God Save the Dollar
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to ag news lately. The main reason for this is because college football is back, and it’s consumed every one of my social media feeds and e-mails.
I sincerely apologize for my lapse in paying attention to what pays my bills. After the embarrassing loss the Fightin’ Texas Aggies suffered last weekend to Appalachian State – an unranked, non-power five team – I’ve realized maybe I should focus a little more on my livelihood than college football.
In the spirit of following this “news consuming guideline” of mine, I decided to engulf myself in ag news in the wee hours of Monday morning, Sept. 12. I first checked out various ag news outlets, but I couldn’t really decide on something to write about.
The regular news wasn’t talking about our food system at all, they were mainly focused on the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Queen Elizabeth and the Emmys. So, I decided to go straight to the source and check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Twitter feed.
I can describe my 15 minutes of Twitter scrolling in four words: Show me the money.
It seems the only thing the USDA tweets about anymore is new grants and funding opportunities. While I love to see money backing innovations in agriculture, I just can’t help but ask myself, if we’re so far in debt, how the heck are we funding these programs?
According to the U.S. Treasury, we are $28.4 trillion in debt as of 2021. That’s huge, it’s insane, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around – and it’s steadily climbing with new funding ventures. But, here’s something I didn’t really know until I did my research: The U.S. has been in debt since it became a country.
The treasury reports, since its inception, the U.S. has carried debt, as we borrowed $75 million from domestic investors and the French government. So, we’re a country founded on freedom, but not money freedom?
Since the initial $75 million we borrowed to start our country, U.S. debt has dug a hole and we continue to do so every single day when the government announces new funding opportunities and grants. But, this is a catch-22.
Now, I learned this next part from my great-grandparents, not from history books. Sometimes, we need a bail out. Let me explain.
My great-grandparents were alive during the Great Depression and vividly remembered it. My great-grandfather Pa always talked about how he was “so sick of eating chicken” during that time.
Pa also was what we in the South call a yellow-dog-Democrat.
This means he “would rather vote for a yellow dog” before he voted for a Republican. Pa felt this way so much that after he had open heart surgery following a heart attack, the nurse asked him simple questions to gage his state of mind following anesthesia, one of which was, “Mr. Mayes, do you know who the president is?” Pa affectionately answered, “Bush, but I didn’t vote for him.”
I always thought it was funny Pa voted for Democrats. His social and fiscal views mainly aligned with the Republican party.
But as I got older, my mom explained to me Pa did this because he remembered the Great Depression, and what got us out of the Depression? Government programs creating government jobs for the people of America during the era of a Democrat-ran administration.
When I take a step back and look at our economy – inflation, the stock market’s state, employment ratings – it doesn’t look too great. I see these government-funded opportunities and I think back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt creating all those jobs for the Americans who couldn’t find a job.
Did he do this because he was evil? No, he did it “for the greater good.” Is this, perhaps, a parallel to what’s going on now?
Grants are being awarded to farmers who can barely make ends meet. Government checks are in the hands of ranchers who lost a large portion of income when the cattle market all but bottomed out two years ago. Are these government programs going to ruin us, or are they what’s keeping the ag industry alive?
I honestly don’t know the answer, and maybe when I’m 70, like my great-grandparents were when I was a kid, I’ll look back on all of this and think: Man, I’m so glad we had those programs because without them, we wouldn’t have survived.
Or, maybe I’ll look at a country even further in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, waiting to see what country is going to “take us over” to bail us out this time. Only time will tell, but until then: God, save the dollar.