An Invitation to the Pope

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When the Pope visits the US next year, I hope he can find time to come to Livingston County Illinois.  I would be happy to be his tour guide and host.  There is a lot to see in the County, but like most of our foreign visitors I think he would be captivated by our farms.  Central Illinois has some of the most fertile soil on Earth, and our endless seas of corn and soybeans are a sight to see in the growing season.  I could take him to visit some of the farms, and he would meet the farmers who produce an agricultural miracle of productivity year after year.  Most of them are members of families who have been tilling the soil here year after year since the Civil War.  He could hear from them how much toil and capital it takes each year to make a crop.  The Pope could see their high tech combines and tractors, etc, and talk to the men and women who routinely put in 16 hour days, six days a week during harvest time.  He could learn just how risky a business farming can be, dependent on weather, and prices around the globe.  No doubt the Pope would be served food wherever he went because that is how our farm wives treat guests, so he should leave plenty of room for pies, cakes, fried chicken, watermelons, etc.

After the tour, I think I would hold a meeting where the Pope could address the farmers, and I would also invite to the meeting all those dependent upon the agriculture industry in the county, and that would include seasonal laborers, grain bin owners, truckers, bankers, etc.  It would be a very respectful and civil meeting and the Pope could say whatever he wished.

However, I would also ask the Pope about this statement he made this week at a UN conference on nutrition held in Rome.

Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.

I would ask His Holiness what system in the world has fed more people than the free market system.  I would further ask the Pope if free market economies have a better record feeding the poor than command economies.  I would finally  ask the Pope what system, if that is what his frequent criticisms of market economies is leading to, he would wish to substitute.  In regard to farmers, no free market tends to mean that farmers become the serfs of the State, and the land of the farmers is stolen nationalized.  I think the farmers I know would have quite a few questions at that point.

After the meeting all of us would sit down and eat, and perhaps I could then mention to the Pope the food banks run throughout the County by churches and private charities and groups, the food directly contributed to the poor by ordinary people like my family, especially at this time of the year, and how many of the farmers do mission work to help teach people overseas new farming techniques.  In a small county, in population but not in size, like ours the poor are not an abstraction but people we often know, who frequently have family roots that go back far in the history of the County.  The Pope, I hope, would leave Livingston County with fond memories, a bellyful of food to digest and maybe a few things to think about.

 

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40 Comments

  1. Don, it couldn’t hurt to send him an invitation. Or at least a copy of your column along with your phone number. Who knows? Maybe he’ll respond.

  2. You can have him, Don. Keep him away from the northwestern New York City suburbs.

    If he asked to see me, I would refuse to see him unless the price of our visit was his immediate resignation upon the completion of our meeting. For THAT I would meet with him. It is bad enough that he will be in Philadelphia. That is way too close for me. It’s only 3 hours away.

  3. I stated it before. I would not cross Pennsylvania to see the Roman Pontiff. I would not cross the street to see the roman Pontiff. I WOULD cross the street to avoid him.

    Mr. McClarey, the circumstantial evidence is that the Roman Pontiff is woefully ignorant of life in the United States of America and has shown little to no interest in learning anything about our nation. Unlike Cardinals Pacelli and Wojtyla (I use these names because they spent time here before becoming Pope) Cardinal Bergoglio rarely ventured outside of the Buenos Aires Archdiocese. His remarks about capitalism reek with the willful naivete of the so-called Latin American leftist elite who blame the United States for all of their problems.

  4. Stalin starved 30,000,000 people to death in the Ukraine. It was illegal to have food in one’s cupboard.
    “Feed the hungry” was not one of Stalin’s charities. For Pope Francis to lay such an evil assault on honest people could only turn the people off.

  5. This post might have more relevancy if not for the tremendous amount of largesse farmers take from the American taxpayer.

  6. “This post might have more relevancy if not for the tremendous amount of largesse farmers take from the American taxpayer. ” You want to be specific Tom?

  7. Anzlyne,

    The US has subsidies for various crops including wheat, corn, soybeans. Taxpayers have paid over 300 billion in subsidies since 2005.

