There’s a lot of promise to be found in rural America, especially in spring and summer.
On the drive to the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) Conference in Ames, Iowa, from my home near Langdon, in far northwest Missouri, I saw a lot to be optimistic about; for one thing, renewable energy from wind. Just five minutes from my home, I followed trucks carrying giant turbine components as they made their way up the highway to hilltops not far from where I live. The countryside was green with growing pastures. Grain crops, some of them late seeded, covered the fields with the hope of another harvest. It’s a beautiful country, almost flawless after abundant spring rains, but not everything is perfect in America.
Richard Oswald in Mound City, Missouri
Even in Iowa, the heartland, where farmsteads are well known for their pristine, manicured beauty, there are some holes in the fabric of agriculture. Here and there is the scattered evidence that the current boom in agriculture has not benefited everyone. There are empty homesteads, deteriorating barns, and small towns that cling to the remnants of a better, more successful past.
Fred Stokes, co-founder of both Organization for Competitive Markets and the Coalition for a Prosperous America, began the meeting in Ames Thursday (June 21) with a press conference. Before him on a table, Fred displayed just a few examples of the foreign trade goods our nation and its workers are currently subjected to. They ranged from the well known to the obscure, but one thing the contents of the table had in common was their inferior quality and the risk they represented to American health as well as American jobs: Mislabeled, contaminated fish, chocolate seemingly made in Pennsylvania but in reality manufactured in Mexico, and faulty latex gloves.
Even more compelling in Stokes’s pile of evidence were the printed records of foreign goods denied entry to our country because they were dangerous in one way or another. The records covered an entire wall, reams of them — so many in fact that they cascaded down onto the floor to within feet of where Stokes told listeners that this was the evidence from little more than 1 percent of inspected American imports. Yes, that’s the percentage of foreign imports our government verifies through inspection. With a trade deficit of $2 billion per day, that means that perhaps as much as $1.880 billion in excess imports crosses our border, un-inspected by anyone, each day. Over $3 trillion since the year 2000.
The Coalition for a Prosperous America called this conference to discuss trade policy and its effect on farmers, ranchers, workers and consumers of imported goods. On Thursday I heard presidential candidate Duncan Hunter (Republican congressman from California) speak of “Fortress America," the World War II era industrial behemoth that won the war through the capability of its workers and factories. That behemoth today is home to one remaining steel manufacturer that can produce heavy armor for its troops.
I heard panelists discuss the fact that China, in conjunction with our own corporations, sought “most favored nation" status not for reduction in tariffs, but for fixed tariffs that would encourage outside investment and open a new frontier of lower cost production on Chinese soil. Even more investment from the United States is flowing to China thanks to China’s artificially low currency, a result of illegal Chinese monetary policy.
Our universities, in need of financial support that they no longer receive from our own government, have turned to corporations for aid in the form of paid research. The same research that schools hope will stem the flow of red ink increases the flow of intellectual property across our borders and out of the nation via foreign students who attend and work here for the specific purpose of gaining access to our trade secrets and intellectual property.
Wind turbine blade on highway near Waterloo, Iowa
Photo by sbwoodside/Flickr
Later, at the Iowa Youth Town Hall Meeting, held at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, a bipartisan group of campus leaders — including the college Republicans, the college Democrats, the college FFA, and the college engineering leadership program — held a well-attended gathering that opened with the presentation of flags by the Iowa State Army ROTC, Cyclone Battalion. Two presidential candidates attended as well as representatives of several others, and various local and state officials.
Dan DiMicco, president and CEO of the American steelmaker Nucor Corporation, was a guest speaker, as was Tom Mullikin, author of the book, Truck Stop Politics: Understanding the Emerging Force of Working Class America. Mr. DiMicco’s comments galvanized the audience by citing repeated examples of how American leadership has failed to contain unfair and illegal trading practices by nations such as China, nations that constantly manipulate their currency values to gain an unfair advantage over American workers, American farms and American business. As Mr. Dimicco pointed out time and again, the laws agreed to by many of our trading partners are being ignored. I was reminded of the famous speech by former President Ronald Reagan, where he implored the leader of the Soviet Union to “Tear Down That Wall!" in Berlin — only now it is Americans who seem to be shouting, “Tear Down That Wall!" of unfair trading practices and re-establish the rule of law regarding trade and US jobs.
Mr. Mulliken’s message was short and to the point: “I’m not from a red state, I’m not from a blue state, I’m from a red, white, and blue state! Be a passionate Republican, be a passionate Democrat, but first be a passionate American! Free trade is good, but too many of our trading partners are breaking the rules. They’re cheatin’!"
Well, that’s it for now. I drove home from Ames last night, arriving at 12:30 a.m. Lots of things to do here on the farm, plus a few things that I hope will help the cause. It’s a hard job. Like Fred says, “It’s lonely at the bottom, but when we get to the top we’ll have plenty of company from those who lacked the vision and the courage to bring about change on their own."
Oh, and those wind turbine components I mentioned back at the beginning? They were made in India.
Rick Oswald is a fifty-something grandfather living on his family’s farm near Langdon, Missouri. He’s served as a school board president and has held various positions with the National Farmers Union and the Missouri Farmers Union. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org