It was peer pressure. Everybody's doing it, Bob told Ron. If you want to be popular, you've got to do it, too. And Ron wanted so much to be popular. Did he say no, like Mommy always says to? No, he said yes.
And now you and I and the rest of American taxpayers are paying $50 million to help the Soviet Union buy wheat from U.S. farmers. Ronald Reagan, "the leader of the free world," couldn't stand the pressure from Robert Dole, the leader of a bunch of Kansas farmers. To buy the farmers' votes, he sold out to the evil empire.
He even admitted it. "The truth is I didn't make this decision for them [the Soviets]. I made it for the American farmer," he said. The subsidized sale is "just a temporary policy," declared Reagan. "We're not out as a matter of policy to continue subsidizing the Soviet Union."
We all know how temporary "temporary" government programs are. And besides, aid is aid. Instead of paying the current U.S. price of $110 a ton—as they're supposed to do under a treaty, or contract, signed in 1983—the Kremlin's hard bargainers will now pay $85 a ton, with the difference picked up by you know who.
This subsidized wheat will help the Soviets once again avoid the consequences of their oppressive and inefficient economic system. It could well start a trade war with the Europeans, Canadians, and Australians. And it will help some American farmers keep pretending that their work is economically productive.
That illusion, it seems, is worth any price. "Faced with a severely crippled farm economy and with our agricultural imports now actually surpassing exports, can we afford not to adopt a vigorous export policy to take on the European Community?" writes Rep. Vin Weber (R–Minn.) in the Wall Street Journal. "Would not any reasonable business, faced with stiff competition, adjust to the reality of the market-place, if only to stay in business and prevent bankruptcy?"
If "we" were in the agriculture business, we wouldn't sell wheat to the Soviets at a loss and try to make it up on volume—essentially what Weber advocates. But we are not in business. Farmers are. And they get plenty of money from the rest of us to support their rural lifestyles. (Thanks to all those subsidies, Nebraska last year scored the highest percentage gain in per capita income of any state.)
Weber is right about one thing, though. Farmers do need to adjust to the reality of the marketplace. No more checks for not growing crops. No more rich Uncle Sam to buy the "surplus" they don't want to sell at market prices. No more subsidized sales.
This latest sale does more than reward uneconomic production, however. It gives aid, comfort, and no doubt a big laugh to the totalitarians in Moscow. Our enemies. Bad guys. We spend billions arming ourselves against them. We don't owe them a free lunch, even if it's grown in Kansas.
So, Mr. Reagan, when Mr. Dole comes around pleading for another subsidized sale—corn, maybe, or soybeans—remember what your wife tells teenagers tempted by drugs. Just say no. Don't listen when Vin Weber tells you "everybody's doing it." That doesn't make it right. You expect teenagers to withstand peer pressure. And you should, too.