Where Trump’s Kakistocracy Can Find a Good Farm Policy

Trump is running a kakistocracy that can’t do anything right, and that includes farm policy.

Government by the rich is called plutocracy. Government by police power is autocracy. Government by thieves is kleptocracy. Government by Trump and the gang, however, is all of the above, which adds up to something called kakistocracy: government by the very worst people in our society.

Forget Trump himself for a moment and look at the freakshow of top officials he’s appointed to “manage” our government — a menagerie of Sleazy, Sleepy, Goofy, Dopey, Larry, Curly and Moe. They’re “managing” to enrich the rich (including the Trumps), increase corporate power, knock down the middle class and hold down the poor.

The media has covered the antics of Rudy Giuliani, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, William Barr and other prominent political hacks who make up the Trump kakistocracy, but it’s time to shine light on the guy Trump appointed secretary of agriculture: Sonny Perdue of Georgia. Hailing from a state renowned for its peanut crop, Sonny turns out to be the biggest goober of all. He’d been a nonentity in the Trump Cabinet, blithely sitting in his ornate office while farm prices plummeted, bankruptcies spread, and farmer suicides surged.

But suddenly, on Oct. 1, his agricultural eminence rose up on his hind legs to address the distress of farm families. Far from offering assistance or words of comfort, though, Trump’s ag secretary slapped them right in the face: “In America,” he smugly lectured, “the big get bigger, and the small go out.” Goobering on, Perdue explained the theoretical framework of Trumponomics: (We don’t) for any small business have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

What a load of pious BS! Family farmers are not asking for a guaranteed profit — just a chance at making a profit. Today’s ag system has been deliberately rigged by policymakers so that seed monopolists, big banks, oligarchic processors, multinational grain traders, meat conglomerates and other corporate giants that farm farmers can stiff those who actually produce our food and then they can grab the profits for themselves. No wonder the median farm profit last year was — get this — minus $1,500!

There’s nothing natural or inevitable about the big getting bigger and the small “going out.” All it takes is inept or corrupt do-nothing public officials turning their backs while agribusiness powers plow under thousands of good family farmers. That is the essence of the Donnie and Sonny farm policy.

Apparently, Trump’s idea of a good farm program is “Hee Haw.” On a trip to Wisconsin in July, the New York city-slicker president drew pained guffaws from the state’s hard-hit dairy farmers by proclaiming that — thanks to his trade, tax and ag policies — the farm economy was looking good. “We’re over the hump,” he gloated.

Uh … no, sir. While Trump was patting himself on the back, his audience of dairy farmers was running some real numbers in their heads: It costs them $1.90 to produce a gallon of milk, but the giant processing conglomerates that control the milk market pay them only $1.35 a gallon. That 55-cents-a-gallon loss is exploding throughout dairy country, adding up to not only a huge loss of income but also a devastating loss of farm families — Wisconsin lost 638 dairy farms last year and another 551 in the first half of 2019.

Meanwhile, far from “over the hump,” farmers have had their prices further depressed by being sacrificed in Trump’s tariff clash with China — U.S. dairy exports to China fell by 54% in just the first half of this year. And the monopoly power of predatory dairy middlemen grows ever tighter. One giant, an $8 billion behemoth named Dean Foods, now controls 90% of Wisconsin’s dairy market, empowering it to commit daylight robbery, blatantly stealing farmers’ income, livelihoods … and land.

Yet, Ag Secretary Perdue — the one national official who’s supposed to stand up for farmers — nonchalantly kissed them off, smugly declaring it natural that the big devour the small. So, he professes, there’s nothing he can do for family operators but tell them to become big, industrial, capital-intensive operations. Otherwise, says Sonny, “go out” of agriculture.

Perdue and Trump are simply old corporate hacks for the kakistocracy, promoting the status quo of failed ag policies. There is one public official, however, who is offering a path to a revitalized, family farm-based food system that’ll break the corporate stranglehold on U.S. agriculture: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Download a summary of her comprehensive proposal: A New Farm Economy.

Jim Hightower