Walking over soggy lifeless crops, Brett Adams, a fifth generation Nebraska farmer, paused to catch his breath. Under the dark grey clouds of the Midwestern spring, he was forced to come to terms with an alarming reality: 80% of his farmland was under freezing floodwater.
In March 2019,inundated America’s breadbasket, a region that’s also a key exporter of corn and soybeans to the world. Much of the Midwest was overwhelmed with as a result of torrential rains, frozen ground unable to absorb more water, heavy snowmelt, and a series of extreme weather events that culminated in a major winter storm—described by meteorologists as a “ .”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for the management of the country’s levee systems, say they’ve seen record runoff in the past 15 years. This historic flood has made it clear that unpredictable weather patterns are. After massive flooding in 2011, the Corps had to repair five breaches. So far in 2019, they are dealing with 50.
“Our current goal is to close all the breaches by March of 2020,” said Matthew Krajewski, the Readiness Branch Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. However, if the Corps were to update the levee to newer engineering standards — to help it withstand the rising flood levels predicted in the coming years — they would need funding approval from the U.S. Congress.
A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the U.S has seen the wettest 12 months on record, with an average of 38 inches of rain falling from July 2018 to June 2019.
Adams put it in personal terms. “When I was a kid,” he said, “an inch of rain, or an inch and a half of rain, was a big deal. Now it’s like we get four- or five-inch rains all the time, or six-inch rains, even. That was unheard of.”
“I’m not a climate change guy, as far as climate change, global warming, or any of that stuff,” Adams said. “But have I seen the weather change in, say, my 20-year farming career? Absolutely.”
In response to these troubling changes, some farmers in Nebraska are considering new solutions to keep their businesses afloat. One of those farmers, Graham Christensen, travels the country discussing a green farming initiative called regenerative farming.
America’s immigration crisis right now is that we don’t have enough immigrants.
.. First: The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low. In May, The Times reported that women “had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007, despite the fact that there were an estimated 7 percent more women in their prime childbearing years.” That’s a harbinger of long-term, Japanese-style economic decline.
.. Second: Americans are getting older. In 2010 there were more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2050 the number will be closer to 90 million, or an estimated 22.1 percent of the population. That won’t be as catastrophic as Japan, where 40.1 percent of people will be over 65
.. Third: The Federal Reserve has reported labor shortages in multiple industries throughout the country. That inhibits business growth. Nor are the shortages only a matter of missing “skills”: The New American Economy think tank estimates that the number of farm workers fell by 20 percent between 2002 and 2014, accounting for $3 billion a year in revenue losses.
The same Trumpian conservatives who claim to want to save the American heartland from the fabled Latin American Horde are guaranteeing conditions that over time will turn the heartland into a wasteland.
.. Fifth: The immigrant share (including the undocumented) of the U.S. population is not especially large: About 13.5 percent, high by recent history but below its late 19th century peak of 14.8 percent. In Israel, the share is 22.6 percent; in Australia, 27.7 percent
.. It was nice to hear Republican legislators decry the family separation policy.
.. there’s no sugarcoating the fact that a plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, favored it, while only 32 percent were opposed
.. This isn’t a party that’s merely losing its policy bearings. It’s one that’s losing its moral sense. If anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools, then opposition to immigration is the conservatism of morons.
.. It mistakes identity for virtue, entitlement for merit, geographic place for moral value. In a nation of immigrants, it’s un-American.
It would seem that for the Republican Party, an incompetent, erratic kleptocracy might just be the best form of government.
Or at least it was until March 1, 2018, the day Trump signaled his intention to impose across-the-board import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. That decision, notes Pat Roberts, a Republican senator from Kansas, “is not going to go down well in farm country.”
.. His worry now is that Trump will pursue “a trade policy that will basically result in all the benefits of the tax reform being taken away by higher manufacturing costs being passed on to consumers.”
.. In the end, American consumers will pay for Trump’s tariffs. Such broad protectionist measures will affect every sector of US manufacturing in one way or another, and manufacturers certainly will not eat the full costs of higher-priced steel and aluminum inputs.
.. So, Trump has essentially proposed a new tax on US consumers and export industries, the costs of which will be borne largely by his own supporters in the American heartland and Rust Belt.
.. It turns out that Trump’s decision was taken against the advice – indeed, over the objections – of not just his
- chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, but also his
- national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, his
- treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and his
- defense secretary, James Mattis.
On the other hand, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross apparently favors the tariffs. But it is not at all clear why. The Department of Commerce itself surely recognizes that more Americans benefit from lower steel and aluminum prices than from higher prices.
Another supporter of the tariffs is Peter Navarro, who was recently promoted to Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and Director of the White House National Trade Council. That comes as no surprise. Navarro has written a number of alarmist books about America’s trade relationship with China, including one titled Death by China. Nevertheless, Navarro has not yet been able to explain how creating a larger domestic steel industry through tariffs will yield a net benefit for the US economy.
A final key supporter of the tariffs is US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who formerly worked as a lawyer for the steel industry. As with Ross, it is not entirely clear what Lighthizer is thinking. He has to know that Trump’s tariffs will have little to no chance of boosting the US steel and aluminum industries without also imposing substantial costs on the economy. Doesn’t he realize that his own reputation will ultimately depend on whether the administration has a successful trade policy or an obviously stupid one?