Farm Belt

The Drought, The Farm Belt, And The Republican Party

Just as has happened often in the past, farmers and ranchers in the South, The Midwest, and the Great Plains are experiencing hard times, with the present drought causing a crisis of massive proportions on a level not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But has the Congress, with the Republican Party in control of the House of Representatives, shown willingness to deal with that crisis?

The answer is NO, because of the battle over the food stamp program, which Congressman Paul Ryan, now the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, wishes to cut over the next ten years, sparking a battle with Democrats in the Senate, as well as the House. Remember that Ryan is the head of the House Budget Committee, and has developed the Ryan budget, which passed the House with all but ten GOP votes, but not one Democratic vote, and was rejected by the Senate, controlled by Democrats.

Many farmers and ranchers are becoming totally disgusted with the deadlock and stalemate in Washington, DC, and that means potential trouble for some Republican office holders in the House, and could lead to some Democratic gains, as the only alternative for disgruntled people in the farm economy, totally exasperated at the lack of action!

The Keystone Pipeline Controversy: Crucial Issue For America’s Future

The issue of promoting domestic sources of energy in a world where America depends too much on foreign sources of oil has led to the promotion by the Republican Party of the proposed Keystone Pipeline from Canada down to Texas as a major solution that must be approved by the federal government before it can move ahead.

But it is not all that easy and settled that the Keystone Pipeline is a good direction for American energy and the American environment.

Here are the facts:

The Pipeline would go from Alberta, Canada through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, and Texas.

The chance of greenhouse gas emissions and oil spills in sensitive areas is worrisome, plus the reality of a seismic zone with earthquake activity as high as 4.3 magnitude in 2002.

The danger to one of the largest water supplies, the Ogallala Aquifer, a major fresh water source, which spans eight states, provides drinking water to 2 million people and $20 billion in agriculture in the major area of the Farm Belt, could devastate the Midwest economy and deny safe drinking water in case of a disaster similar to the Gulf Oil Spill.

The danger to the environment would include harm to migratory birds and other wildlife, and far more devastating damages from tar sands oil which is more polluting than regular petroleum, and could cause long term damage for centuries, all in the name of profit over safety.

The Republican Governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, has opposed the project because of concern as to its effect on Nebraska economically and environmentally. He has signed legislation to divert the pipeline away from sensitive areas in the state, because of concern over its long range impact. So it is not just Democrats who are concerned over the project.

The Koch Brothers, deeply involved in conservative causes, are a major influence on convincing the Republicans in Congress to pressure Barack Obama to agree to the project as part of a tax deal extension for the bulk of 2012, which means “blackmail” is being utilized in reality.

The idea of major employment growth is belied by the facts that only a few thousand permanent jobs would be created, having a negligible effect on the unemployment rate.

The effect on the entire energy picture in America would also be negligible, hardly a blip in the entire controversy over becoming less dependent on foreign oil. It is simply an attempt to force the pipeline on America despite its insignificant impact on both jobs and energy supply.

President Obama wants to delay the project decision moving forward to 2013, but it could become a hot political issue in 2012, and is a controversy which needs a lot more exposure and discussion before an agreement that could harm the long range future of the nation.