strike, either panic or a false alarm will soon enough blow us all to hell. Endorsing Mondale, John Anderson said we must have a president “dedicated to ending, not continuing, the arms race.” Anderson directly addressed the Orwellian theme of Peace through Strength, saying: “What alarms and the refrain of ‘peace through strength’ is that this is something they equate with military power, and it comes across as nuclear superiority. .. . I’m afraid that Reagan’s ‘springtime of hope’ will lead to a nuclear winter.” “An arms race does not lead to peace, but leads to an arms race,” Geraldine Ferraro declares. “This guy has got a thing about arms control, a hang-up,” Mondale said on August 26. “He thinks it’s weakness. He can’t understand that this is strength, and every one of these arms control agreements has been supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because they think we’re stronger with it, plus you’ve got a better chance of surviving as a civilization.” To this, our “Texan” Vice President, George Bush, retorted that the Democrats are advocating “peace through weakness” and “talk as if peace and weakness means the same thing.” His speech writer must have studied George Orwell. President Reagan’s own incoherence on nuclear policy is appalling, but he understands his central doctrine, and on one occasion he clearly described it. Helen Caldicott, the leading anti-nuclear-war activist, told me that during her 75-minute confrontation with Reagan on December 6, 1982, in the downstairs library of the White House, he told her: “I too believe in preventing nuclear war, but our ways to prevent it differ. I believe in building more bombs.” All this now is a question of the quality of our democracy: the level of the people’s information and understanding, the felicity of their grasp of international reality. Will they vote to let Reagan build more nuclear bombs, the MX, the Trident II with the D-5 missile, long-range Cruise missiles, anti-satellite weapons, and ABM systems, despite the certainty that the Soviets’ reciprocal build-up will be as deadly for us as our build-up is for them? Will the people buy Peace through Strength and give Reagan four more years? The continuance of human society in the northern hemisphere quivers in the balance. El Austin ONE TV NEWSCLIP you won’t be seeing during coverage of this campaign: Ronald Reagan asking family farmers if they’re better off today than they were four years ago. It’s unfortunate, because the farmers’ terse and unequivocal response might prove instructive to the President. The rural economy hasn’t been in such bad shape since Herbert Hoover left office and Reagan was still a Democrat. In 1983, inflation-adjusted net farm income plummeted to the lowest level of this century. In the same year, the cost of government farm programs reached record highs, exceeding in one year the combined costs of the programs during the eight years of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The price of major farm commodities sank so low that, if farmers’ only source of income in 1983 had been the sales’ of what they produced, they’d have lost $5.2 billion. Caught up in this Bonzonomic nightmare, family farmers are being forced off the land in record numbers. An estimated 200,000 farmers have left agriculture since Reagan took office. That’s more farmers than now populate Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower is a former Observer editor. all of Texas, the nation’s No. 3 agricultural producing state. The noose is being further tightened by Reagan’s deficit-induced, record-high real interest rates and by three years of declining farm equity the first in 27 years resulting from drops in land values brought on by an understandable pessimism about agriculture’s future. If the statistics don’t tell the whole story, there are plenty of pictures that do: Families watching silently as their farms are auctioned off; Boarded-up storefronts on Main Streets across rural America; Thousands of former John Deere and J. I. Case workers queued up in unemployment lines; An estimated 200,000 farmers have left agriculture since Reagan took office. Empty export loading docks; Half-full classrooms in small town schools; FDIC closure notices taped to the front doors of rural banks. Adding insult to the very real injury they’ve caused, Reagan and Secretary of Agriculture John Block spent the summer doggedly pretending that the farm crisis didn’t exist. Block faced audiences with speeches insisting that “farmers are living better than ever,” even as farm foreclosures proceeded at a pace unequaled since the Depression. “There aren’t as many people in agriculture,” Block conceded. “But those who are in it live better than they ever have been,” he assured us while the average family-farm household’s income plummeted to two-thirds that of non-farm households. “As far as I’m concerned, the farm programs have done what they’re supposed to do,” Block bragged as we tried to absorb the following news: 60 percent of the government farm aid went to the largest 17 percent of U.S. farms; the USDA predicts that farm prices will continue to decline; and the Farm Credit Administration says the family farmer will be extinct in ten years if present policies continue. As the November election draws closer, however, news of the rural reality has belatedly penetrated the Reagan camp. Farmers had been openly snickering at Block’s sanguine assessments, and the panic was mounting among GOP farm-state political strategists. Republican governors and members of Congress were knocking each other over in their scramble to the microphones to proclaim loudly their disagreement with Block. Not even the Wall Street Journal could see it Block’s way. Warning in mid-September that farm troubles were creating “political peril” for Republicans, the Journal neatly summarized the THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 Four Years Late The Administration Gets Wind of a Farm Crisis By Jim Hightower
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