View From Afar:

Dear Friends,

As that guy says in Minnesota, “It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” But it was also a quiet week in Hillsboro, where I spent Christmas with my family. There was much feasting and frivolity.

(My younger brother taught me to brand cattle the day before Christmas. Perhaps, that is why the cattle were lowing-not sure if it woke any baby.)

In Chicago, PETA is the acronym for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In Kansas it represents People Eating Tasty Animals.

There was considerable talk among rural people about an environmental group in Washington that published the amount of farm subsidies received by 1.7 million farmers in America in the past five years. With just a click of a button on your computer you can check these payments at by zip code, county, state or name.

Farmers are private people and do not appreciate having their government money made public knowledge. Makes them feel like a secretary at the county courthouse whose pay raise, when approved by the county commission, is published in the newspaper.

I could not resist checking the numbers-sort of like looking at a dirty magazine at the drug store. “Well, it was there and it was free, so I looked.”

Last night, dinner guests at my home huddled around my computer, fighting for a chance to check on the government payments to their cousins and uncles in Montana, Michigan and Kansas.

Looks like one Kansas farmer can feed about 178 Americans, as the billboard says. About the same number of taxpayers are needed to support one Kansas farmer.

This is not such a bad deal. For us city folks, the end result is a steady supply of cheap food at Jewel, Dominicks and Safeway.

Besides, the American government has always propped up some sector of the national economy. Chicago was settled because of government-sponsored canals, much of Kansas was once land given to the railroads.

I do chuckle to think of elected representatives Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts from Kansas getting support for the farm bill by trading their votes with Luis Guteriez in my district and ending up supporting more subway systems in Chicago.

My real worry is these farm state folks continue to insist on voting Republican and listening to their rhetoric about “free enterprise” and “No government handouts.”

Some day these farmers may elect a Republican who actually believes that stuff, and then both they and the local banks will go belly up.

In the cold reality of January, we reflect realistically. We know that eating hamburger means branding cows. And yeoman farmers get a little help from the government. And spring will come.

That’s about all the news.

Peace and Love,


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