With the federal government shut down for the rest of 2018, hundreds of thousands of public employees will be furloughed without pay. With Donald Trump’s hard line insistence on getting 5  billion dollars to build his wall to keep out Hispanics,  there is not enough money to pay Federal workers.

This is reminiscent of a stunt pulled by Congressman Newt Gingrich 23 years ago when he moved to shut down the government. This tactic was opposed  by Tip O’Neill was the Speaker of the House. It paved the way for Gingrich to become Speaker when the Republicans gained control of the House in 1994.

However, Gingrich had his own ethics problems and had to resign from  Congress in 1999. Gingrich has not given up on being a leader. In 2016, he threw his weight behind Donald Trump in an effort to become Trump’s  running mate. However Trump was smarter than that. If only Trump was also smart enough to learn from Gingrich’s bad experience in shutting down the government.

Michael R. McLeod

I began the week with the sad news that former Secretary of Agriuculture Bob Bergland of Minnesota had passed away. As the agricultural advisor to the Presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter I had the opportunity to help Bergland get appointed to the job.

I was in New York at the Democratic Convention when I called Bergland to see if he wanted the job. I called his home number and his wife answered. She said that he was out on the farm hauling gravel. He called me back to say he was interested.

My next contact was when President Carter appointed him to the job. The Senate Agriculture Committee, where I was the General Counsel and Staff Director, had the responsibility to confirm him. We unanimously approved him immediately after the hearing.

Bergland’s tenure as Secretary was marred by President Carter’s Russian grain embargo. Angry farmers demonstrated in Washington. They invaded Congress and the Department of Agriuculture. I hated to see this, as well as the fact that Carter was a one term President. However, both were fine men. Bergland passed away at 90 years of age and President Carter is still alive at age 94.

Michael R. McLeod

Like many Americans, I was glued to the television viewing the funeral ceremony of former President George HW Bush. I never got to know him personally but I knew from meeting him a few times that he was a very good man. He was the antitheses of our current President Trump.

We could use a few of Bush’s sayings such as “a thousand points of light” and “a kinder gentler nation”. This is in sharp contrast to our current President.

This time of year also calls to mind the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre that occurred on October 27 in which 11 people were killed and 7 were wounded.

I am not saying that Trump is anti Semitic and hates Jews, but the hatred expressed in his rhetoric makes incidents more common.

At this time of year I think of my wife’s and my dear friends the Hirsch’s. The patriarch of the family was Brigadier General Edward Hirsch. He was the only person I ever met who served the nation in three major wars — World War ll, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. We always had Thanksgiving dinner together and I would propose a toast to him as my hero. He would demur and say “I didn’t do anything that anybody else wouldn’t have done. Even then he continued to serve his country by teaching at the Army War college.

My son Chris and the General’s grandson Andrew were the same age and were like brothers. Chris was only jealous that he did not get a Bar Mitzvah like Andrew did.

In my long career in the futures industry I got to know Leo Melamed, the Jewish founder of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. When I visited Chicago in February 2016 to race up the John Hancock Building I had a very good visit with him. He was surprised that I remembered the details of his book “Escape to The Futures” so well.

When Leo was a small  child his parents fled Poland as the Nazi army of Hitler was taking over. They took the Trans Siberian railway to Japan . Then they took a ship to the United States.

Michael R. McLeod


This morning I awakened to the news that we lost another of the men who Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation”. This was a book that described the generation who fought in the second World War and then returned home to become productive citizens. Bush was 94 years of age.

I had two uncles, David Ramsey and Richard Ramsey, who also served in this war and returned to be very productive citizens. They would never talk about what they did in this war, but I know that they were foot soldiers who served in the Normandy invasion.

I never had the chance to get to know Bush personally, but when I did meet him I could tell that he was a good man by looking into his eyes. Bush served only one term as President, but his son George W. Bush served two terms.

I did get to know other members of this generation, such as Senators George McGovern, Bob Dole, and Daniel Inouye. Senator Dole is still alive at age 95. He uses a wheel chair but his mind is still good.

We owe a lot to this greatest generation.

Mike McLeod

There is a runoff election for the Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran in Mississippi.  Cindy Hyde-Smith is in a tight battle with Mike Espy, who served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Administration of President Bill Clinton.  He did more to enhance the Federal Crop Insurance program than any Secretary who ever served.

Cochran never supported the crop insurance program, and in fact voted against the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000.  He voted against it when he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee, both in the Committee and on the Senate floor.

It was for this reason that I hired two Cochran protégés to help me whenI was the Executive Director of the American Association of Crop Insurers.  The first was Macon Edwards who has since had a stroke and faded from the scene.  The second was David Graves, a former Legislative Assistant to Senator Cochran.

My hiring of Graves to assist me on Crop Insurance proved fatal.  I also had other heavy client responsibilities at the time.  Graves only worked on crop insurance.  He had been fired from his job as President of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, one of the best jobs in Washington.

Graves betrayed me and brought my career to an end.  He convinced the current leadership that he was better at running AACI than I.  This was set in motion when AACI leaders asked for a “succession plan” plan. Graves is only a few years younger than me, but not in nearly as good health.  He is quite hard of hearing, and we would have to close the door of his office because he yelled into the phone.

The current AACI leadership has no idea what Mike Espy did for them.  He was the best supporter of crop insurance of any Secretary of Agriculture who ever served.  Unfortunately, he was brought down because it was found that he had let my late friend Don Tyson buy him some tickets to some football games.

It would be great for Mississippi to elect Mike Espy as its first black Senator.  If I were still managing AACI we would be all in for Espy.

Mike McLeod