Texas Liberal

All People Matter

President Obama’s Rural Policy

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on Barack Obama’s urban policy. I was glad that after many years of neglect, a President seemed to have America’s cities as part of the agenda.

Yet though I have always been a city dweller, I am also concerned for America’s rural areas. I feel folks in rural America have been used by the Republican Party, just as Democrats have often taken city voters for granted. Depopulation of rural America, and the long-term decline of agriculture as a way of life, have severly impacted this part of our nation.

(Above–A sign welcoming visitors to Francesville, Indiana. The Fall Festival will be held in Francesville on September 18, 19 and 20 of this year.)

Here is  the link to the Rural Assistance Center. This resource has a great deal of information about rural demographics and the well-being of people living in rural areas. It’s main focus is health care. There is also a definition of what exactly constitutes rural America. You can plug your address in and see if you are a rural resident.

Here is a chart from the Census Bureau noting the decline of the American rural population from over 90% in 1820 to under 25% in 1990. If you poke around the Census web home, you’ll find all sorts of facts about rural America.

In the book How Barack Obama Won by Chuck Todd, a table lists 21% of American voters as rural in the 2008 election. While all people merit help and concern, it should be noted that these voters are not monolithically Republican. Rural voters selected John McCain over Barack Obama by a margin of only 53% to 45%.

Iowa and Vermont are rural states that Mr. Obama carried last November. It is hard to imagine that Mr. Obama could have won states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana without at least a fair amount of  rural support.

I don’t discuss the politics here to show that rural folks are somehow “better”  or more open to a black man as President than urbanites such as myself might think. I say it only to suggest that just as many Republicans live in big cities, America’s rural areas also diverse and complex regions worthy of our respect and care. We should not make assumptions about any group of people. 

On his White House web home, (Which, as much as we may be hopeful about our new President, is a kind of propaganda), some of President Obama’s rural policy goals are listed. Here is that link.

Here are some goals for rural America as discussed by the White House—

Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. Implement a $250,000 payment limitation so we help family farmers — not large corporate agribusiness. Close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around payment limits.   

I can’t say I know much about farms, but this makes it clear that people in all parts of the United States need the help of government.

Support Small Business Development: Provide capital for farmers to create value-added enterprises, like cooperative marketing initiatives and farmer-owned processing plants. Establish a small business and micro-enterprise initiative for rural America.

Many of us have had the experience of driving through a small town and seeing a shuttered Main Street. I can only imagine that a new and successful small business in a rural center would be a boon to the entire area.

Improve Healthcare:Work to ensure a more equitable Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement structure that often gives rural healthcare providers less money for the very same procedure performed in urban areas. Attract providers to rural America by creating a loan forgiveness program for doctors and nurses who work in underserved rural areas. Promote health information technologies like telemedicine.

These health care issues are concerns in all parts of America.

As a lifelong resident of the city, I’ve long felt that cities and rural areas have a great deal in common. Here in Texas, it would be great to see an urban-rural caucus in our state legislature that could explore shared public policy goals.

It remains to be seen if President Obama is serious about his stated objectives in rural America. Let’s hope and insist that his care for this issue is sincere.   

(Below–A farm near Stockbridge, Wisconsin.)

February 3, 2009 - Posted by | Barack Obama, Books, Politics | , , , , , , , , ,

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