Sacrificed at the Altar of the Free Market


Some time ago I had the good fortune of having an article published in PP about Capitalistians. "Caps" are the good people who worship the market and genuflect at the mention of Adam Smith. They tell us that the root of all evil is GOVERNMENT sticking its nose into our business and messing with the cosmic balance of supply and demand. If we just allow the market to do what nature intended it to do, we will all retire young and have so much money we will be able to give such huge amounts to the poor that all those government programs will be redundant.

Well, folks I have a short memory, but I do remember an old hand telling me one time. "We don't have welfare because rich folks gave the poor so much they were getting too fat. We don't have laws to reign in corporations because they were so damn good to us that we became spoiled. We have laws to protect us from US".

For those of you not blessed with the good fortune of being Iowans I need to give just a little background. We are an odd state. We elect Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin at the same time. We have populist roots and tend not to trust government but have supported the "program" for years. We have towns that are as strong union as Chicago but are a "right to work FOR LESS" state. We (myself included) draw (or now more proper drew) money from the government to control certain commodity production, yet squall like mashed cats if that same government tries to make any rules to control us. So the short story you are about to hear might only make sense to you if you have at some time had the urge to walk beans for fun or think corn pollen is an aphrodisiac. I will risk those small odds and let you know what has happened to one of the biggest income earners of our state in the last few years.

Hogs, HOGS--when I was growing up and into my early adult years hogs were the "Mortgage Lifter". If a young man wanted to work he could buy a farm by raising hogs in old buildings and working his heinie off. You didn't need a ton of equipment or a lot of money. Ya just needed a strong back, a weak nose and an old shed to do it. Hogs plus corn and supplement plus sweat equaled a double or triple price for the corn you raised or bought.

Hogs were mostly a young man's game; young folks often didn't have the money to raise beef but had the time to raise pork. It was not real glamorous but I remember the pride of being able to reach into my pocket and know I had enough cash to go out to eat or maybe even buy a set of tires for the pickup. Then "progress" came.

Folks put up buildings where a hog never saw dirt, or sun, or a hole in a fence. We became "Pork Producers" instead of just hog farmers. Soon folks figured out that not only did they not have to fight flies, heat, and bad fences, they could hire folks to do what work remained. At this time a few "Tree Huggers" hollered about what these hog factories could do to the environment. A few old reactionary coots said it would ruin the hog business. And a few (me) said that this is what happened to chickens and we would see pork cheaper than chicken if it were allowed to happen.

We in Iowa were lucky to have a Governor who knew better. We passed laws that made it almost impossible to sue a neighboring "farmer". We invited corporations into the state and told all the folks that this would bring jobs and help the price of corn and soybeans. We were number one in hogs and were by GOD gonna stay there. North Carolina was inching up on us and no southern state would take the crown from good old Iowa.

We forgot to go see what North Carolina looked like. Dead rivers, wages below even Iowa, Lauch Faircloth in the Senate. N.C. was a smelly place. Well folks, we got our wish. Iowa is still the biggest pork state. We have some BIG ASS producers.

Problem is, now we have dead rivers, GODawful wages, places where even an old hog man like me wouldn't think of building a house, and dime hogs. Actually, hogs hit a low of 6 cents before rebounding to 17 cents. A 250-pound hog is worth $42.50. I once sold hogs at 24 cents and almost cried. The break-even price right now is around three times the market value. Well the "market" is doing its magic.

If left wing folks like me had been given their way, we wouldn't have all this cheap pork (checked the grocery store, it still ain't cheap). If those "Tree Huggers" had their way we would not be looking at about a fifth of the farmers going belly up in the next couple years. If old reactionaries were listened to, hogs would cost more than chicken. DAMN folks, ain't progress grand?

One bright side, Iowa has a Governor who is not from the same party as the one that gave us all this "progress". Maybe HE will listen to those who have felt the dopeslap of the silent hand of the market.

Rob Brown works for the Postal Service to support his farm in south central Iowa.

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