This and That

March 6, 2014

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— 

Let’s review a couple of issues today. Start with our farm bill – I’m glad it’s done. At least the Congress did accomplish something. On the positive side, the legislation turns to crop insurance as the principal safety net and away from direct payments. My criticism of the bill is that I think it is too complicated and tries to do too much. And, when the government does too much, markets can be distorted. 

There has been a lot of talk about the President’s budget. Secretary of Defense Hagel’s call for major reductions in troop strength resulted in a loud objection from some Republicans. We have been at war for more than a decade, resulting in thousands of our brave, young men and women dying in a Godforsaken foreign land. And, for what? I feel so sad to watch our wounded warriors on television, missing arms and legs. What did we accomplish? I doubt if we are any safer and, after spending billions, the countries are still dysfunctional. 

In case you didn’t know, we spend 600 billion dollars on our military every year. That is more than the next ten countries combined – China at 112 billion and Russia at 68 billion. We spend nine times more than Russia spends. We have troops stationed all over the world – 60,000 troops in South Korea and 40,000 in Europe. A good case can be made to reduce our military footprint. We have done it before. When the Soviet Union collapsed, we cut our military back under Presidents Bush and Clinton. 

Now that I have made the case for a more defensive military posture, we must consider whether Russia’s invasion of Crimea (part of Ukraine) should change our strategy. Here is how I see the situation. Russia may continue to hold Crimea and maybe peel off a little slice of the Eastern side of Russian-speaking Ukraine. I hate to see this. I have traveled through Ukraine from top to bottom. Beautiful farm land. Number 2 corn exporter in the world. 

But, I don’t expect that we will deploy any troops to stop Russia – nor should we. We don’t have very much leverage. Economic sanctions could be used, but they won’t change anything. Let’s accept the fact that we cannot manage the whole world. 

And, with my time running out, I will take up some other issues next week. 

Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.