On 8 January Donald Trump sent out three tweets about his latest speech to his base. That day, he spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Most of those in attendance support him strongly, but why? What exactly is Trump doing for his country’s farmers? As far as I can tell, he’s royally screwing them.

Trump’s speech (video here) covered the usual points. There was the standard boast about job creation, despite 2017 being the worst year since 2011 for job creation. Further, the jobs that are created are not in the agricultural sector. In fact, the non-partisan US Bureau of Labor Statistics says,

Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase output per farmworker.

There was also a boast about how the recent tax cuts will help farm workers. However, the wages of farm workers are so low (c. US$22,540 pa on average) that their tax cut will be only about US$5.00 per week. Now when you’re that poor, every little bit helps. And actually, every $5.00 given to a poor person is worth significantly more to the economy than $10,000.00 given to a person in the top 1 percent. (Because poor people spend all the extra they get, and there are a lot more of them.) But, the economy would be much better off if poor people got a much bigger tax cut and the top 1% got nothing extra.

Trump also made much of the estate tax (aka death tax), and how that would help farmers keep their farms in their families. However that is not true. Before the current tax cuts, a single person could pass on an estate worth US$5.49 million tax free. For a couple, it was US$10.98 million. It was only over those values that the tax (40%) came in. And the tax was only on the amount over and above $5.49 million (or $10.98 million), not the whole amount. Further, this amount was indexed to inflation in 2012, protecting farmers in the future. CNN reports:

In 2016, only 682 taxable estates — or just 13% of all taxable estates — reported having any farm assets at all, said Beth Kaufman, an estate tax lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and former associate tax legislative counsel at the Treasury Department.

And those farm assets represented just a small percent of the gross estate values on average. That suggests that for many in this select group, the farm was not the sole — and maybe not even the primary — source of income. It also suggests that there may be other assets to tap if needed to pay an estate tax bill.

For example, Kaufman noted, farm assets represented just 5.4% of total assets on average in taxable estates worth between $5 million and $10 million. That drops to 3.6% for estates worth between $10 million and $20 million, to just under 2% for those worth between $20 million and $50 million, and to 1.5% of estates valued at more than $50 million.

It’s thus extremely rare for the estate tax to even affect your average farmer. As CNN says:

Republicans calling for the repeal of the federal estate tax often claim it makes it hard for American farmers and ranchers to pass on the family business to the next generation.

But most U.S. family farms are unaffected by the federal estate tax.

For starters, about 90% of farms are small — meaning they bring in $350,000 or less in revenue a year, according to the USDA. And the median wealth for farm operator households was $827,300 in 2015.

On top of that, the government is actually understanding about the difficulties farmers can have paying the tax bill when they inherit the family farm. Again from CNN:

But estate tax law does offer options to mitigate the issue of high property values and to give heirs of farms more time to pay any tax owed, rather than forcing them to sell. …

In cases where estate tax is owed, normally it’s due within 9 months from the date of death. But family members who inherit a farm and plan to continue running it are allowed to take 15 years to pay it off if the farm assets make up 35% or more of an estate’s value. What’s more, the heirs may choose to only pay interest on the tax due in the first four years, Kaufman said.

The truth is, the repeal of the tax is just what the Democrats are saying: a sop to the top 1% who make most of the campaign contributions to politicians. Especially, it will save the Trump family tens of millions of dollars when he dies. It will help no one else except his billionaire buddies. So much for the lack of a privileged class in the US. That’s always been a myth.

Trump’s speech was full of the kind of statement he makes constantly to feed his base so they give him the cheers and applause his ego needs for survival. For example:

We’re restoring the rule of law and protecting our cherished Second Amendment.

That got huge approval, but why? I may be wrong, but I have seen nothing relating to the Second Amendment so far in Trump’s presidency. There were several other such pronouncements. I won’t bore you with the details.

Well maybe one more:

… including our wonderful ICE officers and Border Patrol Agents. These are incredible people who endorsed me during the campaign, and they are incredible. (Applause.)

(By the way, the claim that Border Patrol agents endorsed Trump during the campaign has been rated “Mostly False” by Politifact.)

