Here are 4 ways Trump's GOP is seriously screwing rural voters
With President Donald Trump escalating his trade war with China, farmers in the United States are worried about how hard they will be hit by retaliatory tariffs from Beijing. Many American farmers have already faced the effects of a 25% tariff that the Chinese government imposed in 2018. And farmers are not a group of Americans that Republicans can afford to alienate, as Trump’s base is largely white and rural.
Agriculture, however, is hardly the only area in which Trump and other Republicans are bad for the GOP’s base. Trump paints himself as a staunch defender of Rural America, but when Republicans attack everything from the U.S. Postal Service to health care, they aren’t doing rural voters a favor.
Here are some ways in which Trump and other Republicans are bad news for Rural America.
1. U.S. Postal Service
In 2018, Trump issued an executive order calling for a task force on “reforms” for the U.S. Postal Service and criticized its “monopoly over letter delivery and mailboxes.” Republicans have made no secret of their desire to privatize the USPS, claiming that private companies like United Parcel Service (UPS) and Fed-Ex are doing a better job. But if USPS became a carbon copy of UPS or Fed-Ex, rural areas would pay a heavy price because those companies wouldn’t offer some of the services the USPS presently offers — for example, an abundance of post offices or the ability to mail a letter from a rural area in Georgia to a small town in Idaho for only 55 cents. If rural voters had UPS and Fed-Ex as their only options for mail delivery, they would be seriously screwed because the cost of sending ordinary letters would soar. And some utility companies charge fees for paying bills online.
The UPS business model works well for large shipments, but it isn’t designed for something like paying an electric bill or gas bill by mail.
2. Air travel
Thanks to multiple mergers that should have been prevented, the airline industry is now dominated by only four airlines. In 2018, about 80% of domestic flights in the U.S. were controlled by Southwest, Delta, Continental or American—and the result of that lack of competition is higher fares, especially in out-of-the-way areas. Rep. Elizabeth Warren and economist Robert Reich have repeatedly stressed that free-market capitalism is best served by competition, not monopolies. But as long as Republicans (and neoliberal Democrats as well) support airline mergers and a lack of competition, air travel will be especially expensive in Rural America.
It’s no coincidence that gentrification is much more of a problem in Urban Democratic America than in Rural Republican America: Democrat-run areas tend to attract a lot of skilled workers, educated workers and tech-savvy workers, thus driving up the cost of housing. And those Democratic areas can be very aggressive when it comes to promoting high-tech communications systems. But Rural America is lagging technologically, and Business.com cites four areas that are especially problematic: Internet service, cell phone service, the cost of technology services and a shortage of skilled IT workers. Instead of spending so much time promoting Culture War issues and demonizing immigrants, Republicans need to think about ways to advance rural areas technologically.
4. Health care
Being able to afford health care is an uphill battle whether one lives in Boston or a small town in Nebraska. But while a Bostonian or Philadelphian might struggle to afford health insurance or pay medical bills, there is no shortage of health care facilities in Boston or Philly—whereas according to a Navigant report released in February, 21% of rural hospitals in the U.S. are in danger of closing. The study (which analyzed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data) found that at least 36% of the hospitals in Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Alaska—all of which are red states—are suffering financially.
Many of these hospital closings, according to Navigant’s study, are in Trump states that rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion—thus leading to more uninsured people in those areas and more of a financial burden for rural hospitals. The more Republicans tried to undermine the ACA, the more health care facilities suffered in rural areas.