On 60 Minutes last night it was revealed that big farms, and farm corporations, are getting the lion’s share of the federal funds that were supposed to trickle down to small farmers and businesses. They interviewed a couple of small farmers in South Dakota who are on the verge of bankruptcy. They’ve not seen any money yet. Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue was also interviewed, and he asserted that most of our food comes from big corporate farms, and implied that therefore, that’s where the money should go. He also said if we didn’t like it, we should look at Congress because his job was to implement the rules that Congress had established. So, I wonder who has Congress in its back pocket?
We don’t have to look very hard to realized that the system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. Even before the pandemic, who gained the most from the trillion-dollar tax cut? Was it the small business owner or the working stiff? Did it trickle down? Not so much.
When I worked in Utah, I heard a phrase that gave me pause—bleed the beast. Apparently, it stems from the historical Mormon belief that the beast was the government, and it was OK to “bleed” it by taking advantage of its largess. Good believers who would never steal anything from anyone otherwise were thus encouraged to take from the government—the beast—because it was morally fine to do so. Thus, polygamous wives would trot down to the county welfare offices and apply for food stamps and subsidy payments. Even worse state employees would skip out of work to attend to church functions or to run their businesses or supervise construction of their own houses. There were scandals where regional mental health agency directors were caught using agency credit cards to purchase gas and groceries for them and their colleagues. To be fair, the most egregious shenanigans were prosecuted, and some were fired. I guess they bled the beast a little too much.
I’m not suggesting that all modern Latter-Day Saints adhere to this philosophy. I am asserting that the historical belief that government, “the beast”, is bad and that good believers should be more self-reliant and look to the church for welfare is prevalent. I am asserting that we’ve allowed local, state, and national governments to be corrupt and to serve the interest of the rich and powerful over the little guy. In other words, we’ve tamed the beast and are now using him to do our bidding.
The recent pandemic has uncovered the painful realities of our republic—well, I guess we still have a republic. It has highlighted the health care disparities between the privileged and the disenfranchised, between the majority culture and communities of color, between those who can work from home and those who must go out into the world to deliver our food and care for the sick, and the haves and have nots. The question before us is: when the pandemic ends—whenever that may be—will we get back to the old “normal” or achieve something newer and fairer? Will the beast be bled dry and a new world be resurrected? Only if we elect representatives who recognize the problem and have the courage to do something about it.