Former Ag Secretary John Block –
Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.
And now for today’s commentary—
Last week, I talked about the farm bill and prospects for passage. This week, I want to focus on a series of current issues. These are my thoughts:
Immigration Reform – We desperately need to get it done. If we don’t, who’s going to milk the cows? Who’s going to butcher the hogs? Agriculture is pushing to pass the legislation. Even president Obama is behind a bill. It’s certainly not done yet, but I am still optimistic.
Spending and Budgets – We don’t have any consensus here. The House budget, according to Paul Ryan, if it passed, would bring us into balance in 10 years. The Senate budget relies much more on new taxes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything to deal with the run-away entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. President Obama’s budget takes a small step toward reducing the entitlement programs, but still projects deficits as far as the eye can see. There is one item in the President’s plan that has gone almost unnoticed. In order to raise more money, he wants to take away the relief that small businesses and farmers got with estate tax changes passed at the end of last year. He wants to raise the tax rate from 40% to 45% and lower the exemption from $5 million to $3.5 million – also eliminate the inflation index. After the improvement in the law that we just got, he wants to take it away. I don’t expect that will happen. I don’t think any of the three budgets will be enacted. Will we get a compromise bill? Even that is doubtful. A side note is that Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has announced his plan to retire at the end of this term. He has been a champion for ag interest – a supporter of immigration reform and a defender of reducing the burden of the death tax. I worked with Max Baucus when I was Secretary of Agriculture. He will be missed.
Syria – there is no easy solution. Do we arm the opposition? Do we establish a “no fly” zone? President Obama is being criticized for not doing enough. I think he is right to hold back. The thing we don’t need is another war. Let the Middle East boil in their own oil. They don’t want us to help them anyway.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
Next week, I will be down on the farm. Let’s get that planter in the field. I am John Block from Washington.