Sunday, March 26, 2017

Budgeting for failure: Trump's proposed budget will hit ruralities hardest

We know now that white rural America was a massive factor in Donald Trump's November 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. Rural voters turned out for Trump over Clinton at a ratio of 3 to 1, a boon for the GOP that the Dems seemingly weren't prepared for. To secure that oft-overlooked portion of the voting population, Trump made frequent references to "taking care" of the rural population, including a focus on the opioid epidemic and building the infamous border wall, to stem the alleged tide of "job-takers."

After the election, rural voters maintained their faith in Trump, citing their satisfaction with his "quick" movements to shake up institutional norms. Anecdotally, my own family members, hailing from small farming towns in the Central Valley, appeared to be pleased with his efforts. They were prepared to overlook any minor misgivings. 

It wasn't until the recent release of the federal budget outline proposal that we got a glimpse of just how Trump plans to "take care" of rural communities. The new budget makes cuts to 19 separate agencies that exist to provide services to the rural poor, including job training for seniors and after-school programs in high-poverty areas. The federal budget proposes a steep 21% cut to the Department of Labor's budget alone, which funds many programs that typically garner bipartisan support, like job skills training. Rural regions depend heavily on federal dollars, and pulling this funding seems a harbinger of even further problems for already-plagued rural communities. 

Other examples of the budget cuts that will negatively impact rural voters include things as far-ranging as public access television and access to rural transportation. For instance, under the budget proposal the Essential Air Service would be eliminated; the program currently subsidizes flights out of small regional airports that typically serve nonmetropolitan residents. Without those federal dollars, the airports will likely close in a matter of years, or even months. The budget also proposes to eliminate the Amtrak Southwest Chief line, which moves many members of small rural communities from the Chicago region to the Los Angeles region, and would be a huge loss to those who rely on it. 

The budget also aims to cut funding to the Legal Services Corporation, despite it taking up a meager one ten-thousandth of the federal budget. LSC is the single-largest funding source of civil legal aid for low-income individuals in the nation. Don Saunders, Vice President of Civil Legal Services at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, said:

We’ve had urban legal aid programs for over a century. But it was the federal support that created the capacity to expand out into rural areas. So you will see a great retrenchment in that regard without federal support.

Despite these clearly troubling hard-number statistics that show a disproportionate impact to ruralities, at least some of those who voted for Trump still seem to support his actions. The question necessarily arises, is this an inherent danger of a strictly two-party system? Do rural voters feel adrift without an option, with no single candidate ever truly looking out for their own best interest? Surely there are some who voted for Trump genuinely believing he was a great candidate for the job, but just as surely some voted for Trump as a "best of the worst" option. One thing is certain: rural voters are seeing no greater success in fighting their unique battles under Trump's presidency thus far, and in fact seem to be the most negatively impacted of all in terms of hard steps taken by the administration. Whether this fact impacts the next election, or has the possibility to shake our current political two-party system to its core, remains to be seen.


ofilbrandt said...

This was a great highlight of the promises that Trump made and immediately fell back on. I wonder what he would do if his contractors fell back on promises they made to him.

I want to say that this really just seems like another reflection of the ways that rural people are taken advantage of. However, the question then arises, what ways would Hilary's policies have affected rural people? I certainly voted for her and would do so again but my point is that someone typically loses in making any sort of policy call. This is no different when it comes to budgetary decisions. Because someone always loses, I see why people vote in line with the person that seems to lose them the least. They may not believe everything that he is saying but they certainly felt like they would lose the least with going with him.

Of course these people vote knowing that someone will lose out. Even if their candidate wins, people still lose out. Indeed, even if their candidate wins and he does what he promises, they may lose out. One woman learned that the hard way when she voted for Trump to rid the country of "bad hombres" and her business owning, upstanding citizen husband is getting deported.

dnlauber said...

Thank you for an insightful look into Trumps failed campaign promises and a look into how the Trump administration is actually hurting rural people. I agree with Olivia in that the election seemed to highlight ways in which rural people are taken advantage of. Here is an article highlighting 10 ways President Trump's agenda is hurting rural Americans (

Throughout his campaign, Trump visited rural towns and promised to bring jobs to their communities. This won over many rural voters who struggle with limited job opportunities. Yet, Trump's policies actually hurt rural job prospects. President Trump favors tax breaks for Wall Street over infrastructure investments in hard-hit rural communities, his agenda will cost rural areas and small towns clean energy job opportunities, and rural economies are hurt by Trump’s scaremongering on immigration.

Responding to Olivia's comment about what way in which Hillary's policies would have affected rural people, unlike Trump, Hillary actually had policies in place to specifically help support rural communities. These are her campaign promises taken straight off her campaign website:

"As president, Hillary will:

(1) Spur investment. Hillary will create a national infrastructure bank to improve rural transportation and broadband access and grow the rural economy by expanding access to capital. She’ll also expand the New Markets Tax Credit that will encourage investments to prevent communities from spiraling downward after a major economic shift or plant closing.

(2) Support family farms. Hillary will increase funding to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers in local food markets and regional food systems. And she’ll create a focused safety net to help family farms get through challenging times. Promote clean energy. Hillary will encourage our nation’s commitment to clean energy by assisting farms that conserve and improve natural resources. She’ll also strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard and double loans that help support the bio-based economy.

(3) Expand opportunity. Hillary will increase funding for Early Head Start, universal pre-K, free community college, and support for telemedicine and Medicaid expansion." (

I agree with you Anne when you say that many voted for Trump as a "best of the worst" option. But was Trump the best option for rural people? His unsupported campaign promises and actions in his short time in office seem to suggest otherwise.