Jim Hightower: Trump is Loving Farmers to Death
August 16th 2019
By Jim Hightower
Donald Trump loooooves farmers. We know this because he says so. "Farmers, I LOVE YOU!" he declared in December. And we've learned that whenever The Donald says something, it's true -- even when it's not.
These days, he's loving farmers to death. Trump has ignored the obvious need to get monopolistic price-fixing bankers, suppliers and commodity buyers off their backs. And he's ineptly playing tariff games with China and other buyers of U.S. farm products, causing exports and farm prices to tumble. The result is that our ag economy is tumbling into a deep ditch, slamming farm families and rural America with a rising tsunami of bankruptcies.
Adding crude insult to economic injury, Trump's doofus of an ag secretary, Sonny Perdue, laughed at farmers, branding them "whiners" for opposing his majesty's disastrous policies.
So, needing a political "I love you" gesture, Trump has been sending big bouquets of money to some of his beloved farmers. Our money. Lots of it -- $28 billion so far, in what he cynically (and comically) calls the Market Facilitation Program, otherwise known as a taxpayer bailout.
But TrumpLove turns out to be highly selective, with more than half of the government payments going to the biggest farm owners. The Department of Agriculture initially announced a $125,000 limit on the amount any one farm could get, but every Trump deal seems to have a gimmick in it to give a special break to the slickest operators. The slickum in this deal is that assorted members of a family can claim to be owners of the same farm and be eligible for bailout money, even if they do no actual farming and live in New York City! Thus, one Missouri farm family got $2.8 million worth of subsidy love from Trump, and more than 80 families topped half a million in payments.
Meanwhile, the great majority of farmers -- 80% of eligible grain farmers -- got zilch from Donald the Dealmaker. The smaller producers who are most endangered by his export collapse got less than $5,000. So Trump's "Market Facilitation" is squeezing the many who are most in need while helping a few of the largest get even bigger.
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While the Trumpistas are presently trying to plow a multibillion-dollar subsidy into big grain farms, they're shockingly stingy when it comes to our society's moral responsibility to make sure the least-wealthy among us get an adequate level of food. Their latest effort in the practice of mass minginess is to try literally taking food off poor children's plates. Using a tangle of federal red tape, Trump ideologues and bureaucratic minions are intervening to prevent states from providing food stamp assistance to millions of their people.
According to federal rules, to qualify for food aid, a family of three should have an income under $27,000 a year. But with rents, utilities, health care and even food prices constantly rising, millions of Americans can't make ends meet on such a low income. Thus, 40 states have stepped in to loosen that income restriction so families at least get the minimum nutrition humans need. Far from being welfare moochers (as far-right-wing extremists screech), these recipients overwhelmingly are working families, children, the elderly and Americans with disabilities. The benefit is hardly lavish; it averages only $127 a month, but even this modest outlay has proven enormously successful in mitigating poverty.
Congress actually authorized states to make such pragmatic income adjustments in a 1996 revamp of the law. But look out! Here comes Sonny Perdue again, rising up on his hind legs to proclaim that naughty state officials are using that authority as a "loophole" to circumvent Trump's federal authority. So Sonny and Donnie are demanding that a whole new bureaucracy of food stamp "eligibility police" be set up to monitor the assets of hard-hit people who're just trying to get adequate food on their tables. This nonsense will cost tens of millions of our dollars to harass the poor in an autocratic hope of nabbing a couple of hungry families who have a dime more in assets than miserly Trumpistas claim they should have.
What we have here is government by plutocratic authoritarians who'll gleefully dole out millions to a wealthy family and then just as gleefully go out of their way to deny food to millions of poor families.