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December 2012 Archive for John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block,

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

Christmas on the Farm

Dec 20, 2012

I hope you had a Merry Christmas this week. This is a joyous time of year as we celebrate the birth of Christ. Friends and family all come together to give thanks for our blessings. We know everything is not perfect here in this country, but just look around the world. It’s not so bad here.
At this time of year, my mind always wanders back to when I was a boy down on the farm. I vividly remember the one-room country school that I attended for 8 years; how I rode my pony to school when the weather permitted.
Our teacher was Mrs. Stevens – managing and teaching all 10 of us, 8 grades of kids in one room. In the winter, the older kids had to bring in coal from the coal house to stoke the fire in our furnace.
As Christmas approached, we all helped decorate the school. We would have a scene of the baby Jesus in a manger. Mrs. Stevens had us practice singing Christmas songs – Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Joy to the World, and many more. We had to be ready to perform for the school Christmas party. All the parents would come and watch their children perform.
That country school is gone. And you won’t find the public schools celebrating Christmas the way we did.
As kids on Christmas day, we would get up early to see what was under the tree. That has not changed. I remember a lot of gifts. A baseball glove one year. A sled apiece another year for my sisters and me.
But, I will never forget one year when I received a pair of high-top leather boots. They had a small pocket on the side of one of the boots to carry my pocket knife. I know my mother ordered those boots with her Sears & Roebuck catalogue.
Of course, after opening gifts, we had to do the chores. Milk the cows (8 of them) by hand. We had pigs to feed, too.
Christmas dinner would be shared with my aunt and uncle and cousins. It would be turkey and all the trimmings. My father would say Grace and give thanks for our blessings. That was Christmas on the farm.
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

Cabinet Secretaries Lunch

Dec 12, 2012

Last Friday, I hosted the Cabinet Secretaries Lunch at the famous Blair House. The Blair House is right across the street from the White House and provides overnight lodging for foreign leaders visiting the President and other high-level officials. It is a beautiful, prestigious setting for a luncheon.

We had a crowd with some sixty former Cabinet members and spouses. This holiday celebration dates back to the Ronald Reagan days. Our first lunch was in 1981, hosted by Marshall Coin at his Madison Hotel. He was able to get six of the Reagan Cabinet to attend, including yours truly. Also, Vice President Bush joined the small gathering. That small group, from one Cabinet, working for one President, has really grown.

We now have Cabinet members from both parties that worked for Presidents going back as far as Nixon and Ford. However, most of those attending served Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Obviously, it is not a political event. It is for fun. I have served as the Master of Ceremonies and leader of the group for the past 20 years. Agriculture was well-represented this year, as it always is, with Clayton Yeutter, Mike Johanns, Ann Veneman, and Mike Espy in attendance. We had Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of everything.

Every year, I ask each Cabinet member to make a prediction. We heard predictions about the economy. "It’s going in the tank." "It’s going to boom." Of course, the "fiscal cliff" was a timely issue. A lot of individuals had a prediction on that subject. More of them thought we would go over the cliff. I said we would go over the cliff. Then, we had some predicting – "Navy would beat Army," "Army would beat Navy." I am a West Point grad and got that one wrong again. I’ve been getting that wrong for 11 years. I said, "We won’t get a farm bill this year."

I reminded everyone about some of last year’s predictions and how wrong they were. One predicted last year, "Newt Gingrich will be our President-elect as we eat our lunch next year." Not even close.
There was a positive, up-beat attitude in that room. We all felt that if we were back in the Cabinet chairs, we would be able to solve the nation’s problems. We had a lot of advice for today’s decision makers.

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


Geithner’s Remarks about Our Debt

Dec 06, 2012

I am still fuming over Secretary of the Treasury Geithner’s remarks on CBS Face The Nation last weekend. Of course, he stated again that the way to attack our debt problem is to tax the rich. That’s fine with me. We all know that in the end the rich will pay more either because of a rate increase or by closing tax loop holes.

The statement that I didn’t like was his response when reminded that taxing the rich would not begin to solve the debt problem. Then he said, and I quote: "Reforming farm subsidies – very important to do – and they can raise substantial amounts of money." A statement like that is beneath the Office of Secretary of the Treasury. Reforming ag programs will not raise a meaningful amount of money. The ag industry already has accepted subsidy reductions. Direct payments will not survive.

Look at it this way. Our government spends a trillion dollars each year more than we take in. For every dollar we spend, we have to borrow 40 cents. A few billion dollars for agriculture is like pennies compared to a trillion dollars. Can’t the Secretary of the Treasury think of a bigger pot of money to help pay our bills? I guess that was just his number one "talking point."

I support cutting ag subsidies. We’re willing to do our share. But, the Secretary refused to deal with the entitlements. That’s were the big money is. He just wanted to pick on agriculture. He’s not alone. The big city newspapers do the same.

Let’s get serious.

I would call to your attention a column written by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post. The headline reads: "It’s the Welfare State, Stupid." He is right. We cannot afford to keep shoveling money out the door that we don’t have.

Of course, we need to help alleviate poverty. But we have to ask the question – who deserves support? How much? How long?

Tightening the screws on the welfare state will not be easy, simply because politicians hate to take anything away from the voters. They might not get re-elected.

They refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of our problem, and they don’t dare give an honest answer on how to fix it. But, in the end, they will have to face up. Because we are broke.

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


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