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USDA whistles past the Pigford graveyard

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  • USDA has played out its Jimmy Swaggart moment, shedding dollars in place of tears, and now it wants to leap back into pulpit ministry with no questions and no accountability. Most of the media certainly won’t scrutinize the Pigford settlement or any of the other settlements riding its coattails. The suits have hardly raised a pimple on the mainstream’s fanny.

Racism is dead at USDA. Discrimination has gone the way of the dodo. Since 2009, when Secretary Vilsack called for a new era in civil rights, racism and discrimination have been banished to the scrapheap of USDA history.

And what a costly scrapheap — more akin to gold than garbage. A rough tally of USDA discrimination settlements: $1.15 billion for black farmers; $760 million for Indian farmers; and $1.3 billion for Hispanic and women farmers combined. If legislative and man-hour costs are tacked on, that towering scrapheap reaches well over the $3 billion mark. Settlements? Makes you wonder what the high-water mark was for the plaintiffs’ lawyers if they ‘settled’ for $3 billion.

As the green is doled out to a conga line of aggrieved farmers, ‘The Last Plantation’ atmosphere is apparently no more at USDA; buried in an act of monetary absolution. A contrite USDA wishes to be absolved of past sins. But sins require sinners. Where are they? Has USDA fired anyone? Have the guilty been named? Years and years of bias reportedly inflicted on over 100,000 U.S. famers — and no perpetrator to show for it? USDA admits guilt to the tune of billions in discrimination claims — and no heads roll?

Take the black farmer suit (Pigford vs. Glickman) as a barometer: The charges of USDA racism cover a period from 1983 to 1997. There are approximately 90,000 black farmers making settlement claims in this case alone. So how many USDA employees or appointees were involved in abusing these farmers and precisely what were the charges? Was there collusion? Were the employees just solo rogues? How far up the chain did it go? Who knew what and when? Point us to the villains.

How about just giving us the names? Yes, yes, give the U.S. taxpayer ($3 billion lighter in the pocket) the names. The list of names would have to be legion. USDA could unfurl a giant scroll and rattle off all the names — sort of a last exorcism.

No? No? OK, give out some of the names then. No? No? All right, give out one name; some patsy to take the fall. No? No? Fine then, just give us a dead guy to pin the whole thing on. Yeah, a dead guy; a real martyr to the cause. Nice and tidy, nothing to see here people — move along, move along.

Instead, USDA has played out its Jimmy Swaggart moment, shedding dollars in place of tears, and now it wants to leap back into pulpit ministry with no questions and no accountability. Most of the media certainly won’t scrutinize the settlements. The suits have hardly raised a pimple on the mainstream’s fanny. 

On it goes, USDA whistles past the Pigford graveyard, which it assures us is empty. The bodies won’t be dug up — because there are no bodies to dig up. No, not even a single one. Come on ….. who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Jay (not verified)
on Oct 31, 2011

Sadly, this lack of culpability and transparency has become a trend in both the public and private sectors today. To those who write the checks (or at least those who hold the checkbooks), it is obviously much easier to buy your way out of trouble and save face than to fix the action that got you there in the first place.

What reassurance are the taxpayers or plaintiffs given that this will not happen again? None at all.

And, after all, what is the motivation for holding oneself accountable for something when you can just dole out a huge sum of money that doesn't belong to you in the first place?

Jim Bennett (not verified)
on Oct 31, 2011

One, why is there almost no mention of this in the mainstream media? Two, do people not realize that this these huge amounts are being paid out - using taxpayers money? Three, not only is there no public statement of "who perpetrated these wrongdoings," - but to my knowledge there is also no public list of "who" received the money. I understand that the average payout was/is $50,000.

Lannie Travis (not verified)
on Nov 3, 2011

This is why America is in the financial shape that we are in. No accountability from the president down.

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