September 4, 2012
By Mike Callicrate
With much appreciation for the courageous leadership of our past president, Fred Stokes, I write my first message as OCM’s president.
I recently asked Fred, “Is OCM irrelevant? How can there be competitive markets without competitors?”
In his important and must-read book, Cornered, author Barry C. Lynn describes how every major industry is controlled by a few companies – cartels, shared monopolies and outright monopolies. Always considered one of the greatest threats to any free society, wealth and power have never been more concentrated. Last week, a spokesman for the Romney campaign said that there are trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines waiting to be invested – all that is needed is the “right business environment.” Really? Does that mean more deregulation, lower taxes for those with billions, a government controlled by moneyed interests, severe austerity measures directed at the victims of our plutocratic past and even greater opportunities to exploit and extract our nation’s resources?
Are we to accept the centrally planned economic system of a few modern-day lords, perched above us on their piles of money and power, orchestrating a phony political puppet show, followed by an election they win regardless of who’s elected? Are a government and an economy that serves the people still possible? One with many buyers and sellers in a fair and competitive marketplace, with people acting as citizens instead of aggressive price-shopping consumers? Are we willing to fully invest our labor and money in rebuilding a prosperous nation with healthy communities capable of supplying and feeding ourselves?
OCM was founded with the narrow mission of restoring fair, open and competitive markets, which our founders believed to be the foundation of a fair economic system. Markets have never been more concentrated or more unfair; the business cartels never more powerful. According to the law of physics, the more pressure we apply, the more resistance we will face. (Please read Alan Guebert’s editorial in this issue.)
Today’s modern-day global robber barons have bought our government. Their agencies are blind to corruption and conflict of interest. The robber barons define the curriculum and control research at our land grant universities. They have divided up the marketplace. They manipulate and fix prices; discriminate against certain sellers, while showing preference to their chosen few; extort cash with pay-to-play deals; and rob from sellers while giving kickbacks to buyers. They block market access with dishonest and exclusionary not-to-buy schemes, while making deceptive and false claims. When exposed, they deny and retaliate. There is no justice; they own our courts. They have worked upon our prejudices, pitting neighbor against neighbor. They have driven the good stewards of our land and livestock out of business in their pursuit of profit through vertical integration.
Sensing the growing awareness and fear among consumers, Big Ag and the industrial food cartel created the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), financed with producers’ own commodity checkoff dollars and other corporate cash. In a clear case of identity theft, the USFRA slapped the face of the real family farmer and rancher on their marketing campaign. Their media minions disparage and slander anyone who opposes them. And, the revolving door bureaucrats and antitrust cops reiterate the script of former Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, who stated, when I asked why he didn’t enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921: “It’s different now; we need big corporations that can do business globally.”
Bill Moyers recently interviewed Indian physicist, environmental activist, and author Vandana Shiva, who for many years has fought for a healthy, fair and honest food system in India, where 250,000 small farmers have committed suicide. She said, “The doors of opportunity are shutting.” Like a plague, the American model of industrial agriculture is destroying India’s small farms and its ability to feed itself. Moyers asked, “It’s an uphill battle you are waging. How do you keep doing it?” Ms. Shiva shared a beautiful quotation from India: “Do not measure the fruit of your action; you have to measure your obligation of action. You have to find out what is the right thing to do. That is your duty. Whether you win or lose is not the issue.”
By that measure, OCM remains crucial. In fact, it has never been more relevant.