Saturday, September 21, 2013

Aw, c'mon, Mr. Secretary...

I'm certainly no stranger to cheap demagoguery, but this lump is a sad example of obfuscation and pandering at the same time.
If the Obama Administration had a jazzy slogan like that it might read: Every Farm Boy a Doughboy.That, at least, appears to be the policy of Obama’s Secretary of Agribusiness Tom Vilsack. For months Vilsack has been delivering the same speech at chicken and peas dinners across the country, the gist of which is that America’s farm mothers are brood sows, birthing sons to be recruited into the army and made into fertilizer. Said Vilsack:
The U.S. population is now categorized as 16 percent rural. Despite that low percentage, more than 40 percent of the men and women who serve in our armed forces are from rural America. Young men and women from America’s farms continue to lead the way in protecting our country and making us the top military power in the world.
Farm boys grow up with a sense of wanting to give something back, Vilsack says. If we lose that value system, we’ll lose our military might.Mind you, that’s the USDA chief talking, not the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. Welcome to America’s new agriculture policy: Grow large crops of farm boys for use as cannon fodder. [More]

Jeez - where to start!

A. The author of this article is totally clueless here as well, and apparently unable to google "rural". He conflates "rural" with "farm". Let's try some of that fancy arithmetic stuff: 16 percent of the US population (~320M) would be over 50 million people. WTF! WE constantly remind people only 2% are farmers and we know that's a wild overestimate of the number of actual producers. So where are all these folks?

B. To begin with, there are NINE (!) different USDA definitions of "rural". This excerpt leads me to believe Vilsack's speech inventor is using Definition 7. Wade through it yourself, but it's pretty clear it includes lots of what are clearly "city folk". It definitely doesn't mean "lives on a farm".

[Click to enlarge to barely readable]
Put simply, the current makeup of the all-vol­untary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average sol­dier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower propor­tions of other minorities but a proportionate num­ber of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas. [More]
[Note the above study also uses Definition #7 of rural]

C. I can't find a definitive source but anecdotal information suggests young people are not necessarily driven by fervent ideals so much as a lack of employment opportunity near home, the GI Bill educational benefits, and more chances of equal treatment for minorities.  I'm not discounting patriotic motivation but it is not the only factor and there is no evidence to suggest it is stronger in rural youth. A better link is the much higher unemployment in the rural South especially.

D. It is a tortured chain of logic to link national security to a farm bill and subsidies so farmers will keep supplying sons and daughters to fill soldier slots. Also a little nauseating, IMHO.

Vilsack is scraping the bottom of the barrel here. While I am glad I served, I joined because I was going to be drafted and frankly for a little adventure at 21. It was one of the best decisions of my life, but I did not then nor now imagine myself doing anything heroic. It was my job for 5 years. They paid me to do it.

The Secretary's cheap exploitation of military myths is undignified and uninformed by actual fact.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Given the Secretary's love for the corn based ethanol industry, his rural boys fighting wars for oil rhetoric fit the ethanol lobby's talking points perfectly. Support "home grown" fuel so our soldiers can stay I might land a sweet six figure lobbying job at GrowthEnergy when this stint at USDA is over. Too cynical?