My Point of View: What does the Golden Rule mean to you in your life?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

How do we expand representation in rural Minnesota?

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Brad Kramer referred to a World War II veteran in his last column to counter my criticism of Congressman Brad Finstad recognizing a huge, vertically integrated hog producer at the U.S. Capitol. It was a strange leap to suggest I am against everything Finstad does, including recognizing veterans.

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By the same token, Kramer also insinuated that I’m anti-veteran, which is disgusting. My dad is a Vietnam veteran and my nephew is an active duty Marine.

Furthermore, Kramer scolded me for criticizing one of the largest hog producers in the U.S. because it’s “woman-owned.” (Christensen Farms is owned by the widow of its founder.) He also implied that I support foreign-owned conglomerates instead, as if that’s the only possible alternative to domestic concentration. Again, he was trying to divert attention from my point, which is that Rep. Finstad is in the pocket of huge farmers to the detriment of smaller producers.

Women are overrepresented among smaller producers. A politician who wants to help women operators should focus more on helping small farmers, not larding up the biggest farmers with the vast majority of government assistance and giving them more leverage to buy up the best land.

One of my relatives took over his dad’s farm and expanded it. In the last 12 years, he and his spouse have collected over $1 million in agricultural subsidies from the federal government. Earlier this year he and his family rented a yacht in the Caribbean along with another family. The weeklong package included a captain and an on-board chef. Nice, huh?

I support subsidies, I just think they should be targeted at smaller and medium-sized producers, and they should prioritize crops that arrive on our plates in recognizable form rather than ultra-processed machine-formed shapes. But not Finstad. He doesn’t want to tell any farmer they’re too big to qualify for additional government assistance. The USDA aid he does want to restrict, though, is food aid for people in or near poverty.

We heavily subsidize inedible field corn compared to most other crops, creating an oversupply, and Finstad thinks our government should find more foreign markets to dump it in so farmers like him can grow more government-subsidized acres of it.

Government subsidies for commodities also inflate land values. Thus, subsidies enrich landowners, whether they are farming or renting it out. Even worse, Finstad favors repealing the federal estate tax (despite the exemption already being $27 million for couples) so that the tippy top of wealthy landowners can pass their estates to heirs tax-free.

Finstad’s favored policies lead to further concentration of land ownership. “A fiefdom in every township” is a far cry from a chicken in every pot.

Brad Kramer seems unaware that I’ve repeatedly railed against unlimited campaign spending that has distorted our elections ever since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

It is, however, fitting that Kramer would single out Alida Rockefeller Messinger, who donates generously to Democratic candidates rather than giving to Republican candidates who would help her reduce her tax liability on the fortune she accrued through the hard work of being born.

The Republican agenda is pro-greed, pro-exploitation, pro-patriarchy and pro-extraction. This doesn’t sound appealing to a lot of voters, so Republicans call themselves “pro-life” which, like the Citizens United organization name, is a cover for something much different.

A great-granddaughter of Standard Oil’s founder donating large sums to systematically improve the lives of people who emerged silver spoonless from their mother’s wombs is helpful to Democrats’ pro-social goals, but our laws should not allow people to give that much money to campaigns.

What is the Golden Rule to you? Is it, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

Or is it, “Those who have the gold make the rules”?

The first one is the operating philosophy of the Democratic Party. (It’s also a teaching of Jesus.) The second one is the operating philosophy of Trumpism/MAGA.

Vote for the one that reflects the shape of the world you want to live in.

Absurdly, Kramer insinuated that Rachel Bohman is writing my columns about Finstad. I take that as a compliment, because she’s a brilliant lawyer who cares about people in rural

Minnesota like I do, but I always write my own columns. I grew up on a farm, I’ve followed farm politics since the Farm Crisis, and I earned a masters degree in rural sociology. Kramer also once called me an “overeducated idiot” on Facebook. There’s no such thing as too much education. Education is power.

We need representation for everyone in rural southern Minnesota, and that’s why we would be wise to choose Rachel Bohman to represent us in Washington.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.