John Edwards and Rural Recovery
by RDemocrat, Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 09:43:34 PM EDT
It is no big secret to any Democrat that the rural and non-urban parts of the country have been a problem for our party for a good while now. Not only the south, but rural areas of the midwest and west have been consistently voting Republican. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that the Republican Party has heavily invested in these areas and the Democratic Party has ignored them, and not reached out to this valuable block of voters.
Everyone wants to fuss about Florida in 00 as well they should, but is it lost on everyone that if Gore would have just carried his home state of Tennessee, Florida would not have mattered. I remember that election, and our party abandoned not only Tennessee but all the surrounding mostly rural southern states. We did not reach out to them.
We cannot allow our party to become centered in only the large urban areas. There is no way we can ever expect to win enough power in our government to actually bring about real change we simply must start including the rural, small town voter in our strategy once again.
This is another reason why I support John Edwards and believe he has the best chance to win in these areas in a general election against any candidate from the other side. He grew up and went to school in small town America, and he understands their problems and the challenges they have faced in the last few decades.
Edwards has what I consider an excellent plan to reach this crucial block of voters and try and revive our dying towns in middle America. Since this primary should be about actual plans for moving our country forward in the new century, I would like to look at this very important policy. First, here is a brief explanation of the problems:
Too often, the problems of rural America are forgotten by politicians living and working in far-off capital cities. Many rural areas are struggling: rural families earn 27 percent less than other families and 244 of the poorest 250 counties are rural. Rural manufacturing has been hit particularly hard by international trade, the offshoring of jobs, and automation. Struggling family farms are another challenge for small towns. As young people move away to find opportunity, rural communities are turning into ghost towns. One in four non-metro counties lost population in the 1990s. [Carsey Institute, 2006; Davis, 2003; USDA, 2002]
Edwards then goes on to list six proposals to help rural America:
Investing Seed Money for Rural Recovery: Helping innovative small businesses is a promising approach to economic development, but only 1 percent of state economic development funds now support entrepreneurs. Edwards will create the Rural Economic Advancement Challenge (REACH) Fund to bring capital and management expertise to small town America. The REACH Fund will connect investors with rural entrepreneurs, organize businesses into networks to help them succeed together, and ensure that rural areas have access to the investment capital they need. [RUPRI, 2007]
Now, I will be the first to admit that economics is really not my strong suit. It does seem to me however that this fund could do some very good things getting warehouses opened in rural America. All the ones I drive by are empty.
This next idea is the one that I really like:
Creating the New Energy Economy in Rural America: Renewable sources of energy -- including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, and solar -- can make the U.S. independent of foreign oil, cut global warming pollution, and create new industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America. Edwards will establish the New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart renewable energies. He will create new markets for ethanol by requiring all new cars to run on both gasoline and E85 ethanol, requiring 25 percent of chain gas stations to carry E85, supporting E20 and E30 fuels, and working with U.S. automakers to make efficient and alternative-fuel cars. He will support locally owned biorefineries with start-up capital. He will also require 25 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2025.
This one here is sort of personal to me, because I helped a candidate in Kentucky's First who lost a primary last year. His name was Eric Streit and he was very intelligent, we just couldn't raise the money in a poor district to get his message out. This was one of the things we really wanted to let Western Kentuckians know about, that with a little research and investment we, and the surrounding rural states could lead the way in making our country energy independent. We are one or two breakthroughs away on biofuel from being able to do this. Edwards clearly states that he wants to invest in researching these fuels of the future. The jobs and advantages to Americans rural and urban would be enormous. Our country has always achieved great things when real leaders stood up and challenged us. I think the American worker and ingenuity can accomplish this and thanks to Mr. Edwards for agreeing with me once again!!
Edwards goes on to address the plight of the Family farmer:
Creating Fairness for Family Farmers: Edwards recognizes that the rules are stacked against family farmers. He supports the strict enforcement of laws against anticompetitive mergers, unfair pricing, and country-of-origin laws. He will enact a strong national ban on packer ownership to stop the spread of large corporate hog interests and create a national moratorium on the construction and expansion of hog farm lagoons. To help family farmers he will also limit farm subsidies to $250,000 per person, close loopholes in payment limits, and expand conservation programs.
Family farmers have been baraged by big corporate farming and cheap foreign farm products for a while now. We all saw how successful that was when our pets were poisoned by Chinese wheat glutin. The family farm has been a distinctive part of the American culture since there has been an America, and it is good to see John Edwards trying to lead a resurgence in family farming.
