Left Behind? Not Anymore, as President Biden Invests Over $5 Billion in Rural America

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Today, the President announced over $5 billion in investments in rural communities, which he will do during a Rural America Event in Northfield, Minnesota, where he is visiting a family farm, where they operate in a more sustainable way, including growing crops that naturally sequester carbon.

Sometimes it’s the little changes that give us hope that maybe we can at least stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Biden is announcing a new $1.7 billion investment in conservation, which will be an investment in climate-smart agriculture. This will be funded by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said on a call with reporters in which PoliticusUSA participated, “It’s the single largest investment in any one year of conservation in the history of our conservation programs.” He added that this is not only going to help agriculture work towards the President’s vision of a net zero future, “but it’s also going to help to create new income opportunities for 1000s of small and mid-sized farming operations” which “will ultimately qualify them for a series of environmental ecosystem service market credits.”

The $5 billion represents a combination of investments in conservation, renewable energy and access to higher biofuel blends and rural investments:

$1.1 Billion in Investments in Rural American Infrastructure: The USDA is announcing $1.1 billion across 104 loan and grant awards to upgrade infrastructure in rural communities that will bring new jobs, clean water and fuel, and reliable electricity to people in nearly every state

$2 Billion in Investments to Partner with Rural Communities to Create Jobs and Support Rural-led Economic Development

$274 Million to Expand Critical Rural High-Speed Internet Infrastructure

$145 Million to Expand Access to Renewable Energy and Lower Energy Costs for Rural Americans

Why is the Democratic president investing so much effort to rebuild rural communities? Biden has always understood the importance of a good job in family structure and community well-being. Rural areas across the country, especially in the Rust Belt, were left destitute when good-paying union jobs dried up and were replaced by garbage jobs that didn’t pay the bills. In the wake of that devastation, rural areas left the Democratic party. Being left behind as others prosper is a horrible feeling, and it opens the doors to all kinds of tragedies.

There is also the political element. Biden and Democrats do not do well in rural areas, but young rural voters are starting a slight shift. NPR illustrated the rural issue, “Biden’s popularity is low among rural, independent and young voters.. But within those groups, Democrats may have an in. While rural voters nationwide typically vote Republican, young rural voters are more evenly split. In 2020, 50% of rural voters under 30 voted for Donald Trump, while 47% voted for Biden.

If Biden were just trying to rebuild rural communities to help his party, that in and of itself would still be a good thing. After all, voters should ideally look to policy over rhetoric. If people actually voted for what was best for themselves and their principles, it would be very difficult for the Republican Party to continue selling hating your neighbors so they could do socialism for the wealthy. But people don’t tend to put their faith in policy.

In fact, I’d argue that incentivizing politicians to do right by the people by voting for those who actually try to help voters would be a great movement for democracy. But with the right-wing disinformation media echoes keeping their base trained on trans people while they give their money away to the wealthy, that won’t happen any time soon. But even that is addressed in this push, as the Biden-Harris administration moves to improve internet infrastructure in rural areas.

They hope to “to ensure that rural Americans have every opportunity to succeed” by “ensuring every community in America, no matter how rural or remote, has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet,” Senior Advisor to the President Mitch Landrieu said on the call. “If you lack access to knowledge, you are on the wrong side of where you need to be and so the President will be announcing $274 million for 16 awards across nine states to expand high-speed internet access in rural communities.”

People do, however, tend to respond to basic security in a positive way. And while Biden and Democrats won’t be winning rural America overall, they are no doubt set on chipping away at the numbers. In swing states like Pennsylvania, when Democrats cut into red areas, it has helped to win the state. Given the authoritarian bent of the modern day Republican Party, success for Democrats is best for those who value a democratic republic.

After four years of the pettiest president imaginable, tragically imposed on the nation during a global pandemic during which he withheld critical help from blue states out of cruelty and smallness, the United States currently has the opposite: A president who invests in rural America, even though it didn’t vote for him and probably won’t next time around. The Democratic base overwhelmingly wants a president of both “red and blue,” and Biden has consistently been that kind of politician. He is, in action and deed at least, a generous person.

President Biden understands that the best way to address what ails this country is to help the people themselves become more stable, have decent jobs and to make sure they have access to accurate information. It won’t solve every problem or “win” rural areas, but it will help some people and that matters.

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