The Bern knows whereof he speaks

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The more we know about Bernie the more we learn, what’s not to like. Break the big banks, free health care, free college, that’s cool but what’s he going to do about Monsanto? The Bern is in a select group – men of principle; Teddy the Trust Buster, FDR the founder of democratic socialism, Eisenhower beware of the military industrial complex, and Reagan “tear down this wall.”

The Bern and I go way back, me to 1943 to his ’41. I not being a man of principle, not that I don’t have any, I’m just not sure what they are, I want to know where Bernie stands on other things besides banks, health care and college. I have the best health care, the VA, I have spent nine years going to college, that’s enough for me and I was an accomplice in the ‘Big Short’ bank caper. I want to know what the Bern is going to do about “the sole source of revenue and wealth of every nation – agriculture,” Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations?

You see, the Bern and I got drafted back in the good ol’ Vietnam days. The first time a draft lawyer got me a six-month delay because I was in my senior year but two weeks after graduation Uncle Sam came calling. Somewhere in the 65’ to ’71 timeframe Bernie felt Sammy’s burn. Mr. Sanders, man of principle, said he wasn’t going to go because he was a conscientious objector. I thought about fleeing to Canada but chose the Marine Corps because I thought it would look good on my resume. Fortunately, God protects drunks, children and architects, which fostered my no principles approach to life.

However, the overseas experience, having never gone west of Chicago, was exhilarating. Six months into my tour of Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines Nixon asked me if I wanted to volunteer to serve in the JFK – LBJ continuing resolution. No! Sorry, my conscience awareness levels were now attenuated and my CV already printed, as an USMC officer, no need to update it by getting killed. Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; his application was eventually turned down, by which point he was too old to be drafted. Old Bern was right in his principles and I was weak.

NAFTA was the next time the philosophers of ’43 and ’41 crossed paths. I was born a Republican and when Ross Perot’s “large sucking sound you hear…” came along, I unknowingly believed free trade was a good thing. Once again the Bern knew what he was doing:

“This past November, along with six other members of the US Congress, I visited Mexico on a Teamsters-sponsored trip in order to assess what NAFTA has done to Mexico. In the countryside, we met farmers whose communities had been devastated by the importation of subsidized, cheap corn from US agribusiness corporations. Since the implementation of NAFTA, Mexico’s agricultural sector has lost at least 1.3 million jobs in exchange for 1.9 million US manufacturing jobs.” Sanders, Bernard. “The View from Mexico.” The Nation 2 Feb. 2004:

My Republican father was an engineer with Baldwin Piano and he personally helped move Baldwin’s factory from our hometown, Cincinnati, to non-union, cheap labor Arkansas and Mississippi. Of course NAFTA made a large sucking sound moving manufacturing even further south but my DNA Republicanism believed in free trade. What I didn’t know was how it put 1.3 million Mexican farmers off their farms. I thought they were trotting off to the good life of manufacturing, not victims of subsidized corn.

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I made two trips to Mexico in 2005 and 2006, both sponsored by my farmer wife, Shelby Ann Brown. Shelby was principled in the ML King mold of “I have a dream” and that dream was to make $10,000/month urban income from livestock farming. A cow cost $1,500 where a goat was only $150 bucks and the Texas Department of Agriculture suggested exporting breeding stock to Mexico. We eventually sent two Saanen bucks across the border at Eagle Pass for $200 a piece but the money-losing venture pushed us into Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy business.

What I learned in Mexico and ten years of goat farming was forecast by Bernie in his October 1993 speech titled “Decentralizing Agriculture.” His talking points were:

  • It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82% of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85% of soybean processing, and 63% of pork processing.  It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago.
  • It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies.  We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.
  • In 1966, farmers received 40 cents for every dollar Americans spent on food. Today, they only receive 16 cents on the dollar.

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The only way Shelby and I were able to make it in our Decentralized Agricultural enterprise, www.analagoatcompany.com, was to break the law. Even though we had a Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy license we could only sell our product on-the-farm. Standing in the Houston Farmers’ Market parking lot vending raw kefir, goat’s milk, feta and chevre enabled us to collect 100 cents for every dollar our customers spent and it was almost two years before the law caught up with us.

That Bernie knows whereof he speaks. He is right on war, ag-subsidies, free trade agreements, climate change, factory farming, big banks, income inequality and democratic socialism.

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