Letter from Langdon: You Don’t Prune Roots

[imgbelt img=Clay.jpg] We liked the idea of hope. We would like better some action.


Honey War (settling a contentious dispute over the boundary between Missouri and Iowa) and was eventually named the Atchison County seat.  

It’s hard to say when exactly it all started, but there are hard feelings between the two towns.

In the old days it wasn’t unusual for all the towns around here to have somewhere between 40 and 60 high school boys go out for football. Not everyone made the traveling squad. 

Now, Rock Port still plays 11-man football, but many other schools here in northwest Missouri don’t have enough students to field an 11-man squad. These schools, including archrival Tarkio, play eight-man football. 


A law governing livestock sales (the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act) was passed in the day of President Woodrow Wilson. But the rules implementing GIPSA still haven’t been written. Shouldn’t 90 years be long enough to wait? 

Some of the same politicians who said Obama wanted to kill your grandma led a tea party rally that cheered in favor of letting a young uninsured American die for lack of health insurance. Universal health care is common in most of the developed world, but those who want to erase Roosevelt and his New Deal from history have blocked it here. Now health insurance costs are rising again. Hasn’t this gone far enough?

have forgotten, as big oil and big beef use millions to kill renewable fuels. How long should a good memory be?

Be it football or politics, old rivalries know no limits.

The New Deal and renewed industry grabbed our nation by the jersey and pushed us across the goal line. More than giving hope, the New Deal was about Americans rising to challenge, grinding it out on the ground. So what’s the game about today? We can’t all be billionaires. Seems like anyone who earns less than $250,000 a year in America isn’t even considered human unless he can score.

Are we just corporate assets?

People like us are generally known for having strong backs and weak minds. 

Actually my neighbors are smarter than that sounds, because what it really means is that we don’t subscribe to every big deal that spins off the D.C. beltway. Once we knew that with hard work and perseverance, ideas didn’t have to be big to be successful. All it took was work, honesty, and a rigid spine. 

But both here and around the world today there are a lot of people who have lost the faith. Hard work doesn’t seem to offer more these days than it offered the average 1850 vintage plantation slave. Lucky ones got basic necessities while the rest barely survived. Descendants of some of those unfortunates have finally made it big by excelling in sports. 

Ironically, those same sports opportunities are now seen as the great hyped hope for some of our kids here in Rock Port.

Over the years we’ve seen both our population and our standard of living decline, even as bigger mansions go up in the cities. Opportunity has been stolen a hundred different ways. A good education now costs about the same as what rich folks spend for a new car even though entry-level wages don’t offer enough return to pay for a house and a used Ford.

While most of us look for ways to make money, the best of us look for places to hide it.

Some call taxation redistribution of wealth. Fine, but without that we have sap drained from working class roots to bring bountiful growth at the top. 

Concentrated wealth always comes from the bottom up. As any farmer knows, roots feed the whole plant. That’s why every so often the tree has to be pruned or inedible foliage replaces fruit. 

You almost never prune roots. But that’s what our economic policies are doing today.

Higher learning is dying on the vine as we argue how to pay for two wars, and how to replace the money stolen from big banks via crooked mortgage traders motivated only by the size of their bonuses. A few more dollars in tax won’t break the rich just like a few fair rules won’t break the meatpackers or the bankers.

What a few taxes and rules will do is help level the playing field for average every day taxpaying U.S. citizens — those of us who would rather work independently than be the property of organized, money-motivated business interests. 

Heaven forbid we tax billionaire contractors, speculators, integrators, consolidators, and money launderers more than the rest of us. 

The next election is only 13 months away. It’s time for the presidential candidacy built on hope to remember they promised to become an Administration of action. 

I feel a little like one of my hefty grandsons finally got the ball. We’re down by three points. It’s fourth and long. There are five seconds left. 

Run with it, kid!

Richard Oswald is a fourth generation farmer living in Langdon, Missouri. He is president of the Missouri Farmers Union.