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Commentary: Trump, Cramer suddenly thinking short-term

Rep. Kevin Cramer speaks with President Donald Trump at Scheels Arena in Fargo on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.David Samson / Forum News Service

There was a time not so long ago when Republicans looked at a government bailout as socialism. There was a time not so long ago when Rep. Kevin Cramer viewed farm country's skittishness over President Donald Trump's trade war as "hysteria."

And by not so long ago we mean, like, Monday.

That was before the president's administration announced it was ready to throw $12 billion at farmers as a way to assuage their fears over Trump's escalating, tariff-fueled war with China, Canada and others.

And by assuage their fears, we mean bribe them to vote Republican in November's mid-term elections.

Make no mistake, that's what the "trade assistance" made public Tuesday, July 24, is all about. Trump's tariffs are back-firing among loyal constituents who helped put him in the White House and now the administration needs a way to calm the waters before Nov. 6, so Midwestern GOPers in competitive races, like Cramer, don't feel the wrath of voters.

The fear for Cramer, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, is that Trump will be blamed for trashing the farm economy in states like North Dakota because China is already retaliating by putting tariffs on American commodities like soybeans. The potential exists for North Dakota soybean farmers to be devastated by Trump's trade war.

And because Cramer's personal brand and path to defeating Heitkamp is wholly tied to Trump, the potential exists for him to be devastated by proxy.

So Trump's answer is a government program to pay for farmers' losses in case his trade war threatens the family farm. Some would call it welfare. The administration prefers the term "emergency aid," a phrase normally used in the case of natural disasters and not self-inflicted tariff damage.

Cramer, of course, tweeted support for Trump's plan because to do anything else would require Cramer to temporarily remove his tongue from the president's boots.

Republicans, particularly stridently conservative ones like Cramer, have long objected to the federal government providing subsidies for private industry. They also squawk about the federal deficit and out-of-control government spending. Adding $12 billion to the taxpayer credit card to keep select businesses afloat would run contrary to those principles.

Funny thing, though. It was only a few months ago when Cramer dismissed criticism of Trump's tariffs as "hysteria" and scolded farmers for not having "a very high pain threshold." Be patient, Cramer said, it was all about the long game.

Now it's all about the short-term. Trump's bailout is a Band-Aid for November, without any assurances about long-term markets and future crops. If you're a farmer in late 2018, with Trump's trade war in full mushroom cloud and the short-term fix already spoken for, how can you possibly make any future planting decisions?

The administration's announcement and Cramer's support of it is purely political, throwing money at a problem that didn't exist before Trump created it in hopes of dousing a fire.

There can be no other explanation for Republicans supporting a taxpayer-funded bailout of an issue Cramer called unfounded hysteria not long ago.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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