Letters to the Editor/Online Comments

BY DI READERS | JUNE 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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RE: Elliot: What’s up with our friendly GOP?

The real irony of the Republicans not supporting the farm bill partly due to its continuing the food-stamp program is that that program was initially a Republican proposal.

In the 1960s, then-Sen. Bob Dole, Republican from Kansas, proposed the idea of food stamps in order to aid his constituents, Kansas farmers. It was the era of the Great Society effort by LBJ’s administration, so the Democrats loved the idea of more welfare.

Of course, the GOP loved the idea also, because it was designed to improve the market for farm produced goods; more welfare was not on the minds of the Republicans in Congress.

For far different reasons, politicians from both parties were enthusiastic supporters.

Times seem to have changed.

Mike Norton
UI alum

What’s up with Republicans is that they are mean, stupid, and self-destructive.

Our current agricultural-support system goes way back. Overt developmental support go back to the Land Act of 1820, the Homestead Acts 1862, 1866, 1873, the Morrill Act of 1862; farm subsidies in the form of price supports enacted in 1921 in response to a severe post WWI economic downturn; Depression Era farm supports and surplus commodities programs. Food assistance programs (other than distributing surplus commodities) National Food Lunch 1946, Agricultural Development and Assistance 1954, Food Stamps 1964.

For the past 80 years or so, more and more food assistance has been included in our broader agricultural policies. Initially, it was to ensure that farmers had a domestic market for their crops.

Politically, it began with the public outrage in response to the destruction of crops and livestock in 1933 in an effort to bring up prices. In terms of classic free-market theory, it made sense to do that. In political terms, it was suicide. People were starving while crops lay rotting in the fields, or worse, were burned, buried, livestock slaughtered and buried in lime pits. It was horrifying.

Switch to demographics. A hundred years ago, half the nation’s population did farm work. By 1930, it was 25 percent. Now, it’s less than 2 percent.

With fewer and fewer Americans engaged in farm labor or even living in rural areas, more and more attention gets focused of the consumption of food as opposed to the production of food.

Which means, politically speaking, food assistance and crop subsidies have existed in a symbiotic relationship for the past 70 or 80 years.

Crop subsidies and insurance are high priorities for the Republican Party’s rural base. Food assistance is important for the Democratic Party’s urban base. People living in urban areas outnumber people living in rural areas by a factor of 4 to 1, with people not employed in agriculture at more than 98 percent of the population.

In other words, if farmers want their money, they had better stay on the good side of the rest of us who see food assistance, even when we don’t need it, as a good thing.

Hence the failure of the farm bill this time around.

Roberta Bell
Iowa City

RE: MidAmerican rate increase

The message I got in the mail from MidAmerican a while ago about this rate increase stated that it was to fund a new nuclear-power plant. I am not paying for a nuclear-power plant; I’ll go off the grid if I have to.

Online user jonchadow

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