There’s a very old joke that some economists and business school professors like to use for how dairy cows explain different economic systems. It goes like this:
Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives one to your neighbor.
Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them both and promises you milk but you starve.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes them and sells you the milk.
Usually the definition of capitalism is the punch line, but increasingly, fascism is the punch line in the U.S. The joke, of course, can’t capture the subtleties of each economic system, and in the case of fascism, it can’t allow for fascism’s push for a corporate-based state (to sell you the milk). In the U.S., that would be the continuation of a trend long in the works, now with a huge exclamation point provided by the Trump administration.
One of the most convincing indications of this acceleration of the move toward fascism comes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a lengthy account by Vanity Fair magazine of changes at the agency, we learn that much of the “drain the swamp” talk seems to relate to helping large corporations.
Of course, USDA wasn’t just dubbed “U.S. Duh” by farmer-celebrity Joel Salatin entirely as a joke. His sarcasm has been based on the agency’s perceived over-regulation of meat and meat slaughtering, which often penalizes small farms. So the hope by many from the last election was that Trump would send people to run USDA who would reduce and adjust regulations that make it so costly and troublesome for owners of small farms to get their chickens, cattle, and pigs slaughtered.
The initial Trump approach to USDA wasn’t very promising—its secretary was the last cabinet position filled, and the nominee, Sonny Perdue, came from the Big Ag side of farming. It doesn’t appear that things have improved, according to the lengthy Vanity Fair report.
The article indicates that the main swamp-draining steps have had to do with cutting back even further on an already very tight food stamp program, eliminating funding for climate science research, preparing to reduce safety inspections on chickens, and ending grants for rural development. Eliminating climate research reduces constraints on major corporations that burn lots of carbon energy. And on the last point, about ending rural development grants, the fear among USDA veterans is that the funds USDA disbursed will now go to big banks to hand out in the form of commercial loans and such. There’s nothing about reducing regulations to help small locally-oriented farms. And as I pointed out in my previous blog post about camel milk, the FDA’s agenda of helping Big Ag food producers continues to hum along.
Shifting huge sums of money to corporations seems to be a recurring theme in the new administration. Its centerpiece legislative proposal of cutting taxes seems designed mainly to increase profits for large corporations by lowering corporate tax rates. Consumers will get lower tax rates as well, but those lower rates will be offset by reducing or eliminating long standing deductions for home mortgage interest and state taxes, among other items. The net effect will be to increase taxes for many people, mainly those in states that have voted Democratic.
The stated intent is for the corporations to create jobs, but of course there is no guarantee of that. Many large corporations simply accumulate extra profits in offshore banks—Apple, for example, regularly moves around more than $100 billion to the most tax-advantageous tiny countries, rather than allow the money to be taxed in the U.S., where it could be invested in new jobs.
As far as job creation goes, the reality since the 1970s has been that small and medium size fast-growing companies, not major corporations, create the bulk of the country’s new jobs.
I could go on, of course, about recent events that smack of fascism. But I’ll just conclude with a definition of fascism from Merriam-Webster: “Fascism—a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
We’ve seen the nationalism (“America first”), the racism (against mostly non-white immigrants), the absence of support for democratic institutions, and the talk of political suppression (against the media and political opponents). But as we well know, the “economic and social regimentation” often starts with food.
Signs that Canada may have caught some of the fascist bug came in today’s sentencing of Ontario raw dairy farmer Michael Schmidt to 60 days in jail. This sentence, for obstruction, comes in connection with his involvement with his farm’s shareholders in preventing government agents from confiscating farm food and equipment. If there’s any good news it is that he can serve the sentence on weekends.