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October 17th, 2008
06:47 PM ET

Nobody is going to bail out rural America

Editor's Note: Dee Davis is the founder and president of the Center for Rural Strategies. Dee has helped design and lead national public information campaigns on topics as diverse as commercial television programming and federal banking policy. He shares his thoughts on the presidential election:

Dee Davis | BIO
President, Center for Rural Strategies

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a lot to brag about when it comes to rural America. Through the sustained economic boom of the nineties and the skyrocketing real estate valuations of this decade, rural communities have lagged behind conspicuously. Rural America has the highest proportion of children in poverty, lowest educational attainment, worst rates of substance abuse. Of the 250 poorest counties in the U.S., 244 of them are rural. If the effectiveness of a government is at all reflected in the well-being of the populace, then the 60 million of us in rural America may want to petition for a new constitutional convention.

I was 16 in 1967 when I signed up to work in my first political campaign passing out handbills and bumper stickers in Hazard, Kentucky, my small hometown in the Appalachian coalfields. The night before the election one of the party faithful came into headquarters and gathered the youth volunteers. He said it was high time we understood what really went on in politics. He said, “We’re out of liquor.”

Then we kids stood there awed at being allowed in on the conspiracy, listening as he phoned around for additional cases of half pints to be handed out surreptitiously to undecided voters. I came to learn that Election Day liquor was a tricky business. Not only was it illegal to give away, it could be a risky investment, especially if you put it in the hands of your poll workers too early. Politics like most enterprises depends on figuring out what people want.

Here is another lesson: Nobody is going to bail out rural America. No matter how bad things get, there is never going to be $700 billion of stop loss or reinvestment or economic stimulus for the countryside. Government is going to be there to look after besotted financiers in $5,000 suits and Gucci loafers a long time before it notices small town folks struggling to feed their families or gas up to get to work.

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Filed under: Dee Davis • Economy • Raw Politics