The job the Border Patrol Agents are doing is actually problematic for many farmers. They can’t get workers locally, and rely on those that come over the border, often illegally. The US Department of Labor did a survey of farm workers. An incredible 75% of them were born in Mexico, and 53% of all workers were not legally authorized to work in the US.

Trump didn’t dwell on this topic, and mainly spoke about the drugs aspect of border control. Whoever wrote the speech knows that the reduction in illegal workers is going to cause a huge problem for farmers in a few months time. Unless Trump gets a guest worker programme sorted pretty quickly, there could be crops rotting in the fields next harvest, and a huge rise in food prices due to both food shortages and farmers being forced to pay higher wages to attract US-born workers.

Next, he went onto trade:

To level the playing field for our great American exporters — our farmers and ranchers, as well as our manufacturers — we are reviewing all of our trade agreements to make sure they are fair and reciprocal — reciprocal, so important.

This goes back to Trump’s ignorant belief that if the US has a trade deficit with another country, the trade agreement is unfair. There are three main reasons the US has a trade deficit with most countries, and they have nothing to do with fairness.

1. The US has more people than most of its trading partners. Therefore, there are more USians available to buy things from the other country than there are people in the other country to return the favour.

2. The US is wealthier than most of the countries it trades with. Therefore, USians have more money to spend on goods from other countries than they have to spend on USian goods.

3. The US has higher wages than most of the countries it trades with. Therefore it is simply not able to produce goods at a competitive price. Instead of focusing on labour intensive industries, Trump should be focusing on areas where additional skill and expertise are required, like IT, where the US is still a world leader.

Trump screwed the US farmers by pulling out of TPP. They need those markets. Trump has cut them off from several lucrative markets by this move. He thinks that trade deals are easy and quick to negotiate, and that he can arrange a bi-lateral deal in no time flat.

So tell me, exactly how many trade deals has Trump put in place since becoming president? I’ll tell you. None. Zero. Zilch.

As well as pulling out of TPP, he’s threatened NAFTA because he believes that’s “not fair” either. His announcement last week that he would pull the US out of NAFTA saw the markets dip. When the Wall Street Journal pointed this out to him, he said he didn’t believe it!

WSJ: Did you see the other economy news yesterday? The markets did dip a little bit after some news suggesting that you were going to maybe pull out of Nafta. I wonder where you’re at on Nafta and if you’re concerned about the impact pulling out and renegotiating could have on the market.

Mr. Trump: I’m not sure that markets would dip; I think that markets would—I can tell you I’m not sure about world markets, but I can tell you I think the American market would go up if I terminated Nafta and renegotiated a new deal. …

If we don’t make the right deal, I will terminate Nafta. OK?

Now, do I want to? No, I’d rather leave it, but I feel that if that if—you know, the United States has been treated very, very badly. That has been a terrible agreement for us, and if we don’t make a good deal for our country—we lose $71 billion in trade deficits with Mexico. We lose $17 billion with Canada. If we don’t make a fair deal for the United States and the United States taxpayer, then I will terminate it.

If he really believes the market would go up if he terminated NAFTA, why hasn’t he done it? Probably because people behind the scenes aren’t letting him. Most Economists and others who understand the situation agree that NAFTA has been positive for the US. Many blame the reduction in manufacturing in the US on NAFTA. However, an analysis of the situation shows that in reality, it’s robots that are taking the majority of US jobs, not Mexicans.

Now there is one good thing that Trump is doing for farmers, and the announcement was buried in the middle of the speech:

The task force heard from farmers that broadband Internet access is an issue of vital concern to their communities and businesses. Is that a correct statement? (Applause.)

That is why today, in a few minutes, I will take the first step to expand access to broadband Internet in rural America — (applause) — so you can compete on a level playing field, which you were not able to do. Not fair. I will sign two presidential orders to provide broader and faster, and better Internet coverage. Make sure you look up @realDonaldTrump. Right? (Laughter.) I have a feeling you get that anyway. It’s our only way around the media. Fake media. (Applause.)

Broadband internet access is indeed extremely important for farmers, and this is a good step in the right direction. I hope, for the sake of farmers, that this happens quickly.