  8. “The US has subsidies for various crops including wheat, corn, soybeans. Taxpayers have paid over 300 billion in subsidies since 2005.”

    You had better be specific and not just say “farmers”. Livestock farmers & ranchers do not receive subsidies.

  9. Actually that’s not true Barbara. Here are some of the socialist programs available to livestock farmers:

    Livestock Compensation Program
    Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance
    Livestock Forage Disaster Program
    Livestock Emergency Assistance Program
    Small Hog Operation
    American Indian Livestock Feed Program
    Livestock Relief

  10. “Actually that’s not Barbara.”

    “Livestock Compensation Program
    Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance
    Livestock Forage Disaster Program
    Livestock Emergency Assistance Program
    Small Hog Operation
    American Indian Livestock Feed Program
    Livestock Relief”

    Actually it is true. The things you have listed are not subsidies. Also, our family raised crops and livestock for 50 years on our family farm & never took one dime from the government. I resent your generalization like Hell. Now, let me ask you some specific questions. 1. Have you ever gone hungry or been at risk of going hungry? 2. Have you ever had the courage to farm or ranch for a living. 3. Have you ever had to stand in line for food? 4. Why are you blaming farmers for what the govt does?

    Most farmers I know wish the federal and state governments would stay the Hell out of their farms/ranches/businesses. The problem is the govt–not the farmers & ranchers.

  11. I neglected to answer your questions. I have never been hungry but I’m always at risk of being hungry. For example, the socialist Livestock Compensation Program gave out direct payments of just over $1 billion to all producers of beef, dairy, sheep and goats in any county that was declared a disaster area by the Secretary of Agriculture. Now
    I’ve invested a significant sum of money to get an education in a field that currently pays very well. But, if my job is outsourced or eliminated by technology, will I get any compensation?

  12. Some of my farming neighbors took some “relief” funds from the federal govt after a bad year of farming once. The “relief” came in form of federal loans. When our neighbors were not able to keep making the required loan payments because of another bad farming year, they lost their multigenerational farm to the federal govt. 10 years later, the federal govt had still done nothing with the farm or home on it but let it sit there & come to ruin.

    Mr. McClarey, this sudden attack on farmers & ranchers on your blog may not be an accident. Often, animal rights extremists follow me on blogs, take on fake names, make all kinds of allegations against farmers & ranchers, etc. If you do not know this person, we may have a troll.

  13. Barbara Gordon: Sure the farm and house went to ruin. If the commissars had sent somebody to have it they would have been run out of town with tar and feathers. In New Jersey, where I come from, the towns are taking perfectly prosperous farms for the taking, having changed the Fifth Amendment from public use to public purposes (their increase in salary) and selling the farms to housing developers without the change being ratified by three quarters of the states, the will of the people. Its enough to raise the dead.

  14. “And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.”
    .
    Would that now be because the food America sends is stolen by the very governments who are duty bound to care for their constituents?

  15. “Not a troll. In fact, I enjoyed an excellent grass fed filet mignon for dinner.”

    Yep. The grass fed comment does it for me. A troll. I apologize to those who regularly read this blog.

  16. “Would that now be because the food America sends is stolen by the very governments who are duty bound to care for their constituents?”

    Often Stolen or allowed to ruin on the docks when off loaded from the ships due to unstable/uncaring govts in foreign countries who either lack the ability or the willingness to distribute the food properly.

    I have seen stats recently that showed that 70%+ of all the food in the world is allowed to ruin/or is wasted. Even simple things like a lack of refrigeration and/or a means to preserve it such as canning are culprits in the waste. I have also seen stats that show that 25,000 people a day die of starvation around the world on a daily basis. 2% of the American population feed the entire country under our form of govt. with such freedoms in other parts of the world, maybe they could feed themselves as well. Maybe PF should take that into consideration when he is condemning capitalism.

  17. Another frightening thing: Does anybody know personally anybody who was subsidized to their benefit or are the numbers there for us only, while the money has been embezzled or paid out to foreign interests? Has the government helped anybody?

