Kansas State University ag economist Barry Flinchbaugh, Ph.D., is well known as an entertaining, opinionated and thought-provoking speaker, and he didn’t disappoint when he delivered the keynote lunch address at last-week’s Cattle Feeders Business Summit hosted by Merck Animal Health in Denver.
Through his career spanning four decades at K-State, Flinchbaugh has been closely involved in farm policy and has participated in the development of several farm bills. He has an insider’s knowledge of politics in the nation’s capitol, and makes it clear he is not pleased with the current state of affairs.
For his speech to cattle feeders, Flinchbaugh was charged with projecting outcomes and implications of the coming election. He makes it clear he speaks his mind and happily accepts disagreement, rather than telling people what they want to hear, and he demoralized some cattle feeders by saying he doesn’t expect much to change coming out of November’s election. He believes the Republicans will retain a majority in the House, the Democrats will remain in control of the Senate and President Obama will win a second term.
Mitt Romney, he says, will need at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to win, and he currently polls at about 15 percent. Selection of Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as a running mate could help Romney’s chances, Flinchbaugh says.
He also made it clear he personally is not enamored with either of the presidential candidates.
Regardless of who’s in office, Flinchbaugh says the number-one issue facing cattle feeders is not farm policy, but the overall health of the economy. Beef is somewhat of a luxury product, and when people make more money or feel more financially secure, they eat more beef. Unfortunately, Flinchbaugh isn’t optimistic about economic recovery given the current state of politics in Washington D.C.
Without a comprehensive budget agreement by December 31, the George W. Bush tax cuts will expire and massive automatic spending cuts will kick in, likely leading to a fiscal crisis and a reduction in the nation’s credit rating. But with the atmosphere in the capital more dysfunctional, mean-spirited and partisan than ever, Flinchbaugh does not expect Congress to reach an agreement. He says he longs for the days when Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill were able to work together to reach compromise agreements in spite of vast differences in opinion.