He also had this to say:

The task force also focused on the need to rebuild our crumbling rural infrastructure. We’ve already slashed harmful restrictions that delayed critical infrastructure projects for decades and decades. Hard to believe. And we are proposing infrastructure reforms to ensure that our rural communities have access to the best roadways, railways, and waterways anywhere in the world. And that’s what’s happening. We’re going to be spending the necessary funds, and we’re going to get you taken care of. It’s about time. (Applause.) And these projects are going to be built — like I do — under budget and ahead of schedule. Right? (Applause.)

Now if he does indeed sort out the crumbling infrastructure, I will applaud him for this too. However, I’ll believe it when I see it. Obama tried to do this and Congress wouldn’t give him the funds. There seems to be a lack of understanding about how economics works amongst politicians, and they don’t realize that sorting out the country’s infrastructure is a vital investment that will pay it’s cost back many times over.

If farmers want to do better, they need to look beyond the hype and see what Trump and the Republicans are actually doing. The Trump administration is not helping them, it’s hurting them.

And I haven’t even mentioned environmental issues. Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord is bad for the reputation of US farmers. Europeans in particular will choose not to buy food from the US because of that, whether or not their farmers have good environmental practices. But that’s a whole new topic.


Political Tweets

Some Republicans still have principles …
(Via Ann German.)


What I want to know is when the encounter took place. Was he married or single when this happened? I personally don’t have a problem with prostitution. It’s been legal in New Zealand since 2003, and I think that’s good. It’s safer for both the workers and their clients in multiple ways. However, if he betrayed someone in a relationship, then it’s an issue.


Says it all really. If David Duke approves, it must be wrong!


Just sayin’.

At least with Trump’s “shithole” comment, most of us never heard about the machinations of Eric Greitens. And how often do these esteemed former US Navy Seals turn out to be such a$$holes? The Seals are so much into “good character”, that atheists aren’t allowed to join!
(Via Ann German.)


Human Rights Tweets

The protestors in Iran were most upset by the way the conservative clerics have taken all the money for themselves, leaving the poor to suffer. Billions of government money goes to them while government workers remain unpaid.


Another man who doesn’t understand that women are people too.
(Via Ann German.)


There’s a video in the link showing Trump’s history of racist comments. His appalling “shithole” comment recently is just one of a long list that shows how he thinks.
(Via Ann German.)


What will they find?
(Via Ann German.)


Now we know! It’s not because they’re mostly melanin-challenged after all! We all misjudged him …


Science Tweets

This is amazing!
(Via Ann German.)


The link goes to a series of films about women scientists. I haven’t watched any myself yet, so can’t comment on how good they are, but they sure look interesting!
(Via Ann German.)


Sports Tweets

As I add tweets to this post, I’m watching NZ versus Pakistan in a one-day match (cricket). I’m not sure the game will last long enough for me to finish this! It’s 16/6!!! The tweet below is the fourth wicket.


Ten minutes later, and it’s 30/7.

Five more minutes. 32/8. Absolutely brilliant catch by Kane Williamson!

52/9. I better hurry up and finish!


Lego Tweets

This is very cool!
(Via Amy Carparelli.)


Funny Tweets

I don’t know if this is real (I suspect not), but it’s cool all the same!


Entertainment Tweets

Okay, can any of you do this?!


Scenic Tweets

What a beautiful country! 😀


Space Tweets

Very cool indeed!
(Via Ann German.)


And also extremely cool!
(Via Ann German.)


And more coolness!
(Via Ann German.)


Creepy-Crawlies Tweets

Cool pic!

Other Animals Tweets

Cuteness personified!
(Via Grania Spingies/Jerry Coyne.)


Very touching.


it’s her own fault for having a squirrel in the house!


Part five in the lovely Wild Norfolk series. There’s heather everywhere, and even a nightjar! (Trigger warning: there’s a spider too!)


A new creature has been discovered …


Bird Tweets

What big ears you have!


The narrator on this video is very rude about the kakapo, and also mispronounces the name. It’s car-car-poor, and all Maori nouns are singular as well as plural, like sheep. But it’s still very cool.


What a cutie!

Dog Tweets

Typical dog!


Does that mean he likes it?


No comment!

Cat Tweets

Not amused!


Awww …


I think the dog knew it was there!


Designed just for the cat.


It’s clearly instinct!


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