  18. Tom I know its a controversial subject, but our farmers are providing not only food, but are really foundational to our economy. All of the countries where food is plentiful protect food production with price floors. What the world has gained from american agriculture is invaluable
    I know other wrongs don’t make a right– but I would be more sympathetic with a complaint about how we subsidize the NFL, Hockey etc…film industry and tv, and car companies…even foreign ones.
    I looked up a list of the departments over the enterprises we subsidize
    Agriculture
    Commerce
    Defense
    Education
    Energy
    Health and Human Svs. Homeland Security Housing and Urban Dev. Interior
    Justice
    Labor
    State Transportation Treasury Veterans Affairs
    EPA
    Small Business Admin.
    there’s a lot to think over there on that list. First of all, I think of this- what do we get back for our investment? Does it help or hurt?
    Farmers are at or below the national median-for income. Lots and lots of farmers kids are not growing up to go on the farm because of the risk and because of opportunities to make more money elsewhere — we need farmers – we could always look again an the subsidies, but all in all, in that list of subsidized enterprise, I think changes to farm subsidies should be handled very carefully.

  19. “Another frightening thing: Does anybody know personally anybody who was subsidized to their benefit or are the numbers there for us only, while the money has been embezzled or paid out to foreign interests? Has the government helped anybody?”

    I think the words “subsidy”/”subsidize” are being used to describe things that may or may not be subsidies in this conversation. For instance, in the recent historic drought, relief monies were made available to cattle ranchers in some areas of the country in the form of loans to help them make it for the rest of the year. Now, if for any reason, the rancher cannot pay back the loan–they may lose every thing they own.

    A huge percent of the budget of the Dept of Agriculture is nothing but food stamps. Some folks might consider food stamps a form of subsidy because the govt is giving people “money” to buy American farmers food. Also, below market priced food is provided to public K-12 schools for the meals that are sold through school cafaterias to the school age children around the country.

    In poor areas of the country, the federal govt has used huge distribution centers to distribute what are called “commodities.” People wait in line for extended periods of time and give their social security numbers in exchange for things like certain amounts of milk, bread, and cheese.

    When natural disasters strike, if a governor labels given counties in their state “disaster areas,” that designation kicks in various types of available aid to those counties–often low interest loans, payments of money to replace food that was ruined in freezers, lowering of the requirements to obtain food stamps for a given period of time, direct shipments of foods from the Dept of Ag to that local for immediate distribution to the needy, etc.

    The federal govt is a huge customer for our farmers.

    The US Dept of Agriculture is an incredibly Socialist agency. However, so are all the other agencies of the federal govt to a greater or lesser extent.

  20. Having worked in a 3rd world country where I knew of people starving to death and children having physical/mental disabilities/disease strictly as a result of insufficient food–and having had to stand in line to get 2 small containers of fresh milk for the children with whom I worked,–having had to get up at 5:00a.m. to go to a market to shop for needed available food (if it were available that day)–having spent extensive amounts of time on food preparation due to the need for each piece of lettuce/fresh produce to be run through bleach/iodine water to kill parasites before consumption, etc., I I find it very difficult to listen to people in this country (who have never gone to a grocery store that lacked parasite free fresh eggs, fresh fruits & vegetables, milk, and multiple cuts of beef, chicken, pork, and often fish) gripe about those doing the work necessary to bring that about.

    Rant over. 😉

  21. Tom M. is not a troll. He has commented here before on other issues. Most farmers I know would be happy to do away with government subsidies if government regulation of agriculture would also be done away with at the same time. However, I would note that this entire discussion is way off topic.

  22. Thank you, Barbara Gordon for responding to me. I am the one who is guilty for being off topic. So, forgive me please, and know I am working at it. I think it is congenital though. Won’t the Pope be surprised to learn for himself, or through his advisers, that America’s capitalism is communism or fascism at the least?

  23. “Tom M. is not a troll. He has commented here before on other issues. Most farmers I know would be happy to do away with government subsidies if government regulation of agriculture would also be done away with at the same time. However, I would note that this entire discussion is way off topic.”

    Thank you, DRM. My apologies, Tom M.

