Trump’s budget betrays rural America

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Rural voters backed Donald Trump in the 2016 election for many reasons.

For some, it was ideological. Rural areas have become more politically conservative, home to more people who believe in hands-off government and stricter regulation on social issues.

Other voters saw the progressive social changes of the past ten years and felt overwhelmed.

For more, however, it was the sense that economic trends in rural places were so bad that only a dramatic shake-up could make things better. Trump, for his many indiscretions, despite being a big city oligarch, spoke the hopes for recovery that many rural people hold. He would open doors and strip away red tape.

We now see Trump’s plans in action. In recent weeks President Trump released his federal budget recommendations. This came after releasing his long-awaited health care reform bill, the so-called “repeal and replace” of former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

That health care plan rang hollow to members of both parties. Facing massive disapproval in opinion polls, the bill died before getting a House vote last week. We could dwell on Trump’s health care bill’s problems. After all, its savings would have come from making private health insurance disproportionately more difficult for working class rural Americans to keep. But Trump’s budget is equally troubling.

While increasing spending on the military and homeland security by billions, Trump outlined the reduction or elimination of most federal programs related to poverty, housing, conservation, environmental protection, or the arts. The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program, in particular, seems a particularly unusual place for a “rural issues” president to slash.

Trump would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which backs public radio and TV stations. The most crushing blow here would be to small, rural public radio and TV stations. In rural America, local PBS stations provide most educational and children’s programming used in the home. Full disclosure, I produce programs for Northern Community Radio (91.7 KAXE), which is partially funded by the CPB. Northern Community Radio is one of the region’s few radio organizations investing in local news reporting and cultural programming.

The president also seeks to zero out the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA is one of the major funders of art outside the big cities. Traveling plays and musical groups often rely on this money. Without funding, rural people have to drive to metro areas to experience art, and for many that’s as good as not having it at all.

Huge cuts to federal work-study programs for college students. Scientific research. Home heating assistance. Legal Aid. Meals on Wheels.

How is Meals on Wheels is bad for America? The federal dollars encourage state and local funds to provide nutrition and safety check-ins for longtime taxpayers. These are people who, by now, should have earned the respect of their government.

The local impact could be huge. Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Essential Air Service program would devastate regional airports, including the Range Regional Airport here in Hibbing. We would be more isolated, with fewer options to attract new businesses, investors, and tourists.

Many earnestly voted for President Trump hoping for relief for rural people and rural places ignored or even maligned by politicians of both parties. Hibbing, for instance, voted Republican in the presidential race for the first time since 1928.

In this regard, rural voters find broken promises in the black and white of our new president’s budget. Billions in tax cuts pour into the pockets of the already wealthy, while everyone else is told to wait. Just wait, until the rich people decide to make your life better. It might take awhile. Just keep voting how they tell you to, and don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise.

A hundred years ago Mesabi Range immigrant laborers figured out this scam not long after they got off the train at the North Hibbing depot.

I’m not here to suggest that the Democrats have their act figured out either. The lack of attention to the plight of rural America is bipartisan. Certainly, the majorities of people in this country — located in cities and suburbs — could better understand how our food, our goods, our recreation, and our construction materials are made with the labor and resources of rural areas.

Further, I recognize that some believe that the federal government should be nothing more than a colossal military to fight endless war and overactive judicial system to process an inherently criminal population. I don’t understand this way of thinking, though I look forward to reading such totalitarian fever dreams in the comments.

Nevertheless, if you’re rural or a member of the working poor (statistically, that describes at most of the Mesabi Iron Range) Trump’s budget is a betrayal. This budget attacks rural America. Further, it assumes the wicked philosophy that poverty may only be blamed on the impoverished.

We must be relentless in arguing for what we value in our rural communities. We must respond to the challenges of globalization and automation with real policies for economic diversification, sustainable towns and mercy for the poor and elderly.

To do that, we must reject this budget, and demand better.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, April 2 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. Ranger47 says

    My goodness, where to begin. Let’s start small: If we’re going to continue to use federal tax dollars to fund Public Radio and with it being widely known as the liberal analog to conservative talk radio, in fairness we must begin funding Rush as well. However, Trump’s idea is much, much better….fund neither and get out taxpayer funded propaganda.

