People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

An Odd Assessment of Life

Verlyn Klinkenborg writes for the New York Times. Some folks there think he is a literary artiste. A Hemingway. A Van Gogh of the keyboard. Personally, I find his rambling to be dizzying, irksome, and detached. But to each his own.

Klinkenborg is also a leftist. In the ugliest sense of the word. Which means he looks at the advancements we've made and the victories we've won and sees only gloom. Despair. Travesty.

He wants it the way it was ... long long ago.

I was drawn to his article in today's Times (
link) because, in it, he promised to tell me why the state of Iowa is losing population, particularly its young people. He first told me what wasn't causing the "problem."

The state's demographic dilemma wasn't caused by bad weather or high income taxes or the lack of a body of water larger than Rathbun Lake - an Army Corps of Engineers reservoir sometimes known as "Iowa's ocean."
Hmm. OK. I can only hope those pronouncements come from a good deal of research. But OK. I'm still curious.

Then, as if I couldn't predict his explanation, Klinkenborg, the literary economist sociologist, disgorges this:

It was caused by the state's wholehearted, uncritical embrace of industrial agriculture, which has depopulated the countryside, destroyed the economic and social texture of small towns, and made certain that ordinary Iowans are defenseless against the pollution of factory farming.

These days, all the entry-level jobs in agriculture - the state's biggest industry - happen to be down at the local slaughterhouse, and most of those jobs were filled by the governor's incentive, a few years ago, to bring 100,000 immigrant workers into the state.

What a pitiful way to look at modernization.

Hey, Verlyn: You're probably not aware of it, having been wrapped up in research on barn illumination at dusk and all (readers will have to have read some of your previous blather to fully appreciate that), but Argentina had something to do with Iowa's transformation too. As did Brazil and Honduras. France and the Dominican Republic. Australia and the Ivory Coast.

Iowans recognized, as you should have before venturing away from your musings about the joys of driving through the backcountry of the USA, venturing here into a serious subject and making yourself look stupid, that they were in competition in a world economy. Competing with farmers in the Pampas and on the green hills of Ireland. The uplands of China and the fields of Mexico.** It escaped your notice that, for the first time in the history of this country, the USA actually was a net importer of agricultural commodities in December. Despite the valliant efforts of Iowa's "industrial farmers," we as consumers bought more from foreign countries than they bought from us.

Cry for the little Iowa villages that are being abandoned, if you will, Verlyn. But changes, especially in the production of the most essential commodity of all commodities, are ongoing and will continue to be relentless. You can denounce the changes. You can try to stop them - and have the same success as did the old man trying to hold back the sea.

Life is hard sometimes, Verlyn. And yet wondrous. Especially for those young Iowans seeking to make a better life for themselves, their children, and grandchildren.

But the days of farmers working their five acres of beans - or corn or tobacco - in order to stay just above the level of starvation are, thank God, over. We have fewer farmers. We have more programmers.

We have less polio in this great country of ours too, Verlyn. I'll wait for the glistening masterpiece on that subject. A tome exposing that bastard, Jonas Salk, who went and found a vaccine to prevent what brought about those quaint scenes of old in which America's little children, crippled for life, were pushed around in their wicker wheelchairs and who sang to us on the street corner, in hopes that we would toss them a dime.

How you must long for those glorious days of old.

** World corn production in 2001/02 of about 587 million metric tons, exceeded initial forecasts by 3 million tons, and compares with 586 million in 2000/01. China, since 1987/88 the second largest producer, produced 108 million tons in 2001/02 vs. 106 million in 2000/01 and record large 133 million in 1998/99. China's corn output has increased sharply from the 1980's when annual production averaged less than 100 million tons. The U.S. and China are forecast to produce about 60% of the world's corn in 2001/02; Brazil and Mexico combined should produce about 9%. (link)

Republican Shame

If you are a Republican, you need to hang your head in shame this morning. You were forewarned that the Medicare supplemental drug benefit - that was the new entitlement for the elderly that liberal Republicans and President Bush thought was a neat idea - was going to cost a lot more than was being estimated at the time the legislation was being fashioned.

Even those who predicted a much higher cost had no idea that it was going to be this bad:
New White House Estimate Lifts Drug Benefit Cost to $720 Billion

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 - The Bush administration offered a new estimate of the cost of the Medicare drug benefit on Tuesday, saying it would cost $720 billion in the next 10 years.That is much more than the $400 billion Congress assumed when it passed legislation creating the benefit in late 2003.

But administration officials said the numbers were not comparable. The original estimate was for the years 2004 to 2013. The new estimate covers the period from 2006, when the drug benefit becomes available, to 2015.

The higher figure, which provides the first glimpse of the true cost of the drug benefit, could touch off a political uproar in Congress, where conservative Republicans were already expressing alarm about the costs of Medicare, including the drug benefit. (link)
This is, in a word, staggering.

And it was accomplished on your watch.

The people in this country put you Republicans in power in 1994 to put a stop to this sort of thing. Instead, it was your Republican majority that gave birth to this monster.

Another entitlement that we are unable to afford.

Of course, now you're going to hear your leadership fret about rising costs and about the need to do something. As they are already.
In a recent interview, the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, said he wanted to "put the brakes on the growth of entitlements" and take a close look at the new Medicare law.
You're a bit too late, Senator. Nobody will believe you.

And now the Democrats are pouncing on the issue, as they should.
[Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill] said: "The new cost estimate destroys the credibility of the Bush administration. Officials were so far off in estimating the cost of the Medicare law. Why should we believe what they say about the financial problems of Social Security?"

Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: "I told you so. We can't trust numbers provided by administration officials. They'll say anything to get a bill passed. And if the new drug benefit costs more, the extra money goes to their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, not to senior citizens."
You deserve this, oh party of Reagan. Shame on all of you.