Above, The Bottle Rockets in Asheville playing Welfare Music. NPR had a story on the Rockets and their Midwestern sound yesterday.

President Obama is beginning a three-day swing through rural towns in the Midwest. He’s talking jobs in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and White House PR guy Dan Pfeiffer held a conference call last week with reporters about this venture. They released a report titled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America. You can find a full copy here

The tour began in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and then kind of follows the Mississippi south. The president will be in Decorah and Peosta, Iowa, and Atkinson and Alpha, Illioniois. The L.A. Times reports

The trip, White House aides say, is part of an economic initiative to help such communities gain access to credit, spur agricultural innovation, and better connect to the world’s digital business infrastructure.

On Tuesday in Iowa, the president will host a rural economic forum that will be attended by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other campaign members, an event similar to one the White House held in Cleveland in the spring.

The folks over at Real Clear Politics write about why the President needs the people he will see on this trip. 

Long and good story in the Washington Post on Cargill, which emphasizes the firm’s interest in secrecy and small government. 

Cargill is privately held by about 100 descendants of William Cargill, the son of a Scottish sea captain who began the agricultural commodities firm in 1865. It is into everything from fertilizer (through Mosaic) to sweeteners. 

• We have a soft spot for the band The Bottle Rockets. “There’s very little fiction in everything we do,” declares Brian Henneman, saying the band’s songs come from their knowledge of the small town Midwest.

Anyway, National Public Radio dida  story on The Bottle Rockets Sunday afternoon. Here it is. 

At the top of the story, you can see the Rockets play “Welfare Music” at the Grey Eagle in Asheville.

• Hard times are leading many counties and small towns in Kentucky to consider consolidation. But, reports Greg Kocher of the Lexington Herald Leader: 

Selling the idea of a merger isn’t easy. Some residents worry that a smaller, leaner government risks becoming a less-responsive one. And researchers have questioned whether a merger delivers significant savings.

“Academic studies of Jacksonville, Fla.’s combination with Duval County, and Miami’s merger with Dade County found that costs actually rose post-merger as new bureaucracies emerged,” The Wall Street Journal reported in June. The paper also cited a 2004 study by Indiana University’s Center for Urban Policy and the Environment that found that costs creep back in because bigger pools of employees can negotiate for better wages, offsetting the savings of job cuts.

• Billionaire Warren Buffett has a column in today’s New York Times headlined, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.” He writes:

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

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