  2. I reject that description of public radio altogether. Unlike Rush, NPR has an ombudsman assessing the bias of the stories they run. They self-report their own errors and unanticipated biases. They do not strive for a bias, but all organizations do have one. eg. NPR has a slight liberal lean, mostly owing to the fact that it attracts listeners and staff who are more educated. More educated people tend to be (though are not exclusively) more liberal.

    But NPR isn’t even the real issue that I have. NPR could actually function without CPB funding. It’d be tough, but they could do it. The loss of CPB funding would, however, devastate many small state public radio stations and networks, mostly rural. That is the chief issue here.

    I didn’t expect you to like this one, Bob, nor did I expect to like all of the president’s policies. But in terms of return on investment, he’s proposed hollowing out the benefits that the federal government provides rural areas, to pay for an unnecessarily larger military industrial complex WITHOUT actually reducing the size of government. It is neither liberal nor conservative. It is the work of an amateur being advised by a right-wing internet troll.

  3. Reid Carron says

    Aaron, you are a very smart and thoughtful guy, but you make me crazy by too often pulling your punches and setting up false equivalencies. I can’t believe you wrote this: “I’m not here to suggest that the Democrats have their act figured out either. The lack of attention to the plight of rural America is bipartisan.” Can you imagine Barack Obama or any Democratic president behaving the way Trump is behaving–eviscerating programs that are vitally important to rural and less well-off Americans? Why the cheap shot? Hillary Clinton’s budget wouldn’t look like it was written by Attila the Hun. On a happier note, thanks for taking on Ranger 47. Equating NPR and Rush is idiotic protofascist nonsense.

    • I never claimed equivalence between the parties. I claimed that the Democrats have failed to enact a cohesive agenda that would address their losses in rural areas — in other words, serve rural people. I realize that’s very difficult to do. Part of the problem is a cultural divide making it harder for rural and metro people to talk to each other. Being a liberal who votes Democratic most of the time, I have decided that Democrats do more by supporting upward mobility through education and job training. But obviously a number of people in my part of the world didn’t see it that way last November. So I’m trying to have a conversation about the practical matters facing some of the communities. Thirty years of decline, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. People are weary of the argument “Just wait, it’ll get better when you vote X.”

      Thus the core purpose of my argument was not to prop up one party over another. It was to point out the president’s betrayal of his working class and rural voters, and show that the generic promises of the campaign have now been rendered into positions that would not have won votes if people knew about them. I realize I could have been more partisan, produced more zingers. But I have decided that life is too short to write for one side to read and the other side to ignore.

      • Ranger47 says

        “president’s betrayal of his working class and rural voters”??? My God Aaron, the guy has been in office for a few hours and he’s already created more jobs, and an atmosphere for the biggest job boom since the end of WWII, and you say he’s not looking out for the working class. You’re blinded by your highly educated liberal bias…which sorely lacks wisdom.

        • The president has gotten his hands into a few small incentive deals to pump up a few companies who then claim a few new jobs and then a higher number of jobs “saved.” The cost per job is often in the hundreds of thousands. That’s the same thing they do at the IRRRB, by the way, and you never seem to approve. The only thing unusual is that Trump is playing for day-to-day headlines and doesn’t seem to have a policy so much as a series of platitudes.

          But the larger picture of the economy is unchanged from the Obama years — growing and robust for those who have capital or high tech training. Shrinking for everyone else. It’s a flim flam game. The difference is that Trump is catering to the haves instead of the have-nots. They’re going to do great under him. On that we agree. But if you want to give rise to the people who have lost economic standing during the last 30 years you need to move people into growth sectors. That’s not coal mining, by the way.

          • We’ve had thirteen presidents since the end of WWII. Here’s how the economy stacks up during their time in office. By all measures, a complete, utter, dismal failure under Obama. Plus, he had the advantage of 8 years in office. Trump’s tweets and a hand full of executive orders (undoing Obama’s job-killing orders) over his first few hours in office have created more jobs than Obama did in 8 years. Give Trump a few quarters let alone a few years and he’ll top the chart.