  24. I am from rural Washington, IL. My brother made a career of ag advertising. A cousin teaches ag business at Illinois State University. His parents were successful at managing a grain elevator, and the a commodity brokerage. Now my uncle expends a huge amount of time and effort with a food bank. So, I identify with you, and you are correct to challenge the Pope.

    The pertinent questions would be on how to make our system more free. I worked in Haiti for two years, and understand subsidised US rice destroyed the Haitian market for its own rice. Earlier American ag imperialism was mostly successful in eradicating the native pigs, based on an erroneous effort to protect US livestock from swine flu.

    Instances such as these present an international public relations problem for US Ag, at the least.

  25. Thank you for this, Mr. McClarey. As the son of a dairy farmer, coming from generations of farmers, when I heard the Holy Father’s statement I had the same thoughts as you have expressed. God bless you for stating it clearly, respectfully, and so well.

  26. Rubbish on stilts Steve. Attempts to game markets is as old as markets. Attacking free markets due to misuse of them is akin to attacking free speech because it is often misused.

    People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
    Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

  27. Seems the issue is more corruption rather than market structure. It also seems that a more open, competitive system would be less (obviously, not completely) susceptible to corruption than a more closed, centralized, controlled system.

  28. to me, when the Holy Father speaks about economic realities, he is not pretending to be an expert. what he is doing is pointing out that our current economic systems allow for millions of people to live in abject poverty even though most of what we (including francis) read is that there is an abundance of material wealth in the world, enough to make sure no one goes hungry, homeless or uncared for.

    for the most part, regulated capitalism is the system that both produces the abundance and that allows millions to remain in abject poverty.

    francis is 100% correct when he says the current system is distorted and imbalanced in a way that allows for is not actually creates the millions living in abject poverty despite an abundance that if properly distributed would reduce this physical poverty to a far smaller impact and for far fewer people.

    unquestionably, capitalism promotes the creation and development of material abundance unlike any other economic theory we have yet developed. equally unquestionably, capitalism does not address the waste and greed that arises from it.

    francis is not the person who controls economies. nor does he claim to be the person with a better economic system. advocating for changes in a system that controls abundant resources while simultaneously leaving millions of people in abject poverty IS appropriately part of the petrine office’s responsibility.

  29. I am pretty sure that “free markets” do not exist anywhere in this creation. all markets, of which I am aware, are regulated. for the most part, they are regulated by powerful men and women, many of whom are not motivated by charity and justice.

    instead of nitpicking the pope’s words, we would be far better off trying to understand the points that are most germane to his words. it is not the lack of material wealth that keep people poor. it is the manner in which the wealthy and powerful regulate the economy that does that. it is not about production. it is about distribution.

  30. “it is about distribution.”
    .
    People cannot distribute something that they do not own. It cannot be that Pope Francis is encouraging theft by appropriation or nationalization. This goes to the heart of the Gospel and the Beatitudes. This goes to the individual’s conscience, to tithing and charity, the love of neighbor as oneself.
    .
    I wonder why Pope Francis spoke this at the UN? The UN only cares for the poor by aborting them.

  31. “it is the manner in which the wealthy and powerful regulate the economy that does that. it is not about production. it is about distribution.”

    Wrong, as economic history indicates. Only free markets have led to widespread prosperity in the history of this planet. Wealth creation is the secret of prosperity and not distribution by the State.

  32. “to me, when the Holy Father speaks about economic realities, he is not pretending to be an expert.”

    Then he really should not make asinine statements like this:

    “We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can’t hold up any more, a system that to survive, must make war, as all great empires have done. But as a third world war can’t be waged, they make regional wars…they produce and sell weapons, and with this, the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, are resolved…”

    The Pope is clearly ignorant as to how free market economies function and it is a shame that he is given to frequently shooting his mouth on subjects where his ignorance is manifest. He does his great office, and all Catholics, a disservice by not recognizing his limitations.

  33. It’s actually in the area of economics that this Pope is most in tune with his pre-Vatican II predecessors. Pope Gregory XVI was famous for resisting the introduction of railroads into the Papal States as he was concerned what that would do to family life. I expect Pope Francis will reiterate and build upon the encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI in his upcoming encyclical on the environment.

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