By former USDA Secretary John R. Block
Vladimir Putin of Russia wants to raise the age for his citizens to receive retirement benefits. That is what we should do to reform our Social Security retirement program. Russian citizens have been protesting. Nearly 300 people have been arrested. They marched toward Red Square and the Kremlin. Our Congress is afraid to even talk about the subject, even though it is a fact that our life expectancy is so much larger than it used to be.
President Putin wants to raise the age to qualify for benefits for men from 60 years to 65 years. The opposition is so strong that he may be forced to back off of that plan.
Turn to China – their pork prices are spiking. They are experiencing an outbreak of African swine fever. China has 700 million pigs – half the world’s population of pigs. They want to contain the outbreak. Of course, they could just buy more pork from us. It’s more costly with our tariffs in place. African swine fever is not easily eradicated. No vaccines or effective treatments are available. Humans are not at risk, but the virus is deadly to pigs. The disease has spread to four provinces. It will not be easy to contain the epidemic. They might have to buy our pork.
I want to put the subject of immigration on the table. Our agriculture industry is having a difficult time finding the labor to do a lot of farm chores. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has legislation to overhaul the H-2A guest worker program. It is called H-2C. His bill has a lot of critics because it requires our employers to verify the workers’ legal status. I don’t think it is going anywhere now. We need a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and there just isn’t any interest in compromise.
And when we do some day decide to deal with immigration – yes, seal the border. But what about the thousands who have come here on legal visas? Homeland Security reports that 700,000 failed to depart as scheduled. Seven months later, 421,000 were still here.
About 200,000 never leave. That is about how many sneak in over the border. It is time we stopped ignoring visa overstays.
I’m on the farm this week. Harvest time.
John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to www.johnblockreports.com.