The Cheese is Back
In these carefree times of 2009, such times of prancing nonchalance, not only has the US Manufacturing Index cliff-dived but commodity prices have too--crude oil has been on a dive none of us will likely see again--and the dreaded dairy price subsidies have kicked in now that milk, butter and cheese prices have been in their own graph splats.
Powdered milk is the first to officially be stored and stamped under the Uncle Sam brand now, but butter and cheese will very soon be stored in stupefying quantities, this little dairy bailout game has been going on for a long time and a mere $350 billion for the banking industry isn’t going to stop it, no way.
Subsidized cheese is a notoriously painful flashback to the nineties, price supports for cheese had been in place for a long time then and there were unbelievable amounts of the stuff, so many thousands of tons of cheese and butter were eventually stacked into so many mountains the government finally gave it away in desperation to anyone who would take it without seriously distorting the market.
I got it and used it in the Navy’n was happy about it, the cheese was good quality and endless supplies of free butter—in these awesome ten pound blocks—is a very good thing for any kitchen. But when I got out free butter and cheese quickly soured into a sad story of American poverty and ignorance.
Food banks and charities eventually received steady streams of cheese, and of course after enough time passed in hard times it became a hustle for those who could get 10 or 20 blocks of it, which is not hard to do. Want some cheese? became a familiar urban refrain as spare some change? in those days, a grim reminder of severe American poverty with the added twist the poor were trying to sell what the government bought to keep others in the money.
By far the worst of it was this knowledge was completely unknown in the urban folklore of the time, it was enough to know that somehow Uncle Sam had become some kind of foolish cheese producer that gave it away to freeloaders. Want some cheese? became a sneer to Newt Gingrich’s rabid followers, a cruel disregard for those in poverty and a blow at those liberals in government, see what happens when you prop up freeloaders too lazy to make it?
Impeachment, stolen election, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina and of course rising commodity prices faded want some cheese? from the modern American scene, but milk prices are going nowhere for at least a year, so rest assured the mountains of cheese are coming back, along with the familiar sad refrain. What will be the American folklore interpretation of the event this time?
After banking, finance, auto and insurance have been on the dole for so many hundreds of billions of dollars perhaps it will become clear our markets have never been truly free, and the setup for those who abused them so horribly is going to cost far, far more than government cheese.
Much more importantly, in my mind, is the fervent hope that want some cheese? doesn’t become the refrain of some hustling freeloader, it’s the total saying of our times, everyone gets their cheese now, it’s just that it doesn’t come in big orange blocks for everyone.
Since Uncle Sam is in this with everyone (jeepers!) the issue then becomes the fairest way to share what we all have. Times are tough, the cheese is back, but the poor are not the problem, not hardly, and if there aren’t any jobs or health care then at least some government bailout will finally deliver something tangible to the little people, finally, no matter how tiny. I’ll take some cheese, yes, thank you.