Friday, December 14, 2012

Duluth paper, in wake of Vilsack's statement that rural America is less relevant: Where's the outrage?

In contrast to the outrage expressed at Mitt Romney's comment that 47 percent of Americans were unlikely to vote for him because they benefit from one government program or another, so he wouldn’t be campaigning too hard to reach them, no one has railed about Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's recent comments that rural America is “becoming less and less relevant” to government and to politicians, the editorial page of the Duluth News Tribune notes.

"Where were the tractors rolling up Pennsylvania Avenue in protest? Where were the ranchers and farmers and outdoors-lovers demanding to be heard? No one would have blamed rural America, including nearly all of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, for being up in arms," the paper opines. "What Vilsack was saying, essentially, was that the U.S. government and its elected leaders aren’t bothering to represent rural areas because there’s no political payoff or ballot-box support."

Yes, "More people are living in cities and suburbs. And President Obama, a Democrat, retained the White House in spite of overwhelming Republican support from the nation’s rural areas," the paper says. "But none of those are reason enough for elected leaders to ignore an entire segment of the population, as Vilsack said is happening. Elected representatives and others in government are supposed to work for all, not just for those who support their elections and re-elections." When they don’t represent all, those snubbed are entirely justified in expressing their strong disagreement. (Read more)

A contrasting view comes from Tim Hearden of Capital Press, a Western farm-news service: Despite what Vilsack says, "Rural Americans managed to string together an impressive array of successes during President Barack Obama's first term. Political pressure from farmers and ranchers played a big role in stalling key parts of Obama's agenda that they don't like," such as a cap-and-trade emissions system and "stringent new meatpacker rules." But it must also be said that cap-and-trade would have paid farmers for carbon sequestration and the meatpacker rules could have helped small producers.

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