There are days I must admit that I am just old-fashioned, so here goes my admission: I still do my financial records on paper. One little book for income, the same size book for expenses—it just fills up faster.  

As I am writing in the column titles necessary for keeping track of this year’s expenditures, the Spending Rule of Three comes to mind:

  1. How necessary is this?
  2. Do I need it now?
  3. Is it a one time expenditure or a continual expense?

Asking those questions and answering honestly would probably result in less bookwork for me, and no doubt, I would be just as satisfied with life.

If true for me, then these are questions that I would expect a school board,  county supervisors and every governmental official to ask on any item that is in the budget.

I wonder what would happen if congress would sincerely debate any bill presented to them on those terms. It would have to be done with a statesman mentality—what is best for the country. Think Constitution.

It’s has been a long time since that the Spending Rule of Three question has been asked by anyone. Lobbyists, with their pockets full of bribes and endless money do a pretty good job of spending your money and mine on appropriations, grants and subsidies that quickly fill the expense book.

Much as I find railroad history fascinating, it is disturbing how the railroads courted governmental officials.  There are plenty of scandals in our history books to study, even a bill  that guaranteed the railroads a six percent profit over “honest” expenses. No questions asked, even if supplies came from crony business partners.

Some say the railroads got what was coming to them when America’s love with the automobile and the creation of the interstate road system changed the transportation industry.

Subsidies and tax breaks have become imbedded into our thinking.  Subtly, they take away our independence; in order to get the money we have to make concessions. Eventually, that money is considered a source of continual income.

Proof of that comes when we realize after a century of tax breaks and subsidies, the petroleum industry and many other entities still receive them. It appears that it’s awfully hard to be weaned from this ‘free’ money.

Absurdly as it sounds, the sweet deals they ‘tweak’ out aren’t totally free—money spent for lobbyists salaries and payoffs tend to equal the money received. Things seem to be a bit upside down when companies have as many lawyers on staff as those who are the productive employees actually working.

Agriculture has become part of the mix. We want the subsidies for our products, yet demand they end for competitive businesses. We may start to think we deserve it, we work hard or others have more than us, and the government ought to equalize things.

If that were so, really tall people might have a legitimate claim. It’s not fair they have to pay extra for clothing. They could demand laws against clothing manufacturers for charging more. Perhaps even a tax rebate.

Most any campaigning politician will tell you what they think you want to hear: “Of course! You deserve it,” promising that once elected he/she will make your wishes their first priority. Those same exact words will be repeated at the next political stop for a different cause.

Farmers or anyone else, and that means everybody, are not entitled to any more consideration than anybody else. On the other hand, they are not entitled to less. Simply put, we should not ask Congress for anything we wouldn’t want to see given to anyone else.


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]