Woody Guthrie had a lot to say about the greed of bankers who made crop loans at usurious interest rates to hardscrabble farmers, then foreclosed on them when they couldn’t pay off the loans, leaving thousands of farm families homeless. Woody mocked them with a sarcastic anthem, singing, “I’m a jolly banker, jolly banker am I.” He also penned a stinging verse about their thievery: “Some’ll rob with a six gun/ some with a fountain pen.”
But even this populist poet of the people would be astonished by the shameless grabbiness of today’s farm lenders. After decades of systemic, scandalous discrimination by bankers against Black and other minority farmers, the Biden administration is now moving to pay off the onerous level of long-term bank debt that has shackled these good farmers, thus giving them a fair shot at getting ahead.
“Oh no!” squawked the American Bankers Association and other groups of ag lenders. Why? After all, they’d be getting back the money they had loaned out. Yes, say the fountain pens, but we would lose the interest payments each of those farmers would have had to send to us over the months ahead. We want American taxpayers to cover the total interest income we would have gotten from gouging Black, Latino, Native and other minority farmers. They insist that their profits and the financial interests of their rich investors must take priority over the needs of a bunch of non-white dirt farmers.
Wait, the bankers’ greed intensifies! If the government doesn’t fully compensate them for their so-called “lost interest income,” the ag lenders (backed by Wall Street barons) are openly threatening that they will cut off future loans to farmers and ranchers of color.
So, the jolly bankers’ drumbeat of rank discrimination keeps pounding. To help stop it, connect with the National Black Farmers Association: www.BlackFarmers.org.
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at www.hightowerlowdown.org.