            Average growth rates for each president:

            Johnson (1964-68), 5.3 percent
            Kennedy (1961-63), 4.3 percent
            Clinton (1993-2000), 3.9 percent
            Reagan (1981-88), 3.5 percent
            Carter (1977-80), 3.3 percent
            Eisenhower (1953-60), 3 percent
            Nixon (1969-74), 2.8 percent
            Ford (1975-76), 2.6 percent
            G.H.W. Bush (1989-92), 2.3 percent
            G.W. Bush (2001-08), 2.1 percent
            Truman (1946-52), 1.7 percent
            Obama (2009-16), 1.6 percent

  4. Never mind that so far most of these promised jobs/plans thus far were already underway under President Obama. Maybe the next biggest job boom will indeed come along, in the defense industry.That clown is out there right now rattling his saber. What a complete and utter fool.

  5. joe musich says

    Crush the BS propagated by he who shall go unanamed and the sycophants. His promises were only props for his own ego and the gutting of America. More each day are getting this. And more each day in riural America are understanding how they got “played” by the political pimps on the right. And yet some are trying real hard everyday relentlessly to convince themselves that the coldheart programs of the right have merit. The proposals coming out the WH are convoluted and butchered reasoning. Straw arguments meant to decieve ,weak efforts at distraction, bizarre testimonial without purpose, tweet storms of incredulity, the paranoia ensuing from isolation, and on and on. America is in trouble and ther trouble is coming from the slow whittling away of economic equity that has occured since the early 1960’s. Mr Brown you have written many convincing piece on a way out for the Iron Range. Keep it coming. And to you commentors engagaing in arguments of economic suicide proposed by the WH oligarchs just stop it !

    • The failed promises of Hope and Change was a house of cards from the beginning joe, built on a pile of deceit and lies. The good news is, it’s over. Obama’s gone and Hillary is relegated to the trash heap of history. Americans have moved on to Make America Great Again! Get on board or get run over.

      • Joe musich says

        Get run over is your variation of hope and change if it is not meant literally. The change is diversity and that is what is the target should be. What if the range became the graphic imagery developmental capital of the world ? The chains to mining must be broken. Mining has never been more then an illusion. I do not hear other possibilities arising in this chain of comments which is what it is going to take. Insults are not solutions. And niethr should mining. In fact with the development slow as it is for recycling ripping apart the Earth is become less and less necessary. So what if the range became the rare earth recycling capital of the world. A place where children weren’t poisoned in the name of recycling but where it was done safely. Paid for with a recycling tax on every electronic product sold. I guess people would have to retrained then or maybe better rebrained away from the profit only view of the world.

  6. independant says

    I am seeing real developments in the last month that should finally allow growth to happen in heavy industry here in the United States. Something that lets admit the Obama administration botched bigleghy. Then again maybe they didn’t botch it, maybe that is exactly what they wanted…

  7. I think Ranger47 could have benefited from the Fairness Act.

    Dear one, you must site your sources for anyone to take your information even remotely seriously.

    You also threaten your own credibility when you claim, “fake news” when something is shared that you don’t like or agree on.

    A measured, thoughtful pause before reacting would serve you well. You appear so close minded and argumentative. Life must be very hard for you.

    • Ranger47 says

      Actually Speck, life is quite good. I just finished listening to Mozart’s Requiem while doing some morning reading. Here, turn down the sound on MSNBC and try it…

      It’s quite relaxing, clears your mind.

      • And, again, no answer. Just an insult? Is that who you want to be?

        (I don’t watch any news, btw.)

        I just heard my kid’s symphony play that. Listening to Bach today.

        Interesting that you don’t answer questions or site sources. Just spew. It seems you have a reputation here for that. Interesting way to spend ones limited time on Earth. Interesting, but also so very sad.

        • Ranger47 says

          No insult Speck, just an helpful recommendation. You must not be from the Range. We haven’t established “safe spaces”…yet.

          • I’m very familiar with the Range. My husband is from there.

            So, are you trying to be insulting with the safe spaces comment? Hmmmm.

  8. Ranger47 says

    Hmmm….Appears you’re on the verge of becoming a “closed shop” Aaron…editing, screening people’s posts prior to posting.

    That’s ok, it’s your blog. But, it’ll no longer be representing The Range…sad.

    • My policy is to approve all comments that meet standards of decency and comply with libel law. People with regular user names get to post without moderation. I don’t screen them for political opinions, which is why you have been allowed to post more comments on this site than any other human in history. I do pre-screen comments from first-time posters and posts that include links to prevent spam. Your last comment included a link, which is why it went to moderation. I have approved the comment. I do reserve the right to delete comments that use derogatory words, which has happened a couple times. I also reserve the right to block users for any reason, but I have not done so to date. After this many years of your colorful screeds you can rest easy.

