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December 2010 Archive for John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block, AgWeb.com

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

Happy New Year

Dec 29, 2010

The new year is upon us. Hard to believe. I want to take this opportunity to look back at 2010 and look ahead to the new year. 

In all of 2010, the biggest surprise and most powerful revelation was the Tea Party movement. Coming out of nowhere, the Tea Party rose up and made a remarkable lasting impact on the November election and continues to drive the policy debate.
 
In part because of their insistence, government spending and the budget deficit are now being taken seriously in this town. That brings me to my heroes list. Heroes proposing a courageous plan to cut government spending are former Senator Alan Simpson and former Chief of Staff for President Clinton Erskine Bowles. They co-chaired President Obama’s Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission and that has given added focus to our runaway spending.
 
The next hero award must go to the Republican leaders in Congress and President Obama for cutting the deal to pressure the Bush tax cuts. And even more surprising, giving us a much improved estate tax law which will help to save small businesses and family farms.
 
Another hero that should not be overlooked is Iowa Senator Charles Grassley. Senator Grassley insisted that tax policies stay in place to allow the ethanol industry to grow. Ethanol doesn’t get the respect it deserves for reducing our reliance on foreign oil.
 
And now, as we look to 2011 with a new Congress and a President that may be willing to listen to the people (after all, he would like to get reelected), maybe we can get some things done.
 
  1. Let’s make some serious cuts in government spending, including entitlements.
  2. President Obama could open trade and travel to Cuba. He should do it.
  3. We have three trade agreements that need to be approved – Korea, Colombia, and Panama. Get it done.
  4. Let’s put the brakes on the out-of-control EPA wanting to regulate everything. Anything we can do to slow down the “Nanny State” would be good for our economy.
 
Finally, we need to protect and sing the praises of this great agriculture industry that feeds the world. We have an amazing story to tell, but whether we realize it or not, we are under attack. More on that subject another day.
 
Happy New Year! I am John Block in Washington.

Christmas 2010 Memories

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. We also know it is a time of presents, decorated Christmas trees, and Santa Claus. I also believe for most of us it is a time of reflection.

I think of growing up on our farm. I think of my mother and father and the sacrifices they made and the values they passed on to my sisters and me. When I was recently back in Illinois, I stood at their graveside, and memories came flooding back – baseball games, showing pigs at the 4-H show, pulling weeds in the bean field, gathering eggs from the hen house, milking cows (by hand). I think to myself – have we measured up to the ideals of our parents?
 
I think about my days at West Point and the Cadet Prayer. Those words have stayed with me all of these years. They provide guidance of how we should live our lives.
 
The Cadet Prayer
“May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural. Encourage us in our endeavors to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps in doing our duty to Thee and our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the great Friend and Master of all. Amen.”
 
Merry Christmas! I am John Block from Washington.

Lame Duck Spectacle

Dec 16, 2010

The Congressional lame duck session is proving to be a fascinating spectacle. The Obama – Republican compromise has sailed through the Senate. That should set an example for the angry House. However, House liberals are livid about the provisions dealing with the estate tax. I thought they would focus their criticism on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. But no, they have jumped on the estate tax provisions of 35% rate with a 5 million dollar exemption for an individual. That is not unreasonable for a business today. Look at it this way. If Nancy Pelosi’s House had really prioritized this issue, maybe they could have dealt with it earlier. We didn’t have any estate tax through all of 2010. They did nothing. Now they are throwing a fit. You’re a little late Nancy. The Republicans are lined up to take over the House in two weeks. Sorry.

One more thing that I want to make clear. The compromise bill does not cut anyone’s income tax rate. Not for the rich. Not for the poor. It just keeps the rates the same as they have been for 9 years.
 
There is one other very useful provision that hasn’t received much attention, but for farmers, ranchers and small businesses it can be big. It allows for complete write off of capital purchases in the year 2011. That should stimulate businesses and the economy.
 
Just for the record, I want to say that I have personal interest in doing something to fix the death tax. My father died in 1997. The rate then was 55% (that’s what the liberals would like to see today). The exemption then was only $675,000. After 13 years I am still paying off my father’s IRS estate tax bill.
 
