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Sugar for Wall Street Daddies, Austerity for the Rest of Us

Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, before Friday's vote on the House farm bill, which failed to pass. The Freedom Caucus, seeking leverage to obtain a vote on a hard-line immigration plan, opposed the farm measure. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Truthdig editor’s note: The website Roll Call writes, “The farm bill, which failed on the House floor Friday, will get a second vote June 22 after a vote on a conservative immigration bill earlier that week, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Monday.”

We are not a nation of laws. We are a franchise of the global aristocracy. One need only look at the latest farm bill winding its way through Congress to realize that America has been indentured by multinational corporations. As both parties lavish fortunes upon Wall Street, they turn around and gift the rest of us austerity. You have to give it the political class in Washington, D.C.: Democrats and Republicans keep finding more cunning and innovative ways to rob from public Peter to fatten plutocrat Paul.

Like all other legislation that gets enacted by our ever-cagey Congress and signed into law by our duplicitous presidents, the 2018 farm bill is a colossal measure that will impact almost every American—even though the public has almost zero say in the matter. The omnibus package, which is another way of saying wish list for lobbyists, encompasses everything from food production to food distribution, land conservation, social safety net programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and goes as far as redefining who is considered a family member. The revolutionaries of 1776 thought they had it rough with Big Brother telling them how to lead their lives, but the British monarchs had nothing on the American oligarchy.

In all, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 is estimated to cost $421.5 billion over a five-year window. That’s before the Senate gets its dibs and adds to the final tab. While the ever-pliant corporate media was busy going haywire over Donald Trump’s latest buffoonery and gaga over the royal nonsense in Windsor, nepotists in our nation’s capital have been busy greasing the wheels for their benefactors while pinching pennies on the poor and the middle class. Republicans love to echo Jesus on social media and morph into a cabal of pharisees during congressional sessions. This is not to praise Democrats. They spent eight years making it rain helicopter money on Wall Street. Both parties’ primary purpose is to transfer wealth from the many to the gentry.

Even the mildest attempts to rein in the excesses that are shoveled to the corporate oligarchy are swiftly derailed. On Thursday, a sensible measure that would have put restrictions on farm subsidies was voted down. While social welfare programs are being decimated, corporate welfare is alive and well. Socialism is only bad when it applies to the people. Communism is adored when it benefits Wall Street. The U.S. government runs a Ponzi scheme. Within the sugar industry alone, subsidies transfer anywhere from $2.4 billion to $4 billion from consumers into the coffers of behemoth conglomerations like American Sugar Refining Group and agricultural giants like Monsanto.

Instead of investing in public infrastructure and tending to the least among us, politicians on both sides of the aisle would rather throw good money after bad by artificially inflating the price of sugar to appease their donor-patrons. These types of corrupt dealings have innumerable repercussions. The cost of goods keep going up and sugar products are aggressively marketed to keep demand for sugar high, while making it nearly impossible for small and family-owned farms to compete with market leaders.

Ultimately, healthier alternatives are driven out of the marketplace. Companies that offer more nutritious products struggle to remain going concerns and keep up with the competitive advantages enjoyed by junk food peddlers and their suppliers. The net result is a society that is getting emaciated financially to sustain corporations—and being rewarded with an obesity crisis for our unwitting complicity. Our political leaders are incentivizing greed and being paid handsomely by sugar and farm lobbyists for their obsequiousness.

This farm bill contains so many deleterious provisions that a book would be needed to offer context for the endless ways Congress keeps choosing moneyed interests over the public good. Where Democrats are coy about the ways they bolster corporations, Republicans dispense with the chicanery and have no problem advertising their servility to Wall Street. Do you think increased pesticide use, more incidents like Flint’s poisoned pipes and less protection for endangered species is a good thing? If so, you will love this farm bill, which does everything possible to loosen the destructive nature of crony capitalism while restricting the options of the working class and poor to obtain public assistance.

If we were not so busy bickering over red-meat issues and being inundated by one manufactured outrage after another, we would realize that both political parties are colluding to purvey this pervasive level of graft. There is a connective tissue between the anger felt by farming families in rural areas and the discontent felt by city workers in urban America and beyond. All of us are feeling the heat of shrinking opportunities and growing financial anxieties. Sadly, we keep letting our differences blind us to our common strife.

The opioid crisis, the proliferation of mental health issues and the gnawing sense of hopelessness—these and most other social ills are exacerbated by the imbalances of economic policies that cater to the 1 percent while the rest of us are told to eat Twinkies. The three richest Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans. This type of consolidated greed and graft is what gave rise to the French Revolution. Priorities are reflected by budgets, and the reason we transformed from a nation of production to a country of consumption is because our political leaders chose to enable vulture capitalists by sacrificing entrepreneurs at the altar of corporatism. Once known as an industrial giant, America is an empire in decline. We bomb nations overseas, build prisons domestically and allow corporations to medicate us with modified foods and synthetic pills.

If we are to reclaim our country and demand a government that works for us, we must understand that all of us—irrespective of our differences—are being fleeced by a bipartisan cabal of corporate courtiers in our nation’s capital. Do not let the refrains of “blue waves” or the chants of “make America great again” deceive you. Both parties are in on this ongoing corporate boondoggle. The farm bill collapsed because the Freedom Caucus demanded more stringent measures on border controls while others demanded yet more cuts from social programs. Republicans are negotiating among themselves to figure out who can be the biggest a-holes.

Predictably, this set off an uproar within the rank-and-file Democrats. This is what the team blue hypocrites have perfected: They act concerned when they are out of office, only to take a hammer to their base the minute they gain the gavel. Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter to feign shock at the cruelty of Republicans. Not even Baghdad Bob had this much chutzpah. This is the same party that transferred more than $14 trillion to Wall Street under Obama’s watch. This is also the party that refused to save homeowners during the Great Recession while giving golden parachutes to banking executives who bled the U.S. economy.

Over the coming weeks, you will see the back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans as both sides pretend they are fighting to preserve the American way of life. This is what charlatans do. They shout and scream to sedate their respective bases and capture ratings for the media-politico complex.

All of it is a kabuki dance. The farm bill will pass, and it will enrich the fat cats yet again. Away from the camera lights and the hot mics, votes are being counted and constituent concerns are being traded to maximize the gains of various industry giants. I can guarantee you one thing: The final tally will produce a monstrous compromise that will harm the public while once again indulging the gluttony of Wall Street titans. When we stop being blinded by the reality show of politics, the problem becomes evident. If you want to know why our government is warped and doesn’t represent any of us, just follow the money.

It’s a sugar trail that starts with multinational corporations. Its logical end is a kleptocracy that lords over all of us and is turning America to salt.

Teodrose Fikre
Teodrose Fikre is a journalist and the founder and editor of The Ghion Journal. Once a defense consultant, he was profoundly changed by a two-year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of…
Teodrose Fikre

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