A punishing blizzard in South Dakota has claimed tons of livestock in 6,000 ranching operations, leaving the conservative, Tea-Party-loving ranch owners at the mercy of their wildest dream: a conservative, free-market, libertarian paradise.
"Some ranchers lost all their cattle. They've yet to find one alive," Christen said. "They're facing absolute destruction."After all, that is what they say they want. They tell us all the time that they want a free market, untainted from the hands of government. Well, not having a farm bill means they have exactly what they have asked for: a free market where businesses (ranches) are free to take their chances and succeed or fail, with no interference from government.
Yet Washington's shutdown has deprived people here of a traditional safety net: Congress hasn't passed a new farm bill to subsidize agricultural producers, and the lockout means legislators won't be voting on the topic any time soon.
But whaddya know. Evidently, there are no Ayn-Rand capitalists in a rancher's disaster land:
Many residents in this conservative region had supported the government shutdown as a way to make Washington more fiscally responsible. "But one appropriate role for these guys is to lend a hand after disasters like this," Christen said, "and they're not here."Oh, really? Why's that? I thought government needed to get out of business. Now that your business is about to suffer massive losses - thanks to the same unregulated free market you advocate - you suddenly need the government? And not just any government - the big, bad federal government. Whatever happened to the "freedom" to ... you know... fail?
But more than that, yes, skeeter, when you pump up an anti-government movement, and they shut down the government, don't act surprised when you aren't able to get your farm subsidy or aid to deal with financial losses caused most likely by that very movement's climate denial. Until people who support the Tea Party and their "small government" nonsense admit that government serves important functions in civic life, and until they begin to stop demanding government help them while resenting it when government helps others, this blizzard and the loss of cattle isn't the last time their own actions will come back to bite them.
The government is not something to be feared and mocked. The government plays a central - and yes, for you Reagan lovers, helpful - role in making the markets not just free but also fair. If you want to claim that the government has a role in mitigating damage from natural disasters to ranchers and farmers (and it certainly does), you cannot then turn around and deny that government also has a role in mitigating the damage from disease, poverty and inequities in our society in the form of affordable health care, anti-poverty programs, and programs designed to bring the promise of equal opportunity for all.
As a country, we should help out these ranchers who may lose everything they have built. But so should we help the child who is going hungry, the single mom who is having trouble balancing work and parenting, the immigrant who has only known one home - America, the elderly who needs support, and the student looking to strive for the American dream. And doing all of this takes something called taxes. Taxes are what we pay to make sure that we take care of our own.
Let the blizzard be a lesson. Let it teach us the need for government, but more than that, let it teach us empathy for everyone that may need help at some point in their lives and our duty, as a society and as a country, to provide that help.