The Callers Who Sounded Bitter
By Michael Fjetland
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I spent part of Sunday morning listening to the
"Washington Journal" cable TV program talking about the world food
crisis that is a looming tsunami and taking calls from ordinary
people. They had one line for Democrats and another for Republicans.
It was hard to tell which was which since all callers wanted to stop
free trade, cut off food exports to the Middle East, stop giving
money away to foreign countries, punish, etc. The callers wanted to
punish someone for our situation.
They all certainly sounded bitter to me! Every one of them sounded
angry, and their comments were hard and uncompromising. The callers
who sounded white and middle-class -- both Democrats and Republicans
-- sounded very bitter.
One lady caller said that she didn't want to hear about food
problems elsewhere in the world when our own prices are too high. It
wasn't a concern. That struck me as both petty and bitter.
Like many, she doesn't see how that jeopardizes our own security.
I heard no one call in worried about millions of people starving and
fighting over declining food sources. None of them seemed to realize
that this growing global food crisis will affect our own security.
Vietnam did exactly what many of the callers demanded (keep our
food for ourselves). Vietnam stopped exporting rice, causing prices
to jump 30 percent. India is doing the same, cutting global food
sources and spiking prices for people who can't afford the jump.
Food prices are up 40 percent from last year, and the trend is
not stopping. Part of it stems from the rising cost of fuel, and
part because ethanol production based on our food sources like corn
is taking food off the market. That's why bread is now $3 a loaf. We
need to shift ethanol feedstock from corn to nonfood sources such as
switchgrass, which can be grown on marginal land. That would also
preserve our good land for food production and put more supply back
into the market.
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The callers wanted to withhold our money and our support. If this
isn't bitterness, what is? Starving people are more willing to start
wars than well-fed ones.
The problem is that the more everyone withholds, the greater the
problem becomes. People forget that the Great Depression of the '30s
was made worse as countries started imposing tariffs on other
countries and trade slowed down. We seem to be doing the same thing
all over again. The free trade agreement with Colombia is in
trouble; however, it would actually benefit Americans. Colombian
products can be imported into the U.S. without tax, yet Americans
have to pay up to 80 percent taxes to export our products to
Colombia unless we enact the free trade pact. So without it we lose
jobs -- the opposite of what many Americans think.
To solve these issues, especially one involving something as
necessary for human life as food, the world is waiting for America
to move forward with a global plan of action. Let's hope they don't
have to wait too long or else they might get bitter.
[Text from file received from
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