Rural Race to the Bottom


The economists and intellectuals and far too many of the liberals who enable them think they have this figured out. Immigration does not cost the American working class jobs they say, because no one wants to work for the wages offered to immigrants. But they have hold of the wrong end of the situation. It is true that rural youth are not lining up at the gate of the latest ten-thousand-cow dairy to open in the area, this one a mere two miles from our farm. If they did, the dairy operators would not want them as they much prefer workers they can hold the threat of deportation over. It encourages docility. Let me illustrate the situation with two examples from my own working life, now getting close to 50 years in length.

In the early ’70s I worked at the University of Minnesota Veterinary School, where I supervised a young man soon to be a graduate veterinarian in his first part-time job during any of his eight years of university education. This was because his father insisted upon no work, requiring that his son treat his education like a career so that he learned as much as possible. The father provided regular checks to this end. A wonderful circumstance for the young fellow, right? Undeniably, but it is remarkable in today’s world to note that the father was a high school graduate who provided his son’s university education leading to a graduate professional degree with his earnings working at a slaughterhouse in Austin, Minn.

This, of course, is impossible today, for sometime in the ’80s, enabled by Ronald Reagan and the “Reagan Democrats” who put him in office, Hormel locked out Local P9 of the meat packers union at Austin and, within a year or two, had it broken and processing wages across the Midwest soon shrank to about 50% of the former amount and the immigrants came flooding in. There are no longer any meatpacking fathers, white skinned or brown, sponsoring their children at university. I for one think we are all poorer for that fact.

The second story is really about our farm and the efforts we have made to try to provide a future here for some of the family. After the 1998 hog price meltdown, seeing that the hog industry no longer wanted us as a part of it, we began work as a family to take our pork directly as possible to the people who wanted to eat it, thus providing ourselves with a certain measure of security in a very insecure business. We built that meat supply business until today, with the help of sales from a smaller cattle-grazing enterprise, we are able to provide a decent living for two families on one very small midwestern farm. These two families include three of my grandchildren, every one of which grew up watching the adults in his/her life perform honorable and necessary work with livestock, and at present are very much interested in continuing work in this area. Now what? Under the driving of the confinement elite, the livestock jobs have been reduced to the level of mindlessness current in fast food. All of the valuable work has been collected and given to computers and their operators, and given the size of these operations, very few of these are needed.

This is a real account of the impact of unrestricted immigration on the quality of a few American lives. It doesn’t count on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, but it counts in rural America. So young Americans who have been raised to consider the beasts, to honor them and work with them as living sentient beings and not machines, have simply been disallowed by the industry. And God forbid anyone like us should raise a word of objection to this situation, lest we be branded forever as racist.

Now I know a fellow who just retired from a lifetime of teaching at a private Christian academy in southern Minnesota. He tells me that the public school in the town is pretty much all Hispanic. The white kids are in the academy. We Americans are all, in fact, racist. The only distinction is between those who are working on it and those who are not. And what does this do to the community? We know what it did to Minneapolis with the strict residential and educational separation in place there. How is this a good idea for rural Minnesota?

Guilt over this misapprehension opens the door for hapless liberal feel-good nonsense like “global village” instead of “global market,” which it really is, or “It takes a village to raise a child” and so forth. This is all in the service of making our current race to the bottom palatable, covering for the rapacious anti-human-behavior of corporate America, just as evident in farm country as it is elsewhere. And it enables libertarianism, where the strongest grabs the most, human dignity be damned.

Jim Van Der Pol farms near Kerkhoven, Minn. A collection of his columns, Conversations with the Land, was published by No Bull Press (

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2017

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