Back in the early '80s, we received a phone call from a new farmer who wanted to purchase some equipment. That evening, I met Rick, and he proudly showed me his new farm and small herd of Holstein cattle.
He invited me inside to meet his wife and kids. Millie offered me a sandwich and introduced me to their two children, a boy and girl obviously the same age. I commented, "Wow, twins, that's great!" She replied, "Not exactly, they were born 6 months apart."
At that point I was thinking: "Be real careful, Chuck. You've only known these folks for 15 minutes. Try to figure this out without asking any stupid questions." I sat there looking like a dog watching TV and finally had to ask: "How did you manage that?"
They all had a big laugh, and Millie said, "We gotcha; our children are adopted." They were a great family, and we became good friends.
The late '70s and early '80s were a time when America was going to feed the world. Milk was bringing a good price, machinery and feed were reasonable, and government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration were lending money to grow and expand.
Many farmers had borrowed to build on and increase their capacity. When done, more money would be lent for additional cows, but the money ran out. The FHA and other government lenders halted their loans, and farm families were stuck. Loans that were "promised" never materialized.
Sadly, farmers had extended their barns, installed a new pipeline and bought a bigger bulk tank, but now with the recession they had no further loans to purchase additional cows. Without more cows, the new payments could not be made.
Rick and Millie were such a case. I remember the day of their auction. As it began, they took their children up to the farmhouse, turned around on the porch as if to say goodbye to their dreams, put their arms around each other and went inside. They couldn't bear to see their cows and equipment sold.
The loss was not only material. A few years later, they would lose each other. In the '80s, that's the way it was. People suffered, moved on, started over and didn't cry about it.
Here in 2011, we have a scene in Madison, Wis., that is a shining example of how far we have come. Teachers, yes teachers, occupying a state capitol like a bunch of '60s radicals storming the dean's office! Why? Is it because they have to contribute to their health care fund? Not totally. Collective bargaining is the main issue!
According to Fox News, the average teacher's compensation in Wisconsin is $85,000. Not too shabby! If their new health care contribution is even $3,000 per year, that is a "cut" in pay of 3.5 percent.
In a time of record bankruptcies, home foreclosures and business failures, is that too much to ask? We have seen times when farm equipment sales are off by 50 percent and dairy farmers have had years where their income has dropped more than 40 percent. We don't riot, we work harder and smarter.
With collective bargaining, pay raises are negotiated collectively. Every teacher in the state gets the same percentage raise in addition to the cost-of-living raise. Individual performance has nothing to do with it, hence the term "collective."
That must be nice! Can we in the private sector get on that bandwagon? Pay raises must be earned. If a business produces a better product or service, it and its people prosper. If it falters, employees take less pay, get laid off or find a new job.
In education we are not producing a better product. It is wrong to blame just the teachers. The fault also lies with school districts, parents, Albany and even Washington. As the cost of education skyrockets, America has fallen worldwide to 33rd place in reading, 27th place in math and 22nd place in science.
Yet we see signs in Madison that say: "If you can read this, thank a teacher." Or should it say, "thank spell-check"? And, who do we thank for the tattooed, long-haired, multiple-pierced cashier at Walmart who can't make change?
If one figures total taxation, including federal, state, county, school, property, sales, etc. … it totals between 60 and 65 percent. It is discouraging to work and pay more than 60 percent of our earnings in taxes and have people, paid by that tax dollar, continually scream for more and staunchly refuse to take less.
NOTICE: The CNY Tea Party Patriots organizational meeting will be held Saturday, April 9, at the 6th Ward Athletic Club on Broadway in Oneonta. It starts at 2 p.m., and all are welcome to attend.
Chuck Pinkey is the owner of River Valley New Holland Inc. in Otego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.