      • Whew…thanks for clarifying. I do understand you doing so when links are posted. I rarely do…it’s a lazy mans/womans/LGBTQIAPK way of debating.

  9. Ranger 47, It’s fascinating that you seem to believe you would not have been monetarily hurt by the Ryan/GOP/Trump health no-care bill or will not be adversely affected by the GOP proposed budget bill. For years GOP promised lower premiums. deductibles, co-payments, taxes, government spending, and more choice. Trump promised much less expensive and much better insurance for everybody. They all lied, over and over again. The reason for the rush job to repeal ACA first was all about the huge tax cuts for wealthy and corps and passing it would make even deeper tax cuts for them much easier in the budget bill. Paul Ryan happily admitted this in several media interviews. Tucker Carlson asked if it was a hard sell to repeal ACA and send more money to the people who have already gotten the richest over the last ten years. Ryan said he wasn’t concerned because GOP promised repeal. Ryan told Maria Bartiromo that they had to get ACA repeal/$1 trillion tax cut done first before budget bill because doing tax reform/wealthy tax cuts with “even bigger trillion dollar number makes it really hard to do”. Ryan noted by cutting taxes for wealthy in AHCA and not having to pay for those tax cuts in budget bill, GOP could cut corp tax rates by as much as an additional 10 percentage points. GOP is silent on how much the deficit would certainly greatly increase.
    Of course, if ACHA bill hadn’t bombed, the added bonus for GOP would have been drastically reducing safety nets and would have negatively affected everyone who has insurance covered healthcare, not just the working poor or those on Medicaid. Recently a LTE in local paper asked why GOP legislators didn’t propose replacing ACA with the healthcare coverage they have. I can’t imagine why I’ve never heard msm ask any legislator about their own government healthcare insurance./
    Tax Policy Center: There is basically no federal income tax to cut in budget bill anymore until reaching household incomes in higher six figures. The real fat to cut is at million/billion income levels, those who pay taxes on top marginal rates, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes and estate taxes. I’ll take a wild guess that these taxes apply to very few NE Minnesotans. Most of us pay plenty of taxes, payroll taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes, etc. Sure will be great to rid the wealthy of their onerous federal income taxes and the states have to pick up the more state/local funding. Many families’ beloved parents or grandparents rely on Meals on Wheels but super rich really need another new jet or tropical home so No Food for You!
    Unless you are one of fabulously rich, Ranger, you are going to be run over along with the majority of us.

    Re: Fake News. You don’t seem to be concerned that your news sources might be fake, manipulated and crackpot stories made up and generated by Russian and other foreign interests up to no good or teens in Macedonia with no political agendas just doing it for the money. I’m pretty sure you won’t bother to read about a teacher selected as Orange County Teacher of the Year (, “I taught my 5th graders how to spot fake news. Now they won’t stop fact-checking me”. If 10 year olds can easily learn and love to identify fake news, you certainly could too.

    • Ranger47 says

      There’s hope for you kissa…watching Tucker, Maria, et. al.

      Did you catch the WH Press Briefing a bit ago where Trump donated his 1st quarter salary to the National Park Service? Quite noble. It’ll be enjoyable seeing this each quarter…what organization he decides to give his salary to, and works hard, for no pay. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is! Just think if all us Rangers did that. Wham, Range problems solved!

      • This is quite laughable. Even for you. He gives $78K to the NPS after proposing to cut the Dept. of Interior by two billion.

  10. Ranger, How, exactly, do you think Trump and his WH team are going to improve your life personally? Seriously. If you aren’t at least in the high six figure income club and drooling over some beauty tax cuts, I don’t see what else would benefit you.

    • independant says

      I’ll tell you how. I am hopeful that the Trump administration will streamline the permitting process and also create a climate that promotes investment and growth. This help our neighbors from Nashwauk to Ely and to Hoyt Lakes and everywhere in between improve their station in life because a revived taconite industry coupled with a new copper/nickel and pmg industry creates opportunity that multiplies like you wouldn’t believe. We must also remain dedicated to economic diversification even when the mining industry is doing well.

  11. Ranger, You don’t cite a source for your job creation numbers above but they appear quite wrong, such as overstating the two Bush presidents’ results enormously. Here are more believable numbers from the Federal Reserve:

  12. Never mind the environment , including clean water, may be negatively impacted for generations . Hope away. This could be one of the biggest pyrrhic victories ever.