He goes on to talk about rural broadband:
Investing in Rural Broadband: Once a world leader in broadband access, the U.S. is now 21st in the world, trailing Estonia. Rural households are only about half as likely to have a broadband connection even though digital inclusion is one of the quickest and surest ways to attract businesses. Edwards will establish a national broadband map to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed and require telephone and cable companies not to discriminate against rural communities in building their broadband networks. [ITU, 2006; CWA, 2006; Pew, 2006]
When I was in Nashville for his announcement of this plan, that day there was a story in a local paper about state legislatures worrying about rural broadband access. This is a real problems that effects real Americans, and Edwards is the only one I know who has acknowledged the problem, let alone address it. If another candidate in the primary has, then I do apologize.
He then moves on to bank discrimination and predatory lending:
Prohibiting Banks from Discriminating against Rural America: Rural communities have fewer bank branches, fewer per-capita small business loans and more high-cost mortgages. Deregulation has led to bank consolidation while small towns rely on community banks to support local businesses. Edwards will strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act to prevent banks from discriminating against rural areas and increase investment in rural small businesses. He will also establish a strong national law against predatory mortgages common in many rural areas. [NCRC, 2007; Carsey Institute, 2006; Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis, 2004; SBA, 2004; Independent Community Bankers Association, 2006.]
Now again, I am no economist these facts seem disturbing as an American living in a small town. We all know about predatory lending and evidently it is more prevailant in rural and small-town America. Some regulation is good, especially when it protects the American consumer. Thanks once again Mr. Edwards for addressing a real problem faced by real Americans, including me!!
He goes on to mention rural poverty:
Fighting for Economic Fairness: Child poverty rates in rural areas are higher than urban rates for every racial and ethnic group. The highest child poverty rates are in the most isolated rural areas. To eliminate adult and childhood poverty nationwide within 30 years, Edwards will raise the minimum wage, cut taxes for low-wage workers, help workers save and invest, and expand affordable housing near good jobs and schools. [Carsey Institute, 2006]
With all due respect if I have to defend this aspect of this plan, I think you may have wondered into the wrong party.
Here are more solutions in this very well thought out plan:
Guaranteeing Rural America the Funding It Needs and Is Entitled to: More than half of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $70 billion in rural development funds has actually gone to metropolitan regions, suburbs of midsize cities, and resort towns like Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Edwards will rewrite these funding rules and get resources to the intended isolated and disadvantaged areas. Because many small towns lack the grant-writing capabilities of larger towns, Edwards will direct federal agencies to offer a simplified, one-page grant application for small grants to rural towns and counties, based on the successful COPS program. [Washington Post, 4/6/2007]
I think this is a true tenet of Progressivism, that all regions should recieve their share of support whether they are the "glamour" regions or not. We should invest in all Americans, and all American towns.
Next Edwards addresses strengthening rural schools:
Strengthening Rural Schools: Rural schools enroll 40 percent of American children - including most children in Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina - but receive only 22 percent of federal education funding. Small rural schools often struggle to provide a complete curriculum and attract and retain excellent teachers. [NEA, 2007]
Investing in Teachers: Research has found that teachers are the most important part of any school, and rural schools have particular difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers. They often lose teachers to wealthier districts. Edwards will improve pay for teachers in rural and other hard-to-staff schools, including rural schools, to help attract quality new and experienced teachers. He will also offer college scholarships for students who commit to teach in underserved rural schools after graduation. [Rural School and Community Trust, 2006 and 2007]
Creating Digital Learning Opportunities: Distance learning through the Internet can bring the content of the world's best universities, libraries, and museums to rural and remote areas. Software programs incorporating virtual reality, digital modeling, and intelligent one-on-one tutoring systems are proven to dramatically accelerate learning. Edwards will invest in cutting-edge research to integrate these new teaching tools and test them in rural America. [Digital Promise, 2003]
Again, I know I am already an Edwards supporter hence biased, but those three ideas to me as someone from these places just makes sense. Where a child lives should not affect the quality of education they recieve. That is true in both urban and rural communities. Respecting teachers and keeping quality teachers in all districts is very important to. I really hope I don't have to defend any of those last few points here.
