Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama cracks the big Egg

A glimmer of  Progressive government has appeared in the eye of the Obama Administration in the persons of Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who opened a daylong workshop at Colorado State University for the few remaining independent cattle producers. These two cabinet secretaries were dispatched from Washington to express the government’s intention of reviving the Packers and Stockyards Act. This is the law from the by-gone age of Teddy Roosevelt’s muck raking that could break the strangle hold of our food supply by trans-national monopoly corporations.

Since 1980, the number of hog farms has dropped from 660,000 to 71,000 and cattle farms has fallen from 1.6 million to 950,000. While hog farmers got 50 percent of the retail value of a hog in 1980, their share today is 24.5 percent according to the USDA. Hog farmers that remain are no more than share croppers with virtually all the of hogs owned by meat packers and not by the farmers who raise them on contracts that put all of the risk on the farmer and all the profit into the pockets of corporations.

U.S. meatpacking giants like Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and National Beef Inc., and Brazil's JBS SA, have been growing and consolidating control to a degree that didn‘t exist in 1921 when the P&S Act was passed. Cargill for example has used NAFTA to dump half price corn into Mexico to devastate the Mexican farm economy and simultaneously they recruited dispossessed Mexicans to come to work in its US meat packing plants (without legal papers of course).

Hog production had recently been shifting to mega farms in Mexico where health, safety and environmental laws don’t exist but that pesky swine flu pandemic has slowed that movement. The Packers and Stockyards Act also gives the government broad authority over poultry and eggs and we now see how well allowing giant unregulated egg producers works.

No meaningful government intervention in any area of big Agri-business vs. small farmers has occurred over the last 60 years. In fact this has been IMF policy applied worldwide to drive small farmers off the land in the name of efficiency, efficient elimination of independent people and efficient creation of corporate profits. In this efficiency movement people that are not of the top 3/10 percent of income are expendable.

This is not an easy row to hoe for the Obama Administration as Bush appointed Appeals Court Judges routinely dismiss suits brought by farmers alleging  price fixing and predatory practices by packers. The corporatist Supreme Court simply refuses all appeals. Court watchers have said there is no right or left bias to Supreme Court rulings in general but rather the deciding factor is which side is the corporation on. The corporation always wins. The thrust of the new USDA rules are intended to create an environment where these farmer lawsuits will be more difficult to quash.

Unfortunately these measures will probably have little immediate impact on the farm crisis but they do set a political agenda that puts Obama squarely in the Progressive movement. The DOJ has even broken into the long boarded up offices of its anti-trust division and is studying the possibility of breaking up the mega corporations. But maybe it’s just my polly-anna nature that I see this as a real possibility.


Anonymous said...

Obama would be more credible on this, and many other Progressive issues, if he simply appointed ALL his nominees, courts and otherwise, before the current congressional recess comes to an end.

John Puma

prairie2 said...

Do you remember Howard Dean? He was on the fast track to being the next President until said out loud that he would break up the media monopolies, then he became "angry" read that crazy, the Dean Scream was fake but played on an endless loop. Obama said he was going to kick some butt referring to a corporation and he was suddenly street. Obama has to put enough things into motion so that it isn't about him anymore or nothing will happen.

Anonymous said...

Dean was seeking the party nomination for president.

Obama IS the president. That's crucial difference. He WAS able to say many things roughly equivalent to what Dean said and still won by 10 million votes.
(Of course, he did NOT hoot nor directly attack the industry of those controlling the sound board!)

If he is unwilling, unable or never intended to make "it" happen, it won't happen, whatever "it" happens to be.

After the utter atrocity of Cheney/Bush the LAST thing this country needs is a behind-the-scenes guy!

Regardless of what he does, including hiding ("not about him"), Obama's is going to get hammered by the drooling hyenas of the neo-reich. Why not get something out of the inevitable abuse -- besides loss of your base?

How can Democrats have missed the message of the Clinton presidency: you can pat GOP butt all you want, they will stay after you and they will strangle you the moment you slip up.

It's not clear how a conference with the few remaining (meaning powerless?) independent cattle producers increases the chances of reviving the Packers and Stockyards Act? When it come to the necessary legislation, the virtual livestock monopolies will be testifying and lobbying against it.

There is a 12% vacancy rate for federal judges. Apparently only 39 nominees have been made for 102 open positions. What's with that? Does the Obama administration fail to understand the importance of naming federal judges?,0,771599.story

John Puma

prairie2 said...

You can argue that Obama should just plow ahead now but that's not what he's been doing. Maybe this is chess play or weakness, we will find out soon enough.
The Senate can change its rules at the beginning of each term. If the Democrats want to get things done, in January they will reinstate simple majority rules. We'll find out then what Obama really intends to do. If he's really just a coward then we're screwed.

ickenittle said...

Sadly, I am afraid Obama is too weak, and I fear he will not give us any knockout punches.
But maybe I'll be proven wrong.I sure hope so. Maybe we need more toxic eggs to give him a goose.

Anonymous said...

I'd drop this discussion right now, if it weren't for two important events that must occur before Senate Democratic can even consider the change of filibuster rules:

1) Nov 2 mid-term elections

2) Upcoming expiration of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy at the end of the calendar year.

As to #1: anything can happen. The worse the result, the more it will have to do with a feeling of the voters that: "we deserved someone who could speak English ten years ago, so we elected the new guy to exhibit different policies ... in addition to simply speaking intelligible English!"

Obama's approach to #2 will tell a great deal about the president and his true intentions. Obama created the "Deficit Commission" and appointed, as co-chair, political cockroach Alan Simpson.

Simpson's "fans" were thrilled with his "310 million tits" comment re Social Security and they must be overjoyed with with his latest: payments to agent orange vets is a significant drag on the budget.
(link below.)

What appears to have been Obama's extremely poor judgment to have chosen this pig (not to mention creating the commission, itself!) signals to me that some equally poor judgment can be mustered to "save" the Bush tax cuts.

As to the predicted change in Senate rules, I would be one of the more surprised observers of that institution if the Dems were to change the rules to permit simple majority votes on all issues.

If the Dems DO find the collective spine to accomplish this I will donate three, gift podcast subscriptions to the Mike Malloy show that he gives as prizes to call-in winners of his "podcast trivia."

(This offer does not apply if the Dems drop the number of votes need to close debate from the current 60 to anything greater than 51. Nor does it apply if they manage to lose control of the Senate!)

John Puma

prairie2 said...

As to appointing Alan Simpleton to the debt reduction commission, Obama maybe taking a lesson from the tv talk shows, it is much easier to win the debate if you pick the opposition