of the state’s GNP, I don’t see how decimating the agricultural work force affects the state’s economy much at all. California is likelier to suffer more economic damage from international tourism being discouraged by our new calvinball visa border control. Plus, whatever economic harm befell the state would be concentrated in the interior, red, agricultural counties – blue coastal metropolis dwellers would scarcely feel a ripple.

      • The Dark God of Time

        The agriculture is concentrated in a few counties, one of which I live in.

        If one only considers agriculture in a narrow definition, then the value is lower. However, when related industries are included in the definition of agricultural, such as food processing, the value increases. Or as CaliforniaNState University, Fresno professor Mechel Paggi, Ph.D. stated in a 2011 paper, agriculture is an industry that has a “significant effect on the state’s economy.”

        California has the largest agricultural sector in the U.S. Three California counties (Fresno, Tulare, and Monterey) are the top three counties in the country for agricultural products sold. Nearly all of the domestically grown grapes and almonds are grown in California, and over three-quarters of the strawberries and lettuce hail from the golden state.

        California’s agriculture industry has a global impact. The value of California’s exports accounted for $21.24 billion in value in 2013. California’s agriculture ranks between fifth and ninth globally, and is ahead of Canada and Mexico, making it one of the top 10 global economies.

        http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/the-real-economic-value-of-california-agriculture

      • DrDick

        On the other hand, the rest of the country would suffer a lot, since they are the largest producer of our food.

        • wengler

          The conservative solution is to go without food for 8-10 weeks until this thing blows over.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            I’m fine with conservatives doing that.

    • dogboy

      Looks like Big Garlic has found a way to solve its labor shortage.

      • bizarroMike

        SPOILER: They decided to pay more.

        Man, wait until the economists hear about this innovation! I swear, I read a million “we can’t find good workers!” articles, when the most important part is omitted or in the small print. Can’t find workers — at the price we’re willing to pay.

        • FMguru

          See also, complaints about how hard it is to find “skilled workers” which basically boil down to “we’re too cheap and shitty to train anyone, that’s someone else’s job”.

    • Colin Day

      The bad news, Trump might try to divert the Colorado River. The good news, that would take actual competence.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    I was talking recently with a educated white man in his early fifties who was already a bit defensive about having voted for Trump (according to him a last minute decision to keep the bitch out of the White House). He said “checks and balances” would keep Trump from doing the worst stuff. I actually just sat there and blinked for a moment

    • CP

      (according to him a last minute decision to keep the bitch out of the White House)

      I give him credit for the use of that word – it’s certainly more honest than all the people going “corruption!” “Wall Street!” “Benghazi!”

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        to be honest he didn’t use those exact words- he just made a face and said he “couldn’t” vote for Clinton and he wasn’t going to vote for Trump- until he did. Somewhat interestingly, he said his wife *had* voted for her

  • tsam

    I’m really looking forward to scurvy coming back just I can use the phrase ye scurvy dog!

  • tsam

    Mr. Trump would know that farmers had invested millions of dollars into produce that is growing right now, and that not being able to pick and sell those crops would represent huge losses for the state economy.

    I really want to know just what in the wide world of anteater butthole Trump said that gave this douchebag this idea.

    • The Great God Pan

      Trump’s a businessman! He knows all about business things!

      • tsam

        I’m a businessman. I know when a businessman is bullshitting me. Apparently this one doesn’t.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          Trump is a salesman which isn’t quite the same thing- he sold those saps the *idea* he was a businessman

          • tsam

            The problem is that any actual businessman should know that not paying your bills, multiple bankruptcies, and reckless excursions into all kinds of goofy shit that don’t fit your actual business model (like a college–despite the fact that it’s a scam and DOES fit Trump’s model) are exactly how you become a salesman for another business that isn’t run by a total dumbshit.

            Trump isn’t really a salesman either. I’m sure he CAN sell, but I think he’s more of a leverage application and scam artist type of guy than anything.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              I think it’s more they didn’t believe he was that bad. I mean, it is the weirdest damn thing, but we get all these people- like the guy I mentioned in another comment- who just couldn’t vote for Clinton because of her alleged dishonesty, but then turned around and voted for Trump because they thought he was putting on an *act*? Christ it’s a wonder the country lasted *this* long with *that* kind of “thinking” going on

              • tsam

                Christ it’s a wonder the country lasted *this* long with *that* kind of “thinking” going on

                Yeah–no shit. I was starting to think that maybe it was starting to die down a bit. They sure straightened my naive ass right out.

                I have a rule for this stuff. You always have to understand that campaigns are campaigns. They’re always putting on an act for the voters. But when they make promises, look at what they’re promising. If they’re promising to break shit, they are NOT lying, and not making empty promises. It’s easy to break shit. It’s really tough to improve things. So when they want to improve things, you always take it as an ideal that makes sense, but don’t get your hopes up too high. If they say they want to break shit, assume they fully intend to do it, and that they CAN do it.

    • Mutombo

      That quote is the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

      • tsam

        For puzzling types of gallows humor, yeah.

    • He didn’t want him to! tRump was just supposed to say he was going to deport lots of brown people to make it easier for Farmer McPaleface to exploit them! He wasn’t apposed to do it!!

      I hope every one of those idiots gets an ulcer the size of my fist from worrying about it.

  • Morbo

    “I’m confident that he can grasp the magnitude and the anxiety of what’s happening now.”

    What in Trump’s recorded history makes someone think he’s capable of grasping magnitude and anxiety that doesn’t directly involve him or his business?

    Also, I don’t think his hands allow him to grasp magnitude.

    • Domino

      At least not grasp the full magnitude. Maybe a small chunk of it.

  • tsam
  • BethRich52

    The Donald-Trump-is-good-at-business myth sure is hard to kill.

    • so-in-so

      The Donald-Trump-is-good-at-business myth sure is hard to kill.

      He is (to appearances) rich, ergo…

  • Bruce Vail

    It’s interesting that you equate “efficiency” with “low farm commodity prices.”

    • liberal

      Why is that at all interesting?

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Jimmy Carter’s farm.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Awesome. But as usual these days, lacks a certain edge of parody. The only sense in which that could not have been typed verbatim by Carter is the fact it contains swear words. Truly, the Onion’s business model is showing serious holes.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        It’s hard for satire to stay ahead of this reality. Make a joke, see it come true in a week or two.

        So I’ll try to plant my flag a little further out, and bide my time. President Trump summons Lt. William Calley to the White House to receive the Medal of Freedom.

  • Chip Daniels

    It isn’t just schadenfreude that causes me to take interest in these stories.

    I’m convinced that the Trump coalition is incredibly fragile, held together only by the disparate factions loathing of brown people, poor people, and women people.

    They all voted Trump hoping that he was lying, that he would only craft policies that would hurt THOSE people, and they willfully ignored the reality staring them in the face.
    Y’know, Leopards Eating People’s Faces and all that.

    Our benefit is when each of these groups starts to get kicked in the ass by Trump, we can peel off enough of them to make 2018 a good year for us.

    • Bruce B.

      I would like it to be so, but American history gives me a lot of reasons to believe that a coalition on that basis is likely to be very rugged. I have this unhappy feeling that most of those who were ever going to leave it may already have. I’ve seen just how deep their willingness to excuse their own leaders and shift blame to anyone else – including themselves for letting the cause down – can go.

      But sometimes I’m just plain wrong about these things, and usually glad to be so.

  • Murc

    As for his promises about cracking down on illegal immigrants, many assumed Mr. Trump’s pledges were mostly just talk.

    You know, I’m just gonna say this straight up.

    I think these people are lying, not about Trump, but about themselves and how they interpreted him.

    What they really mean is “I thought he was speaking in code. In my tribe, ‘cracking down on illegal immigrants’ means ‘you can pay them a pittance, steal it back, beat them, rape them, and kill them, and not only won’t anybody in authority care, they’ll actively aid and abet you.’ That’s what I thought Trump was saying. That he’d let us hold slaves again. I didn’t know he wasn’t speaking code!”

    That’s what they mean.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      Well, to be fair, they’ve had Republicans speaking to them in code for decades.

      • Murc

        I’ve learned the hard way that when I see a conservative politician use a phrase that seems oddly or awkwardly constructed, my first response shouldn’t be “That was odd. His speechwriter should have spent more time, or he should practice talking extemporaneously more.” It should be “that’s gotta be code. I should go see what it’s code for.”

        As long as we’re being fair, it isn’t like liberals don’t have our own cultural shorthand, our own “code.” But ours is much easier to decipher and more to the point we don’t usually lie about it.

        • Abbey Bartlet

          I should go see what it’s code for.

          “Brown people are icky and we will hurt them,” usually.

          • Murc

            Don’t forget women and non-straight, non-cis people.

            There’s also code for “Theocratic feudalism was great, we should bring that back.”

    • so-in-so

      “I thought he was speaking in code. In my tribe, ‘cracking down on illegal immigrants’ means”

      To be more fair, we have little reason to feel sure that isn’t true.

    • Mike G

      “I never thought leopards would eat MY face,” sobs woman farmer who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.

  • Gareth

    What kind of dignified life can they lead?

    One benefit of the election is that we now know exactly what their definition of a dignified life is.

  • Yankee

    we on the left aren’t even articulating any good ideas on this point

    I have heard mention of a Universal Basic Income …

    • As I have said before, in the United States, welfare benefits and in fact Americanness are so deeply connected to work that I am extremely skeptical that such a thing will ever come close to reality.

      • I am afraid your scepticism may be justified, which is particularly frightening because UBI strikes me as the only solution that is likely to be completely adequate.

      • Murc

        I am of the opinion that if it ever does come to pass, it’ll be attached to make-work. That is, you’ll report somewhere every day and spending eight hours stuffing envelopes or something equally pointless so it can be presented that you’re “earning” it.

      • David Allan Poe

        Consider, though, that there is something like it in the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is as pure an example of socialism in the sense of collective ownership of resources as exists in the United States.

        • nixnutz

          It’s an interesting example, if it were up to me there wouldn’t be any private ownership of natural resources at all, they’re properly part of the commons, but Alaska illustrates the dangers of the approach in that it creates a lot of political pressure to exploit them as much as possible. I think it’s a just approach but the incentives are messy and I don’t think you can rely on it to actually sustain people, just to avoid the Kochs and their ilk from stealing all the nation’s wealth.

          • David Allan Poe

            I don’t think the Permanent Fund or something like it can alone sustain a modern welfare state, but it combined with a well designed progressive tax system certainly could. The principal political advantage to the Fund is that Alaskans, even the most hard-core anti-government types, can rationalize taking the free money because they are the rightful owners of the resource. The only people I’ve ever come across who’ve refused to take a dividend are extremely committed greenies who view it as oil companies trying to buy people off.

            It isn’t only work that is important in the American mythology. The idea of ownership is at least as powerful, and it’s way easier to convince someone that they own a share of a public resource. Any Universal Basic Income would probably need ownership of “something” as the philosophical underpinning.

            A similar idea governs the Alaska Native Corporations, which offer another model we can examine.

      • pillsy

        We’re gonna have to break the link some way or another. Or else things are going to get way, way worse.

  • CrunchyFrog

    Scarecrow on a wooden cross blackbird in the barn
    Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
    I grew up like my daddy did my grandpa cleared this land
    When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
    This land fed a nation this land made me proud
    And son I’m just sorry theres no legacy for you now
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

    The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
    Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed
    Called my old friend schepman up to auction off the land
    He said john its just my job and I hope you understand
    Hey calling it your job ol hoss sure dont make it right
    But if you want me to Ill say a prayer for your soul tonight
    And grandmas on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand
    Sometimes I hear her singing take me to the promised land
    When you take away a mans dignity he cant work his fields and cows
    There’ll be blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow
    Blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow

    Well there’s ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard
    Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms
    I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name
    and some nights I feel like dying like that scarecrow in the rain
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
    This land fed a nation this land made me so proud
    And son I’m just sorry they’re just memories for you now
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
    Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      Yeah, but the author is a godless commie hippie so what would he know?

      /s

  • hickes01

    Why is there no talk of penalizing businesses who knowingly employ undocumented workers? (They’re openly admitting it here) Desperate people fleeing war, poverty and despair are demonized as killers and terrorists, but cheap fuckers running heavily subsidized businesses get a free pass. We don’t need a wall. We just need to put a few Hormel executives in jail.

    • Penalising businesses? That's commie talk.

    • Mike G

      It happens once in a blue moon, to businesses that aren’t politically connected the way agribusinesses are.

      A local Chinese restaurant owner was jailed for a year for hiring an illegal immigrant, probably because he made inept attempts to cover it up even after being caught. Easy for the government to pick on.

      But it’ll be a frosty day in hell before you see Big Rancher Jim being hauled off to jail buy a Repuke administration.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    My observation from driving in rural areas is that farmers seem to care about abortion almost exclusively based on the signs I see on about half the farms.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I’ve been reminding myself lately that a lot of their angst about “women running loose having sex without being punished for it!” could be related The Pill and the era of generally available contraception.

      Just now, I wonder, given their location, is it just envy? Libruhls in the big city are doin’t it like rabbits, and here I sit, plowing the back 800 acres for the next three days…

  • SamChevre

    Sam’s rule of thumb: if Mexicans are your labor force, you are a large farm. If you are a small farmer, they’re your competitors. (I grew up on a small farm–a 20-cow dairy farm. In good years and with an incredible amount of work, it provided a poverty-level income.)

  • bender

    Today’s WSJ has a front page article (below the fold in the print edition) about the economics of wheat farming in Kansas and the Midwest generally. The headline was something like “Farmers Heading for a Bust”. The article is long, detailed and I thought pretty good journalism.

    Too much in it to summarize, but a couple of points. In the 1980s, a lot of (export commodity) farmers went bankrupt, leading to a round of consolidation (fewer farmers farming larger acreages). Another round is underway. The article blames it on bumper wheat crops worldwide driving prices down, while the strong dollar is making the US grain uncompetitive on world markets. Unsold crops are being stored in bunkers hoping for a future price that covers their costs.

    The cycle: rising demand induces farmers to go into debt for improved equipment, seeds, fertilizer etc., then demand or prices collapse and they can’t make the debt payments. Some other farmer who has deeper pockets buys or leases the land at bargain prices, and Kansas towns are further depopulated. Also, not news to those who pay attention to this subject, interviewees affirmed that you can’t make a living farming; you need a side job.

    I was very surprised to read that Russia is now not only a grain exporter, but is exporting more grain than the US. One detail near the end was that fertilizer prices are dropping. Since industrial fertilizer is made from petroleum, I would expect its price to fluctuate.

    Passing mention that large scale industrial farming took off after WWII with increased mechanization. Before then, the average Midwestern family farm was mixed crops and livestock and was about 200 acres. According to the WSJ, the number of farmers in the US is now about as many as there were before there were settlers west of the Mississippi.

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