Biden Vows to Revitalize Rural America and Tribal Communities

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Picture from Des Moine Register
Photo from Town and Country Magazine

Joe Biden has a plan to revitalize and help Rural America and Tribal Communities get through the Coronavirus Public Health Emergency and overcome years of reactionary policy obstruction and neglect.

In a May 20, 2020, virtual town hall with Wisconsin Third District House Representative Ron Kind and medical, labor, and commercial representatives of Wisconsin’s rural community, the former Vice President said of Rural America:

“Even though Rural America makes up 20 percent of the population, it is the heart of America.”

 “Rural communities power our nation: They feed our bodies, they fuel our engines, they’re the stewards that protect our lands and we cannot sustain an economy that exacts a value from them without ever sharing in the rewards.”

 “The only way we are going to get out of this is to do it together and leave no one behind….. Rural America is America and where our values emanate from and we have to make it stronger.”

During the town hall (please see video link below,) Mr. Biden and the other panelists discussed the causes for concern in rural communities and potential solutions that could revitalize those areas in the country long neglected. Later, the former Vice President would make a proposal to aid Tribal Communities.

What Ails Rural America and Tribal Nations?

The issues afflicting Rural America and, to a larger extent in some cases, Tribal Nations are years in the making. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic, which has already plagued communities like the Navajo Nation, has only intensified these concerns. Some of the areas, discussed by the panelists with Mr. Biden during the Wisconsin Roundtable include:

  • An increase in farm bankruptcies.
  • An increase in people needing mental health and social services.
  • A decrease in the number of rural medical staff (including mental health practitioners) and community hospitals.
  • An insufficient supply of medical testing supplies and equipment to meet an outbreak of the Coronavirus.
  • Not enough masks and protective gear for workers in rural businesses like some meat plants.
  • People losing employer-based health insurance and needing to qualify for Medicaid.
  • Inadequate rural broadband strength that affects schooling and telehealth
  • Crumbling roads and infrastructure.
  • Small “main street” businesses not receiving the same treatment as larger “Wall Street” entities.
  • Disruptions in food production and the supply chain due to Trump’s trade wars (especially the tariffs) and the Coronavirus.
  • Water supply.
  • A dearth of opportunities for residents and businesses in the rural community

Other issues bedeviling rural communities and tribal nations include:

  • The lack of adequate head start and childcare services.
  • Not enough Community Banks to assist farmers and other rural residents and commercial interests.

The need to revitalize and invest in Rural America and tribal communities, including those in states like Arizona, is vital to moving this whole country forward.

David Lujan
David Lujan

David Lujan, the director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, commented, upon request by the Blog For Arizona, on the Grand Canyon state situation by writing:

“Investing in infrastructure would be a significant boost to creating jobs and economic development in rural communities.  In Arizona, investing in school facilities, broadband access, and roads are particularly important.  Arizona has cut more than $2 billion in funding for public school buildings and repair over the past decade.  Not only would investing in school renovations and repairs creating better academic environments for students to learn, but it also has the potential to create all sorts of new jobs for roofers, electricians, IT people, HVAC specialists, and others to do those school repairs.  Since the Great Recession, Arizona has also disinvested millions from our state parks which are vital to rural economic development.”

Mark Manoil, the 2018 Democratic candidate for Arizona State Treasurer, spoke, at the request for Blog For Arizona, on the need for more community banks, wrote:

“Because of the vitality of its community banking system, supported by the state’s public bank, North Dakota small businesses succeeded in getting much-needed PPP funds, on a much wider, distributed basis than in any other state. Public banking, whether through the United States Postal Service, or through state-created banks, could help bring more banking services to rural communities.

“And a state bank for Arizona could help all communities, both big and small, through extremely low-cost borrowing from the Federal Reserve, using the Fed’s new Municipal Liquidity Facility to sell bonds directly to the Fed (notes of 24 months or less), and getting low-interest loans under the Federal Reserve Act. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a state bank that benefits all Arizonans, that enjoys the same benefits big banks are getting from the federal government for their shareholders.”  

Biden’s Proposed Solutions

The former Vice President struck an immediate and continual empathetic and supportive tone during the Round Table with all the panelists.

He criticized Trump for his “failed leadership” and the lack of a national strategy to meet the challenges of the Coronavirus public health crisis.

