The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lost control of the Missouri River, and as a result our part of the country is in trouble. We used to hope for rural development. Now we just hope to hang on to a little of what we had.
A hoser is a deceiver, a trickster, a loser who takes what belongs to others. In this case what belonged to us here in the Missouri River basin was our livelihood, our homes, and our freedom.
All of a sudden now we’re drowning both in the river and a bureaucratic nightmare. That’s what government management of one of our greatest natural resources has accomplished.
We’ve been hosed.
Right now a broad stretch of the Midwest has had the hose turned on it big time. It’s not just farmers who got the hose, with millions of acres of food production lost to the river. A whole raft of businesses and jobs have washed downstream — a good example of government gone bad. Few of our visionary leaders saw it coming, but solutions are rampant now that the deed is done and they’ve stopped staring into the headlights.
My favorite hoser idea-of-the-day is for farmers on the river bottoms to sign an agreement to be flooded. It makes more sense to me for officials to sign an agreement to use public resources for flood control as they were originally intended.
Here in northwest Missouri, Highway 136 is closed from Rock Port, Missouri, to Brownville, Nebraska. Farther south in Missouri, across from Atchison, Kansas, another river crossing on Highway 59 is under water, and up north in Iowa on Highway 2, a modern Missouri River bridge at Nebraska City, Nebraska, is inaccessible due to flooding.
Just off I-29 at Hamburg, Iowa, two farm equipment dealerships and the jobs they provided have left town along with many citizens while an emergency levee is constructed to protect the town. Originally, the Army Corps of Engineers stated that flooding wouldn’t be an issue below St Joseph. Today, closures are everywhere and all but assured in 27 counties of Missouri — like Carroll and Boone Counties — as the long flood of conflict and incompetence continues in middle America.
We used to have hope for rural development.
Now we just hope we can keep what we had.
Take this little stretch of the world I call home. At least 100 jobs have been lost to a flooded highway in a community of 1,200. Business at the intersection of I-29 and US 136 is down at least 50%. One truck stop laid off all its workers and locked the doors. They even took out the fuel pumps, based on advice of the Corps of Engineers who told us to prepare for Floodageddon.
A truck repair shop has sent half its workers home as a nearby restaurant and convenience store stopped selling off the menu and emptied the gift shop because they knew even if it didn’t all wash away, it would still be months before anyone stopped to buy anything.
Then they furloughed the people hired to sell all of it.
Water levels are no higher than in past floods, but the Corps told everyone it would be much higher. That’s because they completely lost control and had no idea what might happen as a result. Small towns spent thousands they didn’t have to, to protect infrastructure they couldn’t afford to lose.
It was a less than inspiring moment in river management.
And what about the people who put food on the table cooking, waiting tables, selling fuel, and changing tires alongside the interstate highway?
Or how about people who drove across the Missouri River to work and now face a two hour commute one way when the drive used to take minutes?
Or my implement dealer, who sleeps in a $25 per night rental cabin in a state park rather than spend 4 hours per day driving to his relocated workshop each day?
Or the public schools whose former pupils are now considered homeless and lost to enrollment?
Or shutdown grain elevators and their employees?
Or the railroads with mile after mile of disappearing track?
Or trucking companies and travelers who face endless detours and higher transportation costs?
Or consumers who’ll pay a higher cost for food?
Or taxpayers who’ll bear the cost of replacing hundreds of miles of washed-away roads and bridges in what is assuredly the most awful government sustained flood mankind has ever seen.
Or farmers and property owners whose homes and farms may never be worth anything again?
How about wildlife? Lets talk about endangered species, all the creatures great and small that will starve this winter on a barren flood plain.
Or those that drowned or died on highways as the river pushed them out?
They’re all hosed.
There was a time when this country stood up for its people. But that was long ago. We’re now a nation of notch babies, third generation illegal immigrants, and sub-minimum wage victims of unanticipated events and unforeseen consequences who believe more in the power of corporations and the fallacy of a decent living wage than the sovereign, God-given rights of human beings to a fair and decent existence.
One conservative group in Iowa asked candidates to acknowledge the mistake of freeing Civil War era slaves who they said were better off having overseers look after them. Two candidates considered to be frontrunners on the Presidential ticket of the Republican Party actually signed pledges that they believe that’s true.
Then they stated they hadn’t actually read the document they signed.
This is the caliber of leader a nation of free people has spawned? These are the principal players who would balance the budget, appoint our representatives to the World Trade Organization and select ambassadors to Saudi Arabia…and China…the people who would look after me and my property rights and the Constitution?
If this is the best we can do, we’re all hosed.
The richest among us see themselves as blessed protectors of their own special interests, just like old King George. We’ve gone from being a free people believing in the possession of private property, in control of our private lives, to simply BEING property of the wealthiest and most powerful.
Be sure to have your government issued voter ID handy in the next election. After all, people aren’t voters unless the government says we are. We don’t want just anyone deciding crucial issues, like who pays taxes and who does not.
In the meantime, keep the corporate tax breaks, let the rich get richer, place taxation on the back of the working man, and let’s cut back unemployment benefits because, hey, hosed people who lose their livelihoods and their way of life to bureaucratic incompetence and plain old greed are little more than depreciated property of corporate America, anyway.
They’re just throwaway souls in a throwaway world.
When you’re hosed, if you’re lucky, they send the National Guard to keep an eye on things. Military checkpoints dot the roads we once traveled on our way to and from work and home. The Guardsmen are great, true Americans, swept away from loved ones on a flood of active duty. Some of us know them by first names and sometimes by generation as fathers and sons serve in the same unit together. Some of us bring them food or stop to visit and talk about the water level that day.
They’re middle class, rank and file, dressed in military-issue camo fatigues, and bivouacked in the elementary school next to crayon art by my grandkids.
I guess if I can see anything good about America right now, it’s that we can still find someone to help.
Even so, all Americans would benefit from the experience of passing through military checkpoints on their way home.
Until you’ve done that, you never really know what it means to be hosed.
Richard Oswald is a fifth generation farmer living in northwest Missouri and he is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.