Chuck Grassley may be about the only incumbent U.S. senator that, were I not to have formed an opinion on an issue, I would defer to his. I say that even though he has taken stances such as his having opposed the First Gulf War, that I failed to understand.
Nevertheless, Grassley has the country common sense whereas that if shared by all members of Congress, the country would not be in the hole it is in. His common sense trumps that of other conservatives who are ideological nuts. This will be Grassley’s last term in the Senate and U.S. agriculture will lose its greatest spokesman when he retires.
Grassley supports the $1.5 billion settlement won by black farmers for USDA discrimination. If Grassley supports paying, I defer to his judgment.
The National Black Farmers Association has fought a long time for a settlement and won a class action discrimination suit awarded $1.5 billion. That’s real nice that justice is rendered and all that, but it’s not worth anything if funding is not authorized. If the court made the award, then it should be paid.
Attempts to fund the settlement have been attached to legislation that has failed, similar to the experience of the biodiesel industry relative to the biodiesel tax credit. National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd drove his tractor to Washington meeting with Chuck Grassley to call attention to the disconnect between the judgment rendered and failure to fund.
He criticized USDA for finding $630 million to fund an ad-hoc disaster aid program which was authorized primarily to attempt to bolster the political prospects of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., behind in the polls in Arkansas. The administration had money for politics, but not to fulfill its responsibility to fund the legal judgment.
As to President Obama, Boyd said, “The president has said he is supportive, so I’m at the point of needing to know what that support consists of, because we don’t have the money.” That statement struck me because there is a widening disconnect between what the President says he supports and the actions taken on many issues.
For example, the president said that, “We hope to move forward on new (free) trade agreements with some of our key partners in a way that doesn’t just advance the interest of our businesses, workers and farmers, but also upholds our most cherished values.”
Translated, that means that “I don’t want to be seen as a protectionist president, world trade needs to grow to sustain an economic recovery, but unions that I and my party depend upon for political support oppose FTAs.” Using cherished values as code words meant to let those unions know that he defers to them on FTAs, Obama has spoken like someone who supported trade liberalization while signaling to his base union political support, that he really didn’t mean it.
The way to get FTAs going is to elect a GOP Congress that will ratify them.
Then the president’s rhetoric on trade would be put to the test. It’s one thing to say how you support FTAs, knowing that there is no chance that Congress will actually ratify them and quite another without Congress to use as a foil.
Obama said he wants to submit the South Korean FTA to Congress early next year. The only way it will pass is if Democrats lose Congress in November. Obama is counting on that if he is truthful about the prospects of moving the U.S. trade agenda forward.
The current protectionist Congress cost U.S. trade by stopping all forward momentum on trade agreements. There are estimated to be 600 trade agreements being worked on in the world today and the U.S. is partner to less than 10 of them.
The EU and Canada are moving ahead on trade agreements, taking U.S. customers. Obama has been caught between his union support and his economic advisors who tell him that without growing exports, the U.S. economy and employment cannot recover. So far, the unions have won.
So far, whether it was the case of funding the black farmers’ settlement or funding programs to help a politically struggling Democratic senator or choosing protectionist unions over economic growth, the Obama administration has chosen politics.
That is not the change we were promised. t’s different chapters from the same book and they wonder why they lost the enthusiasm.
Pay the farmers, ratify the FTAs. Vote for Grassley.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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