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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
Sept. 1, 2010
/ 22 Elul, 5770
The Senator from Agribusiness
Does the American taxpayer have a right to know just who's feeding at the public trough?
Not according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (and Secret Subsidies). The department has just announced it's going to stop revealing the names of just who gets all those generous checks compliments of the rest of us. Just in time for them to collect the additional $1.5 billion that Blanche Lincoln (D-Agribusiness) wants to shower on them.
That would be on top of the hundreds of thousands they're already collecting every year courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Even if they never signed up for crop insurance. And even if the value of their crops has dropped only 5 percent this year. (Lots of businesses have seen their revenues drop even more, but they're not eligible for handouts on this scale.)
Ordinarily, these corporate farming operations would have to suffer a 30 percent loss to qualify for such aid. But this is an election year, and the senior senator from Arkansas wants to return to Washington -- even if the polls indicate the voters have finally caught on to her (not so) little tricks.
Once again Miss Blanche will doubtless campaign as the champion of the family farm when it might be more accurate to say she's the champion of corporate farming. Corporate welfare in this country is scarcely limited to city slickers; country slickers can be just as rapacious.
Oh, the pity of it. These poor "family farmers" don't know where their next $787,000 is coming from. That's an estimate of how much just one farming operation in Arkansas would collect if Senator Lincoln has her way with the rest of us and the federal Treasury. That would be on top of the reported $874,000 the same outfit got last year. There are a couple of hundred farming operations just in Arkansas that picked up checks for $100,000 or more from Uncle Sam last year. This is not exactly poverty.
So just who are these simple rustic types on the receiving end of the taxpayers' largesse? The USDA doesn't want to tell us. Get this: It says it costs too much to produce such records, although once upon a time they were available routinely. But in the past few years they've been harder and harder to obtain, and this administration seems bent on walling them off entirely. So much for the "transparency" this president promised the country before he was president. Once again the gap between promise and performance widens.
Shirley Sherrod -- the lady who was forced to resign her job in the Agriculture Department when she was smeared by a blogger -- isn't the only one being treated shabbily by this administration. Now all taxpayers are going to be denied information we have every right to know. Because it's our money. But that's the kind of detail this administration tends to forget when it comes to spending it.
It's no secret that U.S. senators, however noble their rhetoric, have a way of furthering the biggest, richest and most powerful interests in their state -- whatever the senator's party. That's how politics works, at least for the bigs.
What's remarkable about Blanche Lincoln is not only her insatiable appetite for ever more perks for agribusiness -- any senator from a rural state like Arkansas might share it. What's remarkable is her pose as a defender of the little guy as she prepares to turn her senatorial campaign into another exercise in class warfare against those evil grabby Republicans. It's the hypocrisy of it that rankles most, not just the wretched excess.
It was another Lincoln (Abe) who was supposed to have said you can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. We'll see. Blanche Lincoln has been able to get away with her political games for some time now. And she shows no signs of abandoning them. Note how she was for, against, and undecided on Obamacare before casting the decisive vote for it in the U.S. Senate.
But this may be the year Arkansas voters finally see through the senator and her not so little games. Or maybe not. We won't know till November 2nd. As for the state's junior senator, Mark Pryor's year of reckoning isn't till 2014. He must be relieved he's not on the ballot this year of discontent. For the people may be catching on at last. And they don't have to come wielding pitchforks. In a free country, the ballot will do just fine.
Paul Greenberg Archives
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