My Point of View: Several parts of Trump’s budget affect Freeborn Co.

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.

Our country voted for change. How much will that change cost rural America?

The status quo presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, was not a satisfactory choice for a lot of people in Freeborn County in this last election, even if they voted for Barack Obama or other Democrats in the past.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

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I had been a Bernie Sanders supporter, as were most people who cast ballots at the DFL caucuses in March 2016, including in this county. I thought Sanders was most in tune with everyday concerns of the working class, and he cared as much about the condition of the floor as he did about glass ceilings.

Sanders had a surprisingly strong showing in the primaries with his platform of economic reform, but he didn’t have the support of the establishment and superdelegates, and that was too much to overcome. Clinton won the Democrats’ nomination.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, ousted his Republican rivals with personal jibes, entertaining stream-of-consciousness tirades, conspiracy-influenced assertions that didn’t pass fact checkers like Politifact but nevertheless hit their mark with many people who were reeling from the effects of globalization and automation.

After his nomination, Trump came across as a fresh alternative to a tired, over-investigated political dynasty. And he promised to remember the forgotten people! The people of flyover country would finally have a champion in the White House when he won the Electoral College.

Or would they?

Trump released his budget proposal in March, and it’s plain to see that the pain in rural America is going to be real and sustained if it comes to fruition. Trump’s Inaugural words were just words, and they distracted us from the scalpel in his hand as he squinted westward toward the Heartland.

Death by a thousand cuts.

Here are some lowlights of Trump’s budget that would likely affect Freeborn County:

• $6 billion reduction in Housing and Urban Development, which would result in over $100,000 in cuts here annually in Section 8 housing and public housing programs. It cuts federal housing assistance for the elderly by 10 percent. Eliminating the Community Development Block Grant Program would reduce funding through Minnesota’s Small Cities Development Program, which awarded a grant of over $500,000 to Albert Lea last year.

• $9.2 billion in cuts to education, including a $3.9 billion reduction in Pell grants (with a $1.3 billion cut requested this year). These grants help low-income students attend college.

• $12.6 billion in cuts to Health and Human Services, including a $5.8 billion cut in National Institutes of Health funding (with a $1.2 billion suggested cut this year). Does anybody around here have health problems like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease who depend on research to extend and improve their lives? Yes.

• Eliminates the $3.39 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (with a recommended $372 million cut this year), which would especially impact northern states like Minnesota.

• A $200 million reduction in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that helps pregnant women and their young children meet nutritional needs.

• Eliminates funding for the Legal Services Corporation, accounting for about 15 percent of Albert Lea’s Legal Aid budget.

• Eliminates the Essential Air Service Program, which provides subsidies for rural airports.

• $4.7 billion reduction in USDA funding. This would result in cuts to county agriculture services offices and the loan and grant program for rural water and sewer infrastructure. It would eliminate some agricultural statistics collection, a valuable source of market data for producers and the larger public.

Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, observed that Trump’s budget proposal “demonstrates a lack of understanding of farm programs and their impact on rural America. The good news is this budget will be ignored, as it should be. I urge the administration to spend more time in rural America to gain an understanding of how things work,  and I hope that once an agriculture secretary is in place that he (or she) will be able to explain the value of these programs and services.”

These proposed cuts are draconian and wouldn’t even reduce the budget deficit because they’re offset by other increases, predominantly in military spending. While Rep. Peterson is probably correct that Trump’s budget won’t be given serious consideration, it does show Freeborn County what Trump really thinks of us. Not only are we forgettable flyover folks, we’re not worth current levels of investments.

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” — Maya Angelou