Hopefully now, if we can pass this bill, families of the future can keep more of their hard earned money in the family. After all, they already paid taxes on it once.
 
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
 
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
 
 

It’s A Deal

Dec 10, 2010

The lame ducks may not prove to be as lame as I thought. President Obama and the Republicans have struck a deal. It is a pretty big deal. Bush tax cuts to be extended for two years, a payroll tax cut of 2%, and unemployment benefits in force for another 13 months. And last but not least, the estate tax that was scheduled to rocket to 55% on January 1 will only go to 35% with a 5 million dollar exemption. 

We need to understand this is a deal struck between the President and Republican leadership. As I prepare this radio program, it is not a done deal. It must be approved by the Congress and some Members don’t like it very much. Some hate it. Liberal Democrats don’t want tax cuts extended for the so-called “rich,” and they are adamantly opposed to the death tax deal. I still think it will pass. No one has much of an appetite for allowing everyone’s taxes to spike up January 1. On the positive side, this plan should stimulate the economy, and on the negative side, it will cost a lot of money.
 
I expect most Republicans to vote in support of the deal along with some moderate Democrats. If it does pass, the lame ducks will have something to quack about.
 
I think President Obama has earned a compliment for his courage and leadership in standing up against the extreme left. Instead of just waiting for the Congress to try to work out a deal, he has shown some leadership. That’s what Presidents need to do.
 
On another hot issue, the President has finally completed the new South Korean trade agreement, I see this as another example of the President taking charge to get something done.
 
Perhaps the Republican sweep in the November elections got his attention. Hopefully, we can now look forward to more bipartisan action.
 
So, what’s next? This lame duck session may not do much more. They probably will try to pass the U.S.-Russian Start Treaty and the rest will be handed over to the new Congress next year. That’s fine with me.
 
The new Congress will have a very difficult political job. Have you ever tried to shut off a valve on a water line gushing water out like a fire hose? And you can’t turn it off because the valve is all corroded. It just won’t turn. Well, the new Congress will find it almost impossible to turn the valve and cut off the money gushing out at an alarming rate. And yet, they must do it. We’ll save that issue for another day.
 
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
 
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.

Heartland Priorities

Dec 07, 2010

If I spent all my time at our farm in Illinois, it wouldn’t be as revealing to me. I wouldn’t get this dose of reality that makes me sit up and take notice when I go there. It would just be the same old, same old thing. I’ve been on the farm this week – in the barns, talking to the men that do the work day to day. I met and talked to my neighbors, friends, and family.

The attitudes, ideas, and passions bubbling in heartland America are not the traditional voices heard in Washington, D.C. in the halls of Congress, at cocktail parties, and official meetings.
 
Maybe when the new Congress gets seated, and as the real strength of the Tea Party becomes fully appreciated, we will start to notice a change in Washington that more accurately reflects the mood of the country.
 
Here is what I am talking about. My farmer friends have their own priority issues. You might think the first thing on their mind would be – what’s the future of farm program supports? No way. Not a word about that.
 
At the top of their list is – government is too big and spends too much money. As families and small businessmen, they know they can’t live beyond their means. They can’t spend 40% more than they earn year after year. They reminded me that they can’t print their own money, and that China won’t loan them any money.
 
Erskin Bowles, Co-Chairman of the President’s Fiscal Commission, recently said, “The era of deficit denial is over.” Let’s hope he is right.
 
Their second highest priority is to stop the rush to regulate, especially the EPA. Property rights are a farmer priority.
 
The third priority concern, especially coming from women more than men, is the war in Afghanistan. It’s Obama’s war now and, after 10 years, it has gone on long enough. Our annual casualty numbers have escalated the past 2 years at 455 this year and rising every week. We don’t want to be policeman to the world. We can’t afford it and it’s not our responsibility.
 
A year and a half ago in talking about our troops in Afghanistan, I said, “Bring them home.” I haven’t changed my mind.
 
Heartland America has got it right. Now let’s hope Washington is listening.
 
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
 
Until next week, I am John Block in Washington.
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