  13. Speck, Of course he’s being insulting. That’s what he does, uses fake news baloney and insults to deflect from answering questions he can’t or won’t deal with.

  14. independent,
    Are you hopeful Trump will deliver after Trump lifted moratorium on federal coal leases which could allow excavating for fossil fuel on western public land that few mining companies seem to be interested in. Can’t imagine why when everyone knows or should know that coal has been in decline for a long time with a glut of unsellable coal on the market. Natural gas and renewables are more profitable. Trump was either lying or doesn’t have a clue that coal jobs aren’t coming back. On top of that Trump signed recent GOP resolution to reverse rule forcing mining companies to stop dumping coal ash, etc that permanently pollute streams and destroy drinking water sources. Seems a peculiar and futile way for Trump to bring back thousands of coal mining jobs as he promised.

    • independant says

      There are real projects and opportunities that have sprung to life in the last few months that are putting real people back to work and that makes me hopeful. It has been obvious with the multiple industries that I deal with in my job that since the elections those calling the shots on capital expenditure projects are getting aggressive. Some people hate President Trump and wish for him to fail at all costs. I just want to see my community go back to work and see real improvements where we live. I am not an expert on the coal industry like you are so I cannot speak to those details however I do love polluting our water and destroying drinking water sources. Its amazing that the Iron Range has some of the cleanest water in Minnesota (easy to find water quality maps online) after 140 years of mining.

  15. I’m going to assume it was a typo and you meant to say you don’t, not do, love polluting our water.

    You’ve got the wrong end of the stick thinking people against Trump wish for him to fail at all costs. We were horrified that Trump got the nomination because we knew he was totally unfit to be president and would cause a lot of damage to all of us and our country. He has exceeded those fears beyond belief in less than 3 months.

    Trump and his White House staff is in chaos. He has failed to fill 2,000 executive positions vital to run things smoothly. He has only a skeleton crew and no one knows exactly who is in charge of what in any given week. American and foreign leaders don’t know who they should contact with their concerns, President Bannon, President Kushner? “Only I can fix it” Trump has no knowledge of how to do this job nor any interest figuring it out. So it’s no surprise he has appointed agency heads and hired staff that have no or little experience, are Keystone Kops incompetent and reckless, have serious conflicts of interest, in the job to enrich themselves or all of the above. His muslim ban and push to pass AHCA were disasters. He has little influence on the Hill, particularly the Freedom Caucus. He’s a bulldozer in a china shop. Expecting a bumbling clown to deliver on his promises is a pipe dream.

    Conservative David Frum tweeted this week, “There are now so many Trump-Putin channels that we’re going to need the super-premium cable package to view them all.” Who could ever have imagined so many people in our White House with Russian connections. You can’t turn around without tripping over one. This is not normal! This isn’t six degrees of Bacon, it’s only one or two links to Russian meddling. Anyone who thinks this is not a big deal, not a dangerous national security risk, is a fool.

    • Independent says

      Not a typo, just fun childish sarcasm on my part. But seriously I have no idea what point you are know trying to make now. Looking forward to the economic momentum continuing. Go Range!

  16. David Gray says

    The claim that NPR is even handed is simply not credible, whether they have one or twenty ombudsman. For years my wife and I would listen to MPR as we prepared breakfast. We finally had to stop because we had small children present and public radio was aggressively pursuing the normalization of sodomy. It simply wasn’t fit for small ears. It was a great pity but it has been years since we have listened to public radio now. I don’t imagine it has improved in that regard.

  17. So obviously Mr Gray does not believe in equal rights for all. No surprise.

    • David Gray says

      I am willing to enter discussion with people who are not applying reason to the topic at hand but I am not willing to with people who have shown themselves to be dishonest.

  18. I had no idea that MPR was so prolific normalizing sodomy but somehow I must have missed that. Actually, I have no memory of MPR doing that let alone aggressively. Maybe Mr Gray could elaborate so I could search the archives. No doubt, it was quite shocking.

    • David Gray says

      It certainly was not fit listening for children. I’m sure you could search the archives at will, it would be the equivalent of hitting the broad side of a barn.

  19. I asked awhile back what you were referencing when you accused me of being dishonest, Mr Gray,and you did not reply . So?

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.