Look Ahead With Restraint

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

We’re finally officially in the holiday season.  Hanukah begins the same day as Thanksgiving this year, a rarity that I’m told won’t occur for another 79,043 years.  We then of course have a sprint to Christmas with one of the shortest shopping seasons possible.  And then, a new year.

The political crowd has been working 2014 for quite some time.  Senator Saxby Chambliss’ surprise announcement last January made the public part of the 2014 campaign start early enough that it is sometimes hard to believe that there are still 11 months of this campaign left – 13 more months if there is a runoff.

Early campaigns have virtually become permanent campaigns.  As such, we’re treated to a constant barrage of “analysis” on our news stations that is little more than setting up the next campaign.  Our politicians, meanwhile, are more than happy to feed the news monster. Talking about the next campaign, after all, takes away a good bit of attention of how little governing is actually going on.

If your family is like mine (work with me here, as I can assure you no family is like mine), when you gather for the holidays you will likely sprinkle some political conversation into the family dinner.  And if you’re following much of the national political discussion, there can be talk of Iran or Healthcare.gov.  But there will more than likely also be discussion about what this means for 2016’s presidential race.

Please. Don’t. Do. This.

2016 is a race for who is sworn in as President in 2017.  Our calendar still says 2013.  As such, there is a lot of governing that must happen well before we decide just to give up and hope for better next time.  We did that from 2010 to 2012 – and not much changed.

Instead, you may want to sprinkle some conversation in about the farm bill. Farmers have been working without a permanent bill for a while.  Whether you support the current version of the bill or not, there are a couple of things to consider.

Farmers are business people, but have annual planting cycles.  As such, continual short term delays make it nearly impossible for them to plan for their future.  The word “uncertainty” may have become trite in political circles, but it can’t be overemphasized here.

Also, farming remains Georgia’s largest industry.  It’s not good for our state’s economy to be hindered by farmers’ lack of ability to plan while waiting for the government to possibly change all the rules that affect the economics of the industry.

There’s also the matter of the budget, which has been a series of short term continuing resolutions for far too long.  At least the members of Congress figured out not to set a December 31 deadline this time, as Congressional spouses have been giving an earful to their significant others about missing large parts of Christmas and New Years for the past few years.

Yet, by mid-January, there will be another spending and revenue plans.  Whether sequester cuts are held and/or new revenues are added will affect most of us well before anyone takes an oath of office in 2017.

For those that must talk about campaigns instead of governing, may I also suggest that you talk about 2014 in the context of the U.S. Senate elections.  Harry Reid’s decision to end the tradition of filibuster for most Presidential nominees makes the control of the Senate more important than ever.

For those still thinking 2016 represents an “all or nothing” game for the White House, please consider what having a Republican in the White House but a Democratic Majority Leader would mean for any GOP President’s future agenda.  Reid has refused to call votes for anything that displeases him, and refused to move a budget for four years.  It is folly to expect him to do any differently should a Republican move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The fact is, with many Democrats holding seats in states where the GOP usually wins Presidential contests, this off year election provides Republicans with the best chance for a US Senate pickup that it has had in a long time, or will have for a long time.  2016 almost doesn’t matter if Republicans can’t do what needs to be done this coming year to win the Senate.

As such, it’s fine to dabble in parlor game discussion about who might run and who might win in 2016.  Remember that the conventional wisdom eight years ago had a Hillary vs Rudy race for 2008 if that helps put punditry in perspective.

But if your political discussions are of a serious nature, steer the conversation to the governing that remains to be done in 2013, and the table that must be set during 2014.  That is the conversation and understanding that we need at this time.


  1. gcp says:

    “As such continual short term delays make it nearly impossible for them to plan for their future”

    Maybe if farmers did not depend on taxpayer subsidies they could free themselves from such “uncertainty” and lack of ability to plan.

    • Charlie says:

      That’s a nice and convenient knee jerk response that has become the staple of the lazy that don’t care to think.

      Think about the comparison to ACA, and the “if you like it, you can keep it” promises. Why weren’t they true?

      Because if the government is making rules, setting prices, and changing regulations in perpetuity, no supplier will invest with the uncertainty that the “market” will exist in any form anticipated by their business/profit model. In the farmers’ case, by the time their crops are grown, they need to know they will be able to sell them for a profit, or that the government won’t restrict what they can sell, subsidize a substitute crop over theirs, or remove the current subsidy that currently shapes the market.

      That’s basic economics, regardless how you feel about the various components of the farm bill.

    • Joseph says:

      While I agree that farmers run a risk being dependent on the hand-out portion of the Farm Bill – there are other provisions of the bill whereby the Government tells the farmer how much he or she may produce and other provisions whereby the Government tells the farmer for how much he or she may sell their products. That’s the problem with Government inaction on the Farm Bill. Fine, strike the handouts – but let’s get moving on the actual government overreach portion of the bill.

      I’m in an industry where our livelihood is highly regulated by the FCC, if Congress had to reauthorize the Communications Act of 1934 (yes – 1934) – broadcasters would never be able to build a working business model and it has nothing to do with a handout from the government.

    • Joseph says:

      And I just realized, we are debating a point that isn’t even important to Charlie’s larger point… we need to stop thinking about 2016 and focus on winning in 2014.

  2. gcp says:

    There is risk in farming as in any industry. Government rules/regulations/subsidies artificially remove or lessen risk at taxpayer expense while benefiting those in that particular industry. Remove these artificialities and let the markets work. That’s what I call “basic economics.”

    Yes I know those that benefit from subsidies and rules won’t like it but one chooses to be a farmer as they choose any profession.

    • Charlie says:

      The risk is from people that refuse to acknowledge how much of this bill has nothing to do with subsidies, and has everything to do with the rules and regulations that control our largest industry in this state.

      Stay true to your beliefs as we crash it into the ground, then be sure to blame anyone on MSNBC for your troubles when it happens.

      Lather, Rinse, repeat.

    • Ellynn says:

      By all means let the market work, just like it did in the 1920’s and 1930’s in the lower plains. We could all use a dust bowl and food shortage like event every now and then to show a flaw or two in a 100% free market captialist world.

      There are reasons the farm subsides and regulations exist. Are some out dated? Of course. But instead of killing them, update instead. When manditory paturization of milk started, antibitics did not exist and the largest carrier medium for TB was raw milk. Look at the change in the death rates of TB from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. That’s due from the goverment regulation of raw milk.

      As long as the commodity markets play God with any fungible it wants (think oil futures every spring), the only thing keeping the price of corn, milk, beef, peaches, soy and pecans in check is the regulations it does or does not have and the willingness of a trader to invest in a future that has known and stable subsidies.

      It’s not just the food supply that is affected. The no.1 use of soy is industural solvents. (Don’t make me get out the third grade primer on George Washington Carver). The biggest backer of farm subsides are not farmers…

  3. greencracker says:

    I think my family will be discussing bag limits, hunting over bait and where you can still buy freon. If you’re far enough out in the woods, little law applies.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    2014 is a prime GOP opportunity especially given 2008 was something of a wave year with the Dems picking up 8 seats for a 58 seat caucus, as there will be 3 current Dem seats on ballots for every 2 GOP.

    Thanksgiving being the 4th Thursday, Thanksgivings on the 28th are the shortest Christmas shopping seasons possible.

  5. seenbetrdayz says:

    We’ll be cutting the political discussions short this year.

    Seeing as how Black Friday starts somewhere around the middle of Thursday now, our family will probably gather ’round the TV set after dinner in order to watch news footage of door greeters being trampled to death by waves of consumers who ditched their families to save 10% on items that will drop by 20% after Christmas.

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