Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saving the Family Farm

We seem to have a 21st century version of the Great Depression. I remember the accounts from parents and grandparents in my family -- those in the country survived better than those in the city.

Value in America is disconnected from reality. Executives received huge salaries while destroying the financial condition of the companies they worked for. They benefited from taking great risks at the expense of taxpayers and stockholders because their companies were supposedly "too big to fail" and they were bailed-out.

A company that was "too big to fail" was considered a monopoly before deregulation took place in the 1990s , and the solution was either regulation or a split-up like Ma Bell and the Baby Bells in the telecommunications industry. Now, with deregulation in place, a failing company is merged with another oversized company to create one that is "much too big to fail." In a free market economy failure means bankruptcy -- in this economy failure is rewarded with executive bonuses to keep on failing so the government can keep on bailing. Decision-makers aren't accountable for their own decisions.

We have "low inflation" but nevermind wildly fluctuating commodity prices and stagnating wages. Things can look OK on paper with phony accounting to report "goodwill", "tax deferral benefits", and "assets" that could just as well be liabilities. America's trade deficit is funded with IOUs to foreign countries, and what are they really worth? On the otherhand an apple is still an apple.

To sum it up, the "paper economy" of stocks, monetary policy, stimulus, bail-out, mortgage rescue, etc. are illusions with no accountability. They don't offer very much for commodity producers, and their day of judgment may have finally come.

Medical costs continue to rise at double-digit rates as some doctors in higher risk specialties can no longer afford insurance premiums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They're closing the doors. Obesity, age, and diabetes go hand-in-hand. Americans continue to get older. There's a huge health crisis coming and nutrition is a big part of it. Who is going to pay the doctor bill? Has anybody asked -- who will be healthy enough to work? Around 1/3 of our school-aged children are obese. Public schools no longer employ nutritionists.

The Mega-farm model is failing. Then there are the mega-farms with quality standards going down while food imports go up. The Walmart business model has not worked very well for good nutrition and health. Meats in the grocery store don't taste, smell, or look very appetizing compared to what they were twenty years ago. It's the growth hormones designed to increase the fat on livestock and poultry, and the preservatives to ship it longer distances. If you eat it, then it does the same to you.

In summary, I believe the family farm is a bed-rock resource for our nation's long-term survival through all of this. Past family-farm experiments failed because they did not have a viable business plan. In the current environment I believe the family farm has a lot to offer compared to the whims of a "paper economy" and America's huge eating disorder. Maybe politicians can buy more time with more illusions and you can wait another ten years before getting concerned.

I conclude that interest rates are low because the accountability for risk isn't where it belongs. Low interest rates are merely an illusion for "capital rationing." Try getting a mortgage and you'll see what I mean. Free market is it? Stay tuned.

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