Edwards has been a vocal leader in the fight for healthcare reform, and next he includes rural healthcare:
Improving Rural Health Care: Over the past 25 years, 470 rural hospitals have closed. Rural counties have only one-fourth as many doctors and one-sixth as many specialists per capita and face critical gaps in trauma care. The Edwards plan for universal health care will cover the 9 million rural Americans that lack insurance and establish a nationwide network of safety net clinics and public hospitals. He will rewrite the unfair Medicare and Medicaid funding formulas that punish rural states and communities. He will also support investments in telemedicine to instantaneously connect distant specialists and advanced equipment with local doctors and patients, allowing better monitoring, chronic disease management, and emergency response. Health care is also an important source of economic development, creating jobs directly and attracting businesses and retirees. One study estimated that each doctor was worth more than eight jobs. [Winbush and Crichlow, 2005; Carsey, 2006; USDA, 1999; Wakefield, 2000; KFF, 2003
Again, I don't see how I can add much to this. All of it sounds very good, and I am once again impressed at the depth of Edwards perception of the problems that face everyday Americans, and how to turn lemons into lemonaide. No matter who it upsets, on all levels I just believe that Edwards is by far the best candidate on either side to solve the problems with healthcare.
Finally Edwards ends with a few ideas on Protecting the rural way of life:
Ridding Rural America of Methamphetamines: Many areas of rural America are facing the devastating effects of meth abuse. It can be easily, quickly, and cheaply produced and is highly addictive. Edwards will invest in enforcing drug laws in rural areas, help states make meth ingredients more difficult to get, and expand programs that successfully treat addicts such as the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program for prisoners.
Now first I want to say that I have never been a huge "War on Drugs" person. However, with that being said once again one of these points is personal to me. Living in Western Kentucky, I have seen the curse of methamphetamines rip apart my generation, and the ones just before and after it. One of my very best friends growing up was lost to this epidemic. I didn't realize he had gotten in such a bad shape, and he was lost to suicide. I am forever left with memories and knowledge that I wasn't there... Even the people who survive meth use or addiction are mostly never the same. They end up with criminal records and devestated bodies. Their minds usually never recover either. Again, I applaud Mr. Edwards for addressing a real problem that is not glamourous, but seriously destroys the lives of millions of Americans. I think he shows a real good balance between prosecution and treatment with this proposal and understands a slogan can't solve real problems.
He now shows the courage to address a controversial issue, that of gun ownership:
Protecting Lawful Gun Ownership: In small towns across America, hunting and gun ownership is a way of life. John Edwards believes that law-abiding citizens have the right to defend their families and respects the long American tradition of hunting. We can protect Second Amendment gun rights while also stopping criminals from using guns. Edwards will protect the right of law-abiding citizens to participate in gun shows, an important source of economic activity in many communities, while ensuring all that all weapons sold there are subject to an instant check. He will also crack down on gun crimes.
I think Americans should be able to own a gun if they obey the law. I also think that any American who wants to buy assault weapons and such who won't wait for a background check doesn't need one. That is about all I can add to that.
Finally he addresses yet another real problem that confronts everyday Americans, that of clean water:
Expanding Access to Clean Water: Every household deserve clean, drinkable water and sanitation services, but more than 1.7 million Americans lack basic plumbing facilities. Rural households are four times more likely to lack proper plumbing than urban homes. Inadequate water and sanitation damage public health and impede economic development. Edwards will help local areas improve their infrastructure and tackle local pollution problems. He will also establish tough clean air and water requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations. [RCAP, undated]
I think it goes without saying that every American deserves to be able to turn on their faucet and get at least relatively clean water to drink. I don't have a problem with that where I live, but I am sure the Americans who do would very much welcome the change, not that the MSM is going to let them know about it.
So there it is, the John Edwards Rural Recovery Act. I am sorry this post was so long, but that is a testament to John Edwards that his proposals on so many issues are very in-depth and include real information and proposals. I think this plan is needed badly, and if it got introduced on a broad scale to rural and small town Americans, it would generate a whole lot of votes that were going the other way.
I will just end by saying, no matter what your perception of John Edwards is, just look at the depth of thought, and understanding that went into coming up with a plan this far-reaching. This shows no matter what the media will tell you that Edwards DOES understand the problems real Americans face and cares about solving them. I again challenge any other candidate on either side to come up with a plan as far-reaching to revive our rural and small town communities. John Edwards has once again shown he has the qualities to be a great leader.