Northern Valley Beacon

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Thursday, November 10, 2005


How're you going to keep them down on the farm once they've voted for Thune?

John Thune is fully in the camp that is turning America into a corporate-run autocracy. Clean Cut Kid's blog is doing a good job of tracking Thune's attitudes and voting record. Thune is clearly jockeying for the position of squad leader in the Bush war on the middle class. And as we look at where the Republicans in Congress want to cut the budget, we cannot but wonder how we became the enemy.

Agriculture, which has been the vehicle that enabled millions of poor and oppressed people to move from the status of serfs to self-sufficient freemen, is the most vulnerable point of attack in the battle against the working classes. For decades, we have pointed to the dangers of consolidation of small farms into huge operations that only corporations can afford to acquire and run. We used to call this process integration--vertical and horizontal--to describe the ways that farmers can be absorbed into the corporate structure. We tried to warn that the success and efficiency of American farming would continued to overproduce and make farm products so cheap that they would not cover the cost of production under the market system that prevailed. We have reached that point. If one were to buy a farm of some of the best Brown County land at today's prevailing prices, there is no way that what the land produces can cover the cost of a mortgage, taxes, seed, fertilizer and chemicals, and the equipment and fuel needed to work that land. Many "family" farms are now corporations, and they are in fact managed by the people who hold the paper on them, not those who work the land.

Three packing houses exercise virtual control of the meat industry. A few grain processors control the grain trade. Food is heading for the same kind of control under a few giant corporations that run the petroleum energy business. Put simply, the massive consolidation of industries into a few giants closes the free market system. Once consumers are made totally dependent on commodities, such as gasoline, fuel oil, and food, they have no part to play in the market system. They are at its mercy. We hope the people found the $3 gasoline enjoyable, because it will return.

Congress had a chance to modify the farm bill that helps keep our few independent farmers in business so that massive subsidies will not go to the biggest, corporate-backed farms. That did not happen. John Thune helped that not to happen.

The direction that people like John Thune is pushing agriculture is "conservative" in the sense that it is headed back for that time in the Old World when nobles and royalty owned the land, and serfs did the work on it under survival conditions. The conservative movement is driven by a vision of a new royalty composed of CEOs, like we saw in Enron, who live lavishly and ostentatiously and glamorously, and the peasants are supposed to ignore their own misery while they adore the people who are their superiors and rulers. The problem is that so many of those hard-working people who love America and the opportunities it provided their familes are unaware that those opportunities no longer exist and we are regressing back to feudalism.

For people who do not want to let go of America, we can't afford not to watch every move politicians like John Thune makes, every word he utters, and every breath he takes. He did almost nothing in the House, but he did follow the regressive line faithfully. Only a few seemed to notice. In his campaign for Senate, he showed a vicious and predatory streak, but only a minority took notice of where John Thune was on the issues and the moral and social implications of his attitude.

One of the biggest questions in South Dakota's agriculture-based economy is how far it is from absolute corporate control. Only a minority is aware that we are on the verge of becoming a corporate state, and John Thune is fulfilling his promise to make it happen.

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