Letter From Langdon: Expendable

When your property has been under water for more than three months, it's easy to feel expendable.

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Some of us are more expendable than others.

It happens in war all the time when lives are traded for real estate. Fact of the matter is, that’s what happened to me, my family, and a lot of my neighbors. All of us have now seen what must be a biblical flood because this government sponsored Missouri River inundation of our real estate has lasted over 70 days. 

That’s a new record, nearly doubling the standard 40 days and 40 nights established eons ago by a higher power. 

Our flood started in June and will extend through the months of July, August, and September until October when the US Army Corps of Engineers plan to pause for damage assessments from Sioux City to St Louis.  

I hope they call it good. 

I’ve seen disaster before — weather, government, sometimes my own bad judgment. Things happen.

But what bothers me now is the way our country seems to feed on itself. In today’s  America, if you want to make a lot of money it’s easier to take it from someone else than to do something meaningful for yourself.

The Corps, Fish and Wildlife, foreign investors and even the big farmer up the road — they all want my land. Corporations that once bought ingredients from farmers now treat us like hired help. Big food recalls take place after the food is eaten, laws about fair markets are ignored, and hedge fund speculators set the price of everything based on nothing but their own appetite for profit. 

Everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Food in America today is like the fable of the Little Red Hen who could find no one to help her do the dirty work. The moral of the story was always that once the work is done everyone who pitched gets to grab a fork.

But these are the days of Red Hen, Inc.

Talk about doing dirty work… If Red Hen were around today, investment bankers would repo her mixing bowl and foreclose on her home while big business patented her basic ingredients, trademarked her name, and dragged her through the courts for infringement if she tried to ever bake her pie again. Red Hen and her family would starve and politicians would portray them as conspiring to live off taxpayers while hedge funds divvied up profits by speculating in pie futures to bank billion dollar profits offshore.

The Oswald farm near Langdon, Missouri, is still flooded after three months.

Then the Chinese would steal her recipe, use patented ingredients without paying royalties, bake it all with high sulfur coal and sell carcinogen laced products to Red Hen’s family for ten cents on the dollar.

Of course Congress would be gridlocked about what to do while political donors cut the slices.

Life is always a gamble. Winners and losers have one thing in common because they both just hope to get by. But nowadays the gamble isn’t for pocket money, but for lifesaving services like healthcare, education, housing, and a decent living.

The Lord helps those who help themselves. Lord knows rich folks have helped themselves to a lot in America today. It’s hard to think of billionaires as patriotic martyrs. But you have to wonder what things would be like with a few more Warren Buffets in the world. Not only has Buffett told the U.S. we should charge him higher taxes, but he put his money on the line by buying big, bad banks and even working on the railroad.

 It was his response to America’s emergency and his own bottom line. 

It’s all just a matter of what you consider an emergency to be, like those emergency pleas for campaign cash. When Buffet told Congress that rich guys should pay more taxes, one insider choked on her pie and told him to pay more if that’s what he  wanted to do. 

Thanks to sales tax, personal property tax, license fees, excise tax, and income withholding, one way or another, most of us pay every day. 

But when you’re rich in America, you only pay what you feel like.  

Richard Oswald is a fifth generation farmer living near the notheast Missouri town of Langdon. He is president of the Missouri Farmers Union and a regular Yonder columnist.

 

 

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