‘Fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear’ then and now—and notes on soybeans

Posted by Tom Camfield

“We are Republicans. But we are Americans first,” GOP Senator Margaret Chase Smith said 68 years ago (1950). “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

Your worst fears have been realized, Margaret.

The Washington Post Oct. 4, 2018, noted: “After Sen. Susan Collins announced on the Senate floor Friday that she would cast her deciding vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) rose to liken her to another Republican from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith, “the first member of the United States Senate to take on Joseph McCarthy . . . this demagogue and the tactics that he employed.”

Oh, really?!

Beginning in 1950, Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, became the most visible public face of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He is known for alleging that numerous Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere. He ruined many lives in an unjustified way. Ultimately, the smear tactics that he used led him to be censured by the U.S. Senate. Senator Margaret Chase Smith was the first to speak out against this. Bless her memory

But Malodorous Mitch couldn’t leave well enough alone the other day as he put a strange spin on reality by comparing the cowardice of C0llins to the stand-up bravery of Smith. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska actually was more like Margaret Chase Smith in standing up before a gutless majority devoid of virtuous principles.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), endorsing McConnell, said: “This is as close to McCarthyism as I hope we get in my lifetime,”  describing Democrats, whom he accused of “mob rule.”

Said the Post: “It was an insult to the memory of Margaret Chase Smith, whose heroic and patriotic 1950 speech, a 'Declaration of Conscience,' was a lonely denunciation of the demagogue who dominated her Republican Party. Collins’s speech, ignoring the new demagoguery that has overtaken her party while criticizing the other side, was the very opposite. Hers was a Declaration of Convenience, a Declaration of Capitulation.”

I wish I could write my own feelings as competently as that in a single paragraph.

PICK ANY OLD SUBJECT, and Donald Trump will lie about it. Take soybeans, for example, a rather unglamorous topic guaranteed not to catch much public attention or remain long in the news.

July 24 (New York Post)—“Team Trump on Tuesday unveiled a massive $12 billion bailout package for farmers hurt by the president’s escalating trade war — just hours after the commander in chief tweeted, ‘Tariffs are the greatest!’” Soybean farmers poised to get a large portion of benefits from the controversial plan.

Trade and agriculture experts almost immediately warned that Donald’s planned $12 billion farm bailout amounted to a misguided attempt to cushion the damage of the administration’s increasing use of tariffs against trading partners and was unlikely to address the long-term risks farmers face of losing their lucrative export markets. So, I wondered, where will farmers be next year? Meanwhile, that $12 billion suddenly fell to  “just”  a couple hundred million over $6 billion. 

Sept. 27 (Successful Farming)—“The Trump administration will spend up to $6.2 billion this fall to shield crop and livestock producers from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday. Soybean growers would be the lion’s share, $3.6 billion, of the $4.7 billion in cash payments to producers.

“USDA officials said the cash payments might be doubled, depending on conditions at the end of the year. ‘We will continue to evaluate markets...and the secretary will decide in consultation with the White House on the second round of payments,’ said USDA chief economist Robert Johansson, who rejected the idea that a second round is certain.

“Producers are eligible for payments on this year’s production of seven commodities. Undersecretary Bill Northey said the payments this fall would be $3.6 billion for soybeans, $277 million for cotton, $290 million for pork, $127 million for dairy, $156 million for sorghum, $119 million for wheat, and $96 million for corn. The payments made at harvest will be half of the producer’s total 2018 production multiplied by payment rates that range from $1.65 a bushel for soybeans to 1¢ a bushel for corn and $8 per hog (see more prices in the table below). If a second payment is announced, the remaining 50% of the producer's total 2018 production will be subject to a new payment rate.”

Things sure have gone to hell down on the farm since Donald began acting as if he knew how to drive a tractor.

And Donald, amid all the disruption, just had to stand up in public and begin his usual braying and lying, this time about  the soybean market.

Oct. 7  (Business Insider)—Donald  said soybean prices have gone up. 

Actually they have fallen to near decade lows since his trade war with China began. China has turned to South American countries to replace US soybeans. Soybean stocks on hand are approaching record levels. 

His remarks make it sound as if his views and actions on world trade and economics are heaven-sent and a major boon to farmers—whom he actually is screwing over off-handedly to serve his ego. But he doesn’t have the leverage he thinks he has; he is not bigger than China, let alone the rest of the world. 

Donald claims US soybeans have largely held up against his trade war with China. But tariffs have pushed prices to lows not seen since 2008. He said at a press conference in New York earlier this month. ". . . soybeans are going up, and things are going up. And we've had very little hurt, from what I’ve done. In fact, the markets have gone up, and the farmers are going to do great.”

In reality, soybean prices have fallen more than 12% since China placed a 25% import tax on the legume to retaliate against the Trump administration. That country is the largest soybean customer in the world, accounting for more than half of global imports in 2017. 

A problem, I expect, is that not too many people will be thinking of soy beans come election day. Or a variety of other things that don’t have time to take root in the public mind before Donald and is cadre throw forth one distraction after another . . . and cloud reality with lies over TV. 

For those forever whining about government spending tax money in smaller amounts on social programs here and there, just consider that Donald made an egocentric, misguided move with his tariffs and now is covering it up by throwing money at it. Consider that this $6,200,000,000 is 6,200 millions—something that apparently wasn’t available for a variety of social programs but somehow is readily available to be tossed about by Donald to cover his personal commodious rear.

TELL ME, IS THIS FAIR under our Constitution? I’d say no way.  “The Republican Party's relentless ploys to pull the Supreme Court as far right as possible have been paying off for a while now, from partisan gerrymandering to attacking public sector unions. And in one of its first acts for its new session, the Court may have just ensured that Republicans hold the Senate in the midterms.

“On Tuesday, the Court declined to hear a challenge to North Dakota's voter I.D. laws by a vote of 6-2 (with Brett Kavanaugh not participating), upholding a lower court decision that will likely prevent thousands of Native Americans from voting in November. North Dakota has a large population of Native Americans and Senator Heidi Heitkamp is considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection this year. 

“Per Mother Jones:  North Dakota’s 2017 voter law ID was challenged by Native residents who alleged that the law disproportionately blocked Native Americans from voting. In April, a federal district court judge blocked large portions of the law as discriminatory against Native voters. 'The State has acknowledged that Native American communities often lack residential street addresses,' Judge Daniel Hovland wrote.'Nevertheless, under current State law an individual who does not have a ‘current residential street address’ will never be qualified to vote'.”

According to the website of the Native American Rights Fund, which represents the plaintiffs, many native residents lack residential street addresses because “the U.S. postal service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities.” As a result, tribal IDs use P.O. boxes, which are not sufficient under North Dakota’s new law—a specification that seems designed to disenfranchise native voters. Hovland’s ruling was in place during the primaries this spring.

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