Zaleski: Do 'welfare queens' wear seed caps?
Post Mills, Vt.
I am among the many who will not shed a tear when Trump-loving farmers and business people take it in the shorts because of the president’s absurd trade policies. In what is a classic I-told-you-so moment, Trump cultists in red-state farm country and business people who drooled like dogs at the prospect of “the largest tax cut in history” (a lie; it’s not even close) are getting their financial butts broiled because of Trump’s tariffs and his irresponsible flap-jawing about even more tariffs.
The soybean debacle is Trump’s baby. Every third row of beans grown in the United States is (was) exported to China. Trump said the European Union will buy more U.S. beans to help offset losses in the China trade, and “my farmers will be OK.” Claptrap. The EU might import more soybeans, but compared to China the EU soybean market is marginal.
Recent analyses reveal that Trump’s tariff threats and China’s promise of retaliation depressed farm markets before China slapped tariffs on U.S. soybeans. The market was down -- thanks to a president who “loves our great farmers” -- then took another nosedive when China did precisely what it said it would do. North Dakota farmers saw a decline in the value of soybeans of about $200 an acre. Add it up over hundreds of thousands of acres, and the slam on individual producers and the ag economy is a killer in farm country.
Consider a best-case scenario: Trump and China find common ground on trade and soybean tariffs are lifted. It won’t matter in the long pull because the damage to markets is done. Farmers and trade associations worked for decades to build stable trade relationships, personal networks and sustainable trade strategies. Trump’s hubristic, ill-informed rhetoric (which changes daily) transmits anything but stability. U.S. trade allies have already established new partnerships with countries that value long-term reliability in global and bilateral trade. Thus, the hard-won success realized by U.S. producers was shredded by a president who handily won the farm vote. Feeling a little foolish, fellas? Soy milk tasting a little sour?
The big insult: Trump said, “we’ll take care of our farmers,” and rolled out a welfare scheme. The Commodity Credit Corporation will shovel payments to soybean farmers hurt by his trade policy. CCC also will buy up soybeans, a rerun of the old surplus cheese program that became a national joke. That’s more than $12 billion, so far, from taxpayers via the CCC, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 Democratic initiative. There’s laugh-out-loud irony.
Wait a minute, farmers whine. We want “trade, not aid.” Maybe so. But they got Trump, and he’s got billions to dole out. They surely will take it, and conjure up all manner of sophistries to justify Trump’s reckless trade war and their malleable “conservative values.” A pathetic tribe of lickspittles. And worse, in the wider national perception (production agriculture is not revered everywhere, you know), Trump has created a new class of “welfare queens.” They wear boots, overalls and red seed caps. All made in China. Not to worry. Haven’t you heard? They’re makin’ America great again!
Zaleski retired in 2017 after 30 years as The Forum’s editorial page editor. He continues to write a Sunday column. Contact him at email@example.com or 701-566-3576