Bill Knight column for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, 7-3, 4 or 5
PEOPLE cast ballots, wherever they live, not farm fields or timber, and Trump got substantial rural support. But since Inauguration, that may have dropped due to administration actions that are starting to trouble rural Americans.
Trump’s vote tallies from rural areas show how we’re being betrayed.
The geographic perspective isn’t criticism, a complaint about “open spaces/closed minds.” Voters presumably had reasons to vote for Trump (or against Clinton). However, it’s increasingly obvious and outrageous that rural America may have to bear the brunt of burdens imposed by the administration in health care and budget proposals.
In Illinois, Trump won most counties outside Chicagoland. He defeated Clinton in these counties (by these percentages): Fulton (54.3-39.2), Henderson (61.9-33.1), Henry (57.6-36.5), Livingston (67.5-26.5), McDonough (52.6-40.9), Mercer (57.0-36.4), Tazewell (61.0-32.5), Warren (55.4-38.7), and Woodford (68.0-26.1). Elsewhere downstate, Clinton won five counties: Champaign, Jackson, Peoria, Rock Island and St. Clair.
But more than five months after ballots were counted, the administration’s budget ideas show that rural residents don’t matter.
“I have worked in rural housing since 1973,” said Moises Loza of the Housing Assistance Council, “and I have never seen a budget proposal that is indifferent to the needs of the most vulnerable rural people. Until now.”
The budget would cut assistance to rural businesses, water systems and renewable-energy endeavors, from the Rural Housing Service to the Rural Business Cooperative Service and the Rural Utility Service, plus farm programs such as crop insurance, support payments, and soil, waterways and wildlife protections.
Trump’s budget is “an assault on the programs and personnel that provide vital services” to “America’s family farmers, rural residents and consumers,” commented National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson.
Concerning health care, most Americans still don’t realize that Medicaid is threatened with huge cuts jeopardizing seniors, disabled neighbors who live independently or in nursing homes with Medicaid’s help, and low-income citizens. That profoundly hurts rural areas (which have higher poverty rates for adults and kids than urban areas). The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in late June found that 74 percent have a favorable opinion of Medicaid but just 38 percent know about looming cuts.
Trump, who campaigned to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts,” is now OK with Capitol Hill doing the opposite. The House’s health-care reform would make big cuts and structural changes to Medicaid, a 52-year-old program that helps about 75 million Americans. The Senate’s plan is worse, set up to eventually eliminate Medicaid.
Instead, Medicaid funds essentially would be transferred to pay for billions in tax breaks for corporations and the super-rich.
“Those of us who live in small towns and rural communities have the most to lose,” commented LeeAnn Hall from the Health Care for America Now advocacy group. “Even if you don’t use Medicaid, taking it away from 14 million people, as this bill will do, is going to devastate small communities, where Medicaid is a lifeline for rural health facilities and a source of good jobs. Rationing it will throw rural hospitals and nursing homes into a financial tailspin.”
Sixty-five percent of voters specifically disapprove government decreasing federal funding of Medicaid, according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted last month. Also, 62 percent of voters – every age, race, gender and level of education – also generally disapprove of the health-care plan, and Republicans barely approve – 42 for, 25 against and 33 undecided.
In cuts made through “Wealthcare” maneuvers or budget demands, such reductions led National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan to call them “a fatal blow to the rural health care safety net.”
[PICTURED: Chan Lowe cartoon from heron.org.]