A friend directed me to an article in Esquire about some comments made recently to reporters by former governor Sonny Perdue. The statements were made after Perdue addressed a group of small dairy farmers in Wisconsin.
In the article, writer Charles P. Pierce quotes the Washington Post:
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters following an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison that it’s getting harder for farmers to get by on milking smaller herds. “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue said. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
Pierce goes on to reveal his own agenda. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an opinion piece and opinion pieces have agendas. This article is an opinion piece and has an agenda.
Pierce closes out his article: “I'd like to think this will have some effect on the way people in the dairy counties of Wisconsin will vote a year from now...” The agenda in his article is to get people to vote Democratic. His pitch is that somehow his party will be better for small businesses and farms even though that was far from the case under Obama, Clinton, and Carter. Before we hoot and holler too much, it hasn’t been the case under Trump or the Bush administrations either.
Let’s face it, what Sonny said sounds troubling. It sounds hopeless. It sounds defeated. But where is the lie? Our economy is built for Wall Street, not Main Street. Big businesses have grown rapidly in this economy. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Walmart. Small businesses have to have some unique niche, something only they are doing, if they want to survive. The groundwork was laid for the modern agricultural sector by then Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz in the 1970’s. His philosophy of “get big or die” led to the huge factory farms and agribusiness that we have today. Once huge corporations moved into farming, it was a matter of time until the little guys started getting bullied out of the market. Perdue uses a lot of the same terminology in the cited quote that Butz used in his speeches and policies. But the essence of the two differ. Butz was saying that is how the market should work while Perdue is just pointing to the reality of how the market dies work.
Should Perdue and the Trump administration as a whole be working to end this travesty? Of course. Are they? Not particularly. But we must also remember it has taken decades of corruption to build this over centralized economy. It’s not going anywhere quietly.
Big business and big government are two heads of the same monster. Businesses lobby Washington (both parties) with millions and millions of dollars. In return, Washington espouses policies that benefit the big businesses. Think regulation is the answer? Think again. The big businesses are the ones who can afford the lawyers who find the loopholes in regulations, or even write the loopholes into the regulations. Then regulations only apply to the small businesses and they suffer as a result.
The good news is that our market is still the freest in the world. Opportunity does still exist. And we have to remember that Walmart started as a 5-and-dime in a small town in Arkansas. The competition was less brutal then. The market was different then. But there’s still hope.
The Waycross Journal-Herald folded up and the New York Times endures. The answer is the same for small business. Do business with them. Pay for their services. Buy their products. Choose them over the big box. Yes, you’re going to pay a little more but you’re also going to get a better product, receive better customer service, and you’re going to help level the playing field for your neighbors as they stare down the giants.
Fixing this problem isn’t going to come from a ballot box. It’s going to come from our pocket books.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire