The Rural Divide is Overstated Compared to The Rural Connection

Understanding and acknowledging the range of challenges for rural America ‎makes it easier for our urban and suburban friends and sometimes distant neighbors to find shared values and ambitions with rural Americans.

The trend seems to be to focus on the things that divide Americans based on where we live. Neglected in that conversation are the things that form the core of America as a whole. There is no disputing that health, prosperity, a good and safe future for our family, friends and neighbors, love of country, and respect for where we live are all common values no matter where we call home.

One easy way to begin to appreciate the diverse American landscape is to reject stereotypes and bigoted portrayals of life in the cities, suburbs or countryside. We can’t ignore that every part of America is unique, and we must appreciate that every American is an individual born with the same right to the pursuit of happiness no matter where we live. But we stand the best chance of accomplishing more when we start the conversation with what we agree on and stick to the truth. We should avoid false claims that exist only to support one way of thinking, or we will solve nothing.

We all know people who come from all parts of America. The rural brain drain has forced many people who grew up on a farm or small town to move to where the jobs are, often relocating to the suburbs or cities. Get to know them. Listen to their stories. Hear their dreams. Understand their concerns and fears. Start by recognizing the brain drain that brought them closer to you is an issue that has no geographic boundaries. People leave the cities and suburbs they grow up in, too, but the difference is most of those folks move to other cities or suburban neighborhoods.

When we explore the rural brain drain we discover the realities of rural life and the rural economy. There is a talented and committed workforce in rural America and plenty of affordable land to build a business, and frequently with low overhead. Often, however, there is not the essential infrastructure, including suitable roads, broadband or local medical facilities. Providing rural areas with the same government-supported incentives and private-public that drive the urban or suburban economy will make America stronger and can be a big part of reducing the trend of moving companies overseas.

The food we eat is of course the biggest connector for urban, suburban and rural Americans. It’s not a secret the food that we put on our tables mainly comes from rural America. No surprise there. Rural America is where the farms and ranches are. It’s important that we keep in mind the hard work our farmers endure to feed America, and big chunk of the world. We want nutritious, safe and delicious foods in our kitchens. Growers and harvesters deserve a good price for their produce, meats, fish and poultry. We all should want to protect especially the upstart and legacy family farmers who try to maintain a business without the fear of being pushed out by factory farms that can flood the marketplace and lower commodities prices. Factory farms can leave the small or mid-sized farmer are underwater. America is stronger when we have a stable system that respects and protects our family farmers.

Access to affordable quality healthcare and prescription medicine is another issue that hits us all. One size doesn’t fit all, but a base system that guarantees no American has to go without health insurance makes the most sense to ensure there is a bottom line with no holes for anyone to fall through. As we have seen, the fix is complicated and has to evolve and adjust. However, universal healthcare is achievable whether though private employer-provided healthcare pools, a public option, or Medicare and Medicaid expansion. America is stronger when access to affordable quality healthcare is available in our cities, towns and isolated areas.

Another big unifier is our collective love of our country. There are no fences around patriotism. We feel it in rural towns, bedroom communities and at the center of the big cities. Respect for rights and freedoms granted all of us in the Constitution is patriotic. Admiration for those who volunteer to serve our country in uniform and the veterans who have done so in the past is patriotic. Appreciation for the workers at the local USDA office, the men and women on call at the local fire or police station, the groundskeeper at the local park, or the clerk sitting at a desk in a daunting essential agency like the Social Security Administration is patriotic. To expect clean and fair elections devoid of outside or foreign intervention is patriotic. A strong democracy is patriotic and it makes America stronger.

We also share many hardships and losses no matter where we are from. We all mourn when we lose loved ones, and hurt when we find our family members or friends stricken with illness. Suicide, addiction, and seeing someone who showed promise cross the law pains us all. We suffer when see jobs go away or watch a business opportunity fail to materialize. It makes America stronger when we empathize and understand the disappointments and hard times we all can face.

These are just some of the examples that demonstrate what unites us to make one America. There will always be differences, but that diversity is also why America is so special. Our core values forge an unbreakable bond and hold together a union that remains the envy of the world. It’s an old saying, but it’s still worth saying again: we’re all in this together, and that makes America stronger.

(Note: This is the second installment in a series of posts on the merits of pursuing the rural vote)

Don’t Let GOP Fool You, It’s Long Supported ‘Socialism’ and Still Does

Some people really seem to be spending a lot of time yammering on about “socialism” heading into the next elections. It appears to be part of an attempt to deflect from the Republicans’ unseemly relationships with veteran Communist officials who still run Russia, and prey on the emotions of the more poorly informed among the GOP’s followers.

It’s not a new line of attack. Republicans using ”socialism” as scare tactic to demonize essential programs and initiatives dates back at least 60 years to a period known as the post-World War II “Red Scare.”

“Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made,” Harry Truman said in 1952. “Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for anything that helps all the people.”

We should not confuse the Red Scare with the scary red hats of today. From Trump to McConnell, their talk of “socialism” is pure nonsense. Republicans have a long history of backing what they now complain are “socialist” programs. Let’s consider a few of these GOP-backed taxpayer-funded programs.

We should start with the poorly executed Trump trade war. It hit farmers particularly hard and forced Trump to rescue Big Ag and family farmers with at least $28 billion in emergency subsidies (on top of a $100 million toward developing needed export markets to find new buyers for American agriculture all but rotting as a result of the trade war). Are taxpayer-funded subsidies “socialism?” Sure sounds like it based on all the wailing from Trump and McConnell. Could this bailout have been avoided? Yes, had Trump not created the mess in the first place, but that’s just what he did and we couldn’t just sit by and let American farmers go bankrupt.

Government subsidies are often necessary, but that bailout would not have been needed had Trump not penalized the Rural Economy with his poorly thought out trade war. That’s not to say China doesn’t need a good seeing to on the issue of trade imbalance. Beijing does need to level the playing field, for sure, but really poor planning by Trump failed to see the opportunities he created for retaliation by the Chinese with his headlines-ahead-of-Americans approach.

By the way, there’s likely more needed help on the way for farmers as a result of 100-year floods that happen just about every year now (please refrain from calling it climate change, and instead go with “a new routine of catastrophic climate occurrences that are a change from what used to be the normal weather pattern,” or not). USDA is considering aid to farmers unable to plant because of the unrelenting rains. Are these taxpayer-funded subsidies for bad weather socialism, too? For that matter are all emergency funds for hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and health epidemics socialism? Based of the Trump-McConnell bluster scale, it sure sounds like it.

The tab for medical costs for the heroes who worked at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001 is another program we have been hearing about recently. Police, firefighters, hardhats and others all are helped by taxpayer funds that seek to help put their lives back together after the great sacrifice they have made for our country. Is that “socialism?” It’s a government-funded healthcare program, isn’t it? McConnell certainly treats it with disrespect and disdain the way he ignores the victims of the terrorist attacks and waits until the last possible moment to fund the program. Doesn’t sound very patriotic of McConnell, does it?

Wiping out of billions of dollars in state and local taxes to placate corporate giants like Amazon and Google is another practice that recently caught our attention. Oligopolies like those two tech giants really don’t need tax breaks, but they get them by using fear and the threat of moving their operations away to shakedown state and local governments to give them tax breaks. Are these “socialist” programs? We should ask the Republicans. They seem to know a lot about doing business with taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Perhaps the most ironic “socialist” program in modern history was the $700 billion bailout for giant Wall Street investment banks during the Bush recession of 2008. Some would say this was one of the most avoidable “socialist” programs in modern history, had deregulation not allowed for Wall Street greed to destroy the U.S. housing market and upend the global economy.

The Wall Street banking bailout funded by American taxpayers was crafted by then- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a Republican and former head honcho at Goldman-Sachs. You might recall that President Obama inherited that financial catastrophe, but then guided the U.S. back to a sound economic footing and a pathway to the robust growth that Trump inherited. It’s hard to imagine the recovery coming as fast it did without that “socialist” bank bailout.

Then we have the perennial favorites on the GOP corporate “socialism” front, like oil and gas subsidies, and the government funded “socialist” ATM machine for corporations, known as the Export-Import Bank. The latter lends amounts in excess of $10 million, or provides insurance when even those giant investment banks and underwriters deem the risk too high. Ex-Im reports it has nearly $40 billion in transactions in the pipeline that would translate to about 230,000 jobs. Some Republicans actually do say Ex-Im Bank is “socialist,” but the majority calls it a real good investment with good economic returns.

So it’s pretty obvious Republicans aren’t really against what they call “socialism,” in fact they clearly love many programs they pretend aren’t “socialist,” according to their definition of the word. Their scheme is really to demonize the programs like healthcare, retirement benefits and food and nutrition programs that benefit the middle class and workers left behind in the new economy. The Republicans’ conundrum is they oppose programs that help the many in favor of corporate “socialism” that benefits the few at the cost of the many.

For the record, our sarcasm aside, we have no problem understanding the value of the programs listed above. They prop up Americans and the American economy. We completely support U.S. commerce, jobs, aid and investment; although it is a shame that some of these programs could have been avoided had (ironically Republican) administrations not allowed the policies that created bad situations in the first place.

Best to ignore the “socialist” label, but counter-punch at the partisan attack. The truth is these are the programs of the American Safety Net, from the bank bailouts to farmer subsidies, to access to affordable healthcare to tax breaks for corporations that locate in our communities. So don’t play defense when Trump, McConnell or anyone else starts quacking about “socialism.” Give it right back to them hard, fierce and repeatedly. Consider using one simple message: “You’re confused. You’re talking about Americans being Americans, and Americans always take care of their own.”

There are Rural Voters Waiting to Hear from Us; Lets talk to Them

We reject the click-bait driven misconception about a widening urban-rural political gap in America.

It is a fact that most progressive voters live in big cities and suburbs closest to large urban areas. It is also a fact that progressive strategies are aimed at the largest clusters of Democratic voters. Because of those two factors it is also a fact that attempts to re-connect with rural America, once a core part of the New Deal Coalition, haven’t been particularly successful.

However, as the highly respected independent online publication Daily Yonder recently reported, “Despite stories about the ‘deepening divide’ between rural and urban, the difference between major-city voters and rural voters changed very little in last year’s election. In fact, Democrats made a four-point comeback with rural voters in 2018.”

But, as the Daily Yonder asked, “Is anybody listening?” Some of us are, but more need to open their ears. We need to continue to make inroads in our rural America. Reaching out to rural voters isn’t as difficult as misinformed purveyors of myths would have us believe.

A comprehensive analysis of the 2018 House votes in more than 3,100 counties by William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, makes one of stronger arguments for the importance of reaching out to rural and small town and city voters. Overall, Frey found 83 percent of the 2018 voters lived in counties where support for Democratic candidates improved over the 2016 presidential election, including proof of meaningful gains in traditional GOP areas.

“This increased Democratic support was not confined to traditional Democratic base counties. It occurred in suburbs, smaller metropolitan and rural counties, and most noticeably, in counties with concentrations of older, native-born and white residents without college degrees,” Frey concluded. “Moreover, at the state level, enough states flipped from Republican majorities in the 2016 presidential election to Democratic majorities in the 2018 House elections to project a 2020 Democratic Electoral College win.”

Frey’s projection for 2020 Electoral College is based on the total combined House votes in each state. The statewide 2018 House vote totals showed Democrats winning in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, flipping the vote in states that Trump won in 2016.

Of course, it all comes down to turnout in 2020 in order to prevail in those states, and hold other key heavily rural states like Nevada, New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire and Virginia. When we add into the mix battlegrounds like Florida and North Carolina the evidence for why it’s crucial to fight for every possible rural vote is overwhelming.

The biggest reason to fight for rural votes is we are good people who a want to be good neighbors who live in a good country, however let’s consider why rural voters are important to pursue for a counterintuitive reason. Rural America is the only place Trump is popular, as data driven FiveThirtyEight reported in the aftermath of the 2018 elections. There is an argument to be made that to pursue rural votes is to take on our opposition at its strongest point where there is a base of voters our opposition takes for granted.

We can make the case that our opponents only talk a good game, using anger and diverting attention away from how first and foremost they put the desires of Wall Street and corporate interests well above the needs of rural Americans. It’s our policies for rebuilding, re-investing in and respecting rural Americans that have their best interests at heart.

We have a still have a history in rural America. Lets make our case on ground of our own choosing, where our opposition does not expect a fight but surely deserves one.

(Note: This is the first in a series of posts on the merits of pursuing the rural vote)

‘News’ that is really fake is likely to become more common; news media need to promote, and shore up, their reliability

Mike Allen of Axios wrote in his morning briefing yesterday, “Welcome to our sad, new, distorted reality — the explosion of fake: fake videos, fake people on Facebook, and daily cries of ‘fake news.’
This week, we reached a peak fake, with Facebook saying it had deleted 2.2 billion fake accounts in three months, a fake video of Speaker Pelosi going viral, and Trump going on a fresh ‘fake news’ tear. A Pew survey last year found that two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites came from non-human users (bots or other automated accounts). . .. Misinformation about vaccines has led to an alarming number of measles outbreaks.”And it’s going to get worse, Allen says: “It’s only going to get easier to generate fake audio, fake videos and even fake people — and to spread them instantly and virally. Fake polls, fake experts, fake fundraisers and even fake think tanks are proliferating. Fake influence has become the result of an internet that’s filled with fake measurement and personas. More than half of internet traffic comes from bots, not people, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes in this astonishing tour of our fake world: Dozens of content farms and internet hacks make money selling or amplifying fake video views or follower accounts to politicians and influencers. Distorted images can make any crowd size look bigger or smaller than reality. Around the world, fake polls are being set up to distort elections.”Allen acknowledges, “Fakes and personas have existed on TV, radio and print for years,” but as New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg notes: “Legislators have failed to stay on top of social media platforms, with their billions of hard-to-track users from all over the world.”

So, more than ever, journalists and their paymasters need to emphasize their essential role as reliable sources of information, and do all we can to be trusted. That can vary from platform to platform, market to market and outlet to outlet, but we must differentiate the news from entertainment, news media from social media, and fact from opinion. We must be different, or we will die.

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.  Published on May 30, 2019. Article written by Al Cross, director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog.

The Government’s Assault on Rural America Must End!

 For the past two and half years Rural America has been under assault by a government that shows little respect for how hard its people work to make a decent living.

As the Business Record of Des Moines reported this month, “Overall the rural economy is in the dumps.” Rural Americans worry more than their urban or suburban counterparts about day-to-day finances and access to heathcare, separate polls reveal. It’s a dangerous mix of circumstances, given how statistics demonstrate rural America is more prone to suicide.

The list of violations is appalling and unfortunately is expanding with each passing month. Beginning with how rural workers were all but forgotten in what Trump believes is his crowning achievement, the billionaires and corporate tax cut, rural Americans have been left behind during a time when Wall Street investors are adding to their fat cat lifestyles with an unprecedented expansion of wealth.The siege continued with cuts in programs that fund rural healthcare and hospitals, and a despicable GOP infrastructure plan that would have forced rural communities and states to either raise taxes and tolls or be left behind while wealthy suburbs and resourceful big cities sucked up limited federal matching funds.

Even after the late John McCain joined Democrats in saving the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration has found ways to manipulate the program so businesses pay less into healthcare plans while workers and individuals pay more up front and with ever-increasing deductibles.

Now rural Americans find themselves battered by the most egregious insults and offenses of all: first, a trade war so poorly planned that it left exposed farmers and small town workers. Rural Americans were easy targets for retaliation for Trump’s random tariffs (which in the end are really just taxes paid by American consumers).

More recently, a refusal by Trump and the Senate GOP to get behind a bipartisan disaster relief bill that is essential for the Midwestern and Plains States devastated by floods and tornadoes. Why is the Breadbasket of America being held hostage? Because Trump and the Senate GOP want to use the disaster bill to fund Trump’s border wall and withhold aid for American citizens in Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico is a predominantly rural American territory. It is not a foreign country, it is America, and we take care of our own in America). It’s absurd that the Midwestern and Plains states are being used as political pawns.

What makes all of the degradation so absolutely insane is many of those rural Americans suffering under the administration’s failed headline- and Twitter-driven agenda make up the Trump voter base. They take us for granted as if we are supposed to just sit by and accept the blatant disregard for our way of life.

The patsies say it’s our patriotic duty to take it and keep our complaints  to ourselves. We say it’s patriotic to tell our government when enough is enough. Enough is enough!

Food insecurity report shows in-depth county-level data

The latest Map the Meal Gap report, by nonprofit organization Feeding America aims to provide a more detailed picture of food insecurity in America with county-level data from 2017.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, about 40 million Americans, including more than 12 million children, faced hunger and food insecurity in 2017. But “national and even state estimates of food insecurity can mask the variation that exists at the local level,” the Feeding America report says. Some hunger organizations estimate local need based on poverty rates, but that isn’t the best way to measure it, according to the report: “National data reveal that about 59% of people struggling with hunger earn incomes above the federal poverty level and 61% of people living in poor households are food-secure.”

Instead, Feeding America gathered four types of community-level data to assess hunger: overall food-insecurity estimates, child food-insecurity estimates, average meal costs and food budget shortfalls. The researchers found that, as expected, poverty, unemployment, and under-employment contribute significantly to hunger. Under-employment exists when a person is working but doesn’t have enough hours or sufficient wages to make a living. Hunger is most concentrated in the Black Belt, the Lower Mississippi Valley, Central Appalachia, and Native American reservations.

The Map the Meal Gap report has an interactive map with county-by-county data.

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog. Published on May 2, 2019. Article written by Heather Chapman. 

Still a Few More Stops: Join the Dairy Road Show

Dairy Together, a movement to rebuild a viable dairy economy for family farmers and rural communities, will be hosting events across the country in the coming months. Called the Dairy Together Road Show, these events will educate dairy farmers and industry stakeholders about several potential pathways toward market stabilization.

The events are being organized by the National Farmers Organization and Farmers Union organizations from Wisconsin, New England, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, California, and the Rocky Mountain region, with support from the National Farmers Union and Holstein Association USA.

The groups will present research on plans that consider federal milk order system reform via a structured dairy pricing program as well as avenues of oversupply management through an updated version of the Dairy Market Stabilization Program that was considered in the lead-up to the 2014 Farm Bill. Recognizing the urgency of the situation dairy farmers are facing, they also plan to unveil plans for short-term emergency relief.
Learn more about Dairy Together and RSVP for the roadshow here.

Huge Potential for Rural and Small Town America in the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a middle class jobs and small business framework designed to help grow the Rural Economy with jobs and business opportunities that fit our small towns and wide open counties.

At the moment GND is the umbrella concept for a series of proposals that incorporate good wages in a sustainable economy that exists in a clean, safe and healthy community. The framework recognizes we have smart skilled labor, good natural resources and plenty of drive in Rural and Small Town America to invest in for the long haul.

Under the GND, Rural and Small Town America can be home to new or expanding jobs including:

  • Manufacturing electric cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles; parts assembly and building the infrastructure to support the new fleet of vehicles
  • Constructing a 21st century smart power grid and broadband communications networks that finally equals the speed and capacity of urban and suburban networks
  •  Building and expanding wind farms, solar power fields and energy storage facilities, as well as manufacturing the technologies and equipment for this limitless new industry
  •  Enhanced opportunities for operating competitive, productive and safe Family Farms that are paid a fair price for crops and livestock, while employing skilled workers who can earn a livable wage
  •  Contractors to upgrade, renovate and rewire buildings and facilities with economical energy and water efficient systems
  • Rebuilding outdated roads, bridges and commercial waterways with a Rural and Small Town infrastructure upgrade not seen on a large scale since the 1950s and 1960s
  • Improving existing rail systems, and expanding regional commuter rail systems to accommodate more Americans where feasible and practical
  • Maintaining and modernizing Rural and Small Town Hospitals and critical care centers
  • Empowering community and regional colleges and universities with the resources to provide practical technical, mechanical and agricultural programs suited to their areas and marketplace, and take aim at the Rural Brain Drain

“This is going to be a mission to save all of creation by engaging in massive job creation,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said of the plan he co-authored with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Since the rollout, there has been predicable and somewhat pedestrian politically motivated criticism and false claims that GND calls for an end to oil, gas and coal extraction (if you read the resolution closely, it really doesn’t call for that). Detractors are striving to paint GND as a radical concept, but really it’s more about giving the United States a competitive edge in global markets that countries like China are hoping to dominate.

As Ken Silverstein writes in Forbes, “The Green New Deal is not radical idea — just one that aims to accelerate an existing trend.”

For now, at least, lets put aside all the talk of doom and gloom from those who reject the GND without even seeing its actual forthcoming proposals. Lets study just what opportunities exist in the strategy for Rural and Small Town America before we buy into the hysteria. What we first must understand is the GND is set up to work like a cafeteria. We can pick and choose what appeals to us and skip the rest. It is not an “all of nothing” idea.

“In fact, one can imagine a Green New Deal that would modernize energy networks, boost growth, create good jobs, reduce inequality, and improve the quality of life while letting the U.S. do its part to restrain global warming. But this enticing prospect will demand pragmatism as well as ambition,” writes the pro-business Bloomberg News editorial board.

For those who are asking, “Why a GND now?” We are faced at the very moment with a government functioning without a long-range plan and concerned mainly with short-term profits. The lack on vision in Washington is creating the potential for an irreversible long-term economic, health and safety crisis.We’ve had similar piece meal legislative proposals in the past, but at this moment we have a sea of energized younger voters who want smart jobs, significant wage increases, clean air and water, and affordable quality healthcare to be a priority for the world they are inheriting.

We will keep a close watch on the Green New Deal. For now the GND is only a “resolution” of intent on behalf of its co-sponsors and supporters in Congress, and not a bill that calls for specific programs. As individual legislation is crafted in Congress we must demand that the interests and well being of Rural and Small Town America are front and center. If we ensure the Green New Deal will work for Rural and Small Town America the way Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal has for more than half a century, we have a lot to gain.


Trump Threatens Another Shutdown for Wall Most Americans Oppose

We are finally in the midst of at least a temporary break from the costly Trump Shutdown, but all indications are that many of Trump’s enablers in the Senate are giving him the green light to shut down the government again on Feb. 15.

The majority of Americans oppose the Trump shutdown tactic, are against the wall and blame Trump for the shutdown, a wave of polls have shown according to Bustle.

With the Trump agenda crumbling on multiple fronts, Senate Republicans like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are telling Trump the government shutdown may be the only way to hold his fracturing base together. For some inexplicable reason, Graham and Trump’s right hand man Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are ignoring the increasing number of Trump backers who called on Trump to re-open the government, as well as the ballooning majority of Americans opposed to a border wall.

The record-setting 35-day Trump Shutdown drained $11 billion from the U.S. economy, at least $3 billion of which won’t be recovered, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Should the Republicans decide that another Trump Shutdown would be a politically fatal move, Plan B for the Republicans is to urge Trump to declare a national emergency to build his unpopular border wall. An emergency declaration would surely lead to a showdown in the courts.

Like the shutdown and border wall, an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose Trump declaring a national emergency to get his politically motivated border wall – and that’s easy to explain: most Americans know it’s not a national emergency. The White House and its allies have yet to even come up with an answer to the most basic question: How come Trump didn’t declare an emergency a month ago, or anytime the previous two years, when Republicans controlled the House and Senate?

Democrats, meanwhile, remain steadfastly opposed to a “medieval solution” to border security like a wall that easily can be tunneled under or scaled over with a basic ladder. Electronic surveillance tools like drones, cameras and motion detectors, along the thousands of new border security and immigration agents Trump promised but has failed to hire, are the among the Democrats preferred remedies to border security.

While another Trump Shutdown seems like a crazy idea, anything is possible with Trump. So we have to bet even money that Trump stops paying those 800,000 workers again, while furloughing most of them and forcing thousands of others to work without pay.

In the meantime, we’ve been gathering a list of how the shutdown affects the rest of us in Rural and Small Town America.

  • For starters, Rural Western States that backed Trump take the biggest hit from a Trump Shutdown (contrary to Trump’s argument that it only hurt the Washington, DC area), as this chart from media outlet Axios demonstrates.
  • The Trump Shutdown had such a destructive impact on Family Farmers that the Agriculture Department had to temporarily open its unfunded offices to try to offset the fallout. Even after the emergency measure not all of USDA’s services were available, the Rural Blog reported. It’s important to keep in mind most Rural Farms are not corporate, factory farming operations. Family Farmers cannot sustain themselves without USDA services.
  • The Trump Shutdown had a chilling result for national security, from FBI counter-terrorism efforts to the U.S. Coast Guard to (ironically) Border Patrol, the Rand Corporation detailed in a lengthy list.
  • Food inspections were also eliminated during the Trump Shutdown, until the Food and Drug Administration finally convinced the White House that Americans were at risk without checks on some perishables, Fox News reported.
  • There are plenty examples of the indirect consequences the shutdown had on the Rural Economy. Rural and small-town public transit systems were forced to cutback their services “The trauma for crucial transportation lifelines in rural or small-town America, including in states President Donald Trump won in 2016, underscores the damage the 34-day shutdown is inflicting hundreds or thousands of miles from Washington, D.C.,” Politico reported, according to the Rural Blog. “While the loss of federal dollars is hitting transit systems large and small, including those inside the Beltway, the most vulnerable agencies are those that don’t get significant state support. And their riders are primarily low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.”

The Lexington (KY) Herald Leader sums up the cruel and unnecessary treatment a Trump Shutdown inflicts on Rural Americans and the Rural Economy: “In places such as Appalachia that are dominated by small and rural towns, a shutdown is potentially devastating. Federal and related agencies are an important source of liquidity so the shutdown means a lack of finance flowing in our region. This coupled with years of disinvestment adds instability to families and communities that are already struggling.”

Pitting an outdated wall to appease a minority of Americans who happen to be Trump supporters against our economic security and national security is a dangerous and selfish political game that needs to be halted.

From Elections to Fighting for Family Farmers, 2018 a Watershed Year

Another year, another set of goals met as our issue education and voter advocacy efforts to strengthen the bond among Rural, Suburban and Urban America stretched from the South to Appalachia through the Midwest and into the Plains, Rockies and Western Deserts.

Our non-profit Rural Votes organization continues to expand its reach and has an unprecedented opportunity to grow thanks to the support of Americans who agree with our credo that Rural Matters.

We took a multi-pronged approach in 2018, seeking to motivate Americans to vote, working to expand access to the ballot box and sharing information about issues that matter to voters, their families and friends. We avoided the easy fights, opting to join the complicated battles that were required to help bring change and rebuild the grassroots. Our Voter awareness strategy included:

• An all out multi-state effort to support voter registration, get out the vote efforts in the November elections. We ran issue ads targeting a hand full of competitive House races in historically conservative districts, going head-on in areas that too often have been overlooked or taken for granted by the political powers that be. A strong social media campaign and policy posts on our blog The Back Forty addressing the most pressing issues to Rural Voters supported our efforts.

• Using the early special elections and primaries to fire up voter registration, turnout and access. The special election for the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 20th Congressional District was just one example of successful laboratory for fine-tuning our voter access tactics.

• Monitoring and exposing voter suppression tactics and offering counter-measures to ensure that Rural Americans were prepared for Election Day before they went to the polls. We took on voter suppression schemes from Georgia to North Dakota, helping to ensure no rightful voter was prevented from casting a ballot.

• An educational effort urging voters to understand the importance of down ballot races like state legislature, attorney general and secretary of state elections. As was the case in 2017, rebuilding the grassroots and strengthening the field for future races was our message.

• Monitoring and exposing the suspected voter fraud in one of our targeted races, North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. We maintained and will continue to maintain information and evidence to ensure a do-over race is clean, fair and open in NC09.

On the policy front, 2018 was a year of diverse challenges, with unexpected threats to Rural Americans and their families emerging routinely. Rural America is under assault by lawless leadership and their allies on important issues like tax fairness, quality affordable healthcare for children and adults, fair wages, family farms, good schools and colleges, incentives for small business expansion and equal and expanded Internet and broadband access.

We sought to inform voters with facts and the truth and used rapid response tactics to counter a pattern of wholesale lies and deceptions spread by dark forces and their media echo chambers:

• Priority One on the issue front was making the case that the Farm Bill was much more than a crucial tool for the Rural Economy alone. The Farm Bill matters to everyone, from conservation to food and nutrition programs to food safety and ample production and supply to feed our nation. We took a lead role in exposing how the leadership in Congress and the White House attempted to use the Farm Bill to carry out a partisan agenda at the cost of children, Family Farmers, seniors, veterans, active duty families and the disabled. In the end we won, even as our opposition tried to hold hostage the essential Farm Bill.

• We helped rally voters who said enough is enough when it came to the Trump-McConnell-Ryan scheme to take healthcare coverage away from millions of Americans and rip a hole in the American Safety Net to pay for their $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to corporations and billionaires (We warned at the start of last year that the tax scam would add $1 trillion to the federal debt and indeed that forecast came to fruition). We stressed the need to protect Rural Hospitals at risk of closing their doors.

• We issued a call to action when we saw that Rural America would be devastated by the poorly planned and shortsighted Trade War that sacrificed Family Farmers without leading to building more factories or strengthening American products and services. That trade fight is not over, but nor our efforts to protect Rural America from retaliation for Trump’s headline grabbing and market threatening policies.

• We said no way when the leadership in Congress and the White House came up with an infrastructure scheme that would surely force Rural States and Small Town America to raise taxes and impose tolls on roads, bridges and waterways. Instead we looked to a new balance of power in Washington as the best chance to resuscitate a fair and equal infrastructure plan for rebuilding and repairing aging, obsolete and in some cases dangerous roads, highways and waterways.

We exited 2018 with one goal in in our hearts and minds: we must do more in 2019. We can’t do it alone, so we will need your help. We must take the fight to the enemies of American Unity on ground of our choosing with persistence, truth, honor and dignity. In the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the Great American Heroes whose vision for building the Rural-Urban-Suburban Alliance remains with us today: “The nation asks for action, and action now….”