He touted his own experience of administering the Obama Care Stimulus Fund, reflecting (in another critique of Trump) how he worked with the Inspector Generals serving at the time. Biden said:

We “need to focus on keeping Main Street open and keeping the lights on. not one more penny should go to a Fortune 500 company.”

Furthermore, on Trump’s not actively promoting a safe plan to reopen, Biden commented:

“We need to protect people and tell the truth. Wall Street did not build America. Everyday Americans did.”

“Even though Rural America makes up 20 percent of the population, it is the heart of America.”

Saying that farmers and other rural residents were looking for “an opportunity and not a payoff (a reference to Trump’s failed trade policies,)” Mr. Biden suggested solutions that, if enacted, would stimulate the rural areas of the country, including Native American nations. These include:

  • “New Biobased multi-manufacturing jobs.”
  • “A $20 billion investment in rural broadband so every child has a chance to thrive and every business has a chance to compete and every hospital has a chance to do telemedicine.”
  • “Smart legislation like bipartisan legislation Senator Baldwin helped sponsor that would stabilize rural economies and repair food supply chains that had been disrupted by the pandemic.”
  • Supporting the maintenance and creation of more community health centers.
  • A national strategy for Coronavirus testing which includes “the creation of a pandemic testing board where testing gets everywhere and a public health job corps that could be used after pandemic to fight things like the opioid crisis.”
  • Greater access to mental health care.
  • Investing in infrastructure like school buildings and education, modern highways with electric charging stations based on new environmental standards.
  • Food security relief for the American People by having the government, instead of going to court to make it harder for people to qualify for food stamps, to buy the food farmers are throwing away because they can not sell them to likely vendors like restaurants (because of the Coronavirus) and have the food delivered to Foodbanks and schools that can feed the people that now have to wait in lines in their cars to get a meal bag. Mr. Biden, in again criticizing Trump’s approach said to the panelists:

“We have to sustain people in basic needs they have and keep businesses open. We should have enough PPE for example to keep the meatpacking plants open. Then we have to rebuild the country (in January, February, and March.)”

 Mr. Biden also referred to the panelists and the roundtable viewers to his website where they could read his other ideas, after consulting with specialists like former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, on revitalizing Rural America (please click here to access that page.) Some of these ideas included:

  • Expanding Obama era microloan programs for beginning farmers and expand access to credit and community banks
  • Pursuing trade policies that benefit farmers (supposed to be the breadbasket for farmers)
  • Achieving zero net emissions
  • Strengthening antitrust measures to protect small farmers
  • Investing in wind and solar energy
  • Targeting aid to the 85 percent persistent poverty areas in rural communities
  • Protecting and expanding Obamacare/Medicaid.

Shortly after the round table, Mr. Biden announced to AZ Central his desire for additional measures to help Native American Tribal Nations like the Navajo’s. In his announcement, he said:

“The Navajo Nation has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the United States. Donald Trump has failed to live up to our trust and treaty obligations to Native Americans. He took more than a month to allocate Congress’ emergency funding to tribes — and only did so after tribes sued. He has failed to provide tribes with adequate protective personal equipment and medical supplies. It’s unacceptable. As President, I’ll make meaningful investments in Indian Country — including dramatically increasing funding for Indian Health Services and making it mandatory.”

When the voters in Rural Communities and Tribal Nations venture to the polls or mail in their ballots, they should ask the question Ronald Reagan asked in his one debate with Jimmy Carter. Please see below.

 

Are you?

 Please remember:

  • Primary Election Day is on August 4, 2020, and General Election Day is on November 3. 2020.
  • Register/sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) in Arizona or any state that allows early or absentee balloting and mail. Arizona residents can sign up at servicearizona.com
  • Arizona residents, mail your General Election ballot by October 28, 2020, for the November 3, 2020 election.
  • Check-in with the Secretary of State’s office where you live to verify your mail-in ballot was received, processed, verified, and counted.
  • Know the voter ID requirements in your state.
  • If you can, support Clean Election Candidates with a small contribution.
  • Also, please remember to stay informed on all the candidates and vote for all the offices on the ballot.
  • Also, remember to research all the ballot initiatives, sign to get them on the ballot if you support the measure, and vote on them as well.

For more information on the plight of the Navajo Nation and the need for additional rural broadband in Arizona, please click on the two below links: