In his domestic agenda, Joe Biden is refocusing on decreasing inflation, lowering costs, and reducing the deficit.
Daily Yonder reports the president appeared to back off from the Democrats’ Build Back Better Agenda in his State of the Union Address replacing the aspirational federal investment promises of his first year with a more Manchin-friendly austerity message. There is a high likelihood that rural voters would be misled by such a decision.
At the same time, Democrats across the country are still grappling with how to respond to the “rural problem.”
Experts advise the Democrats to provide tangible benefits to help rural poor and working-class people pay their bills while tackling inflation aggressively. Though, the Dems have already achieved a number of policy victories and can build upon many of them.
Nonetheless, to best serve rural America and its diverse people and regions, this inflation reduction package could include the following:
- Action to Diminish Corporate Power: Eliminate monopoly control of agricultural, energy, and manufacturing industries in rural areas. Also, in order for the White House to succeed, it must adopt rules that diminish corporate concentration, and increase investments in local and regional infrastructure that will create competition and build resilience.
- Cutting the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Setting a price cap on necessary, lifesaving medications are very crucial at this stage. In the health care industry, particularly among pharmaceutical companies, huge price increases are nothing new. Drug and medicine price caps are incredibly popular in rural America, including insulin, Epipens, and inhalers. The government can learn and implement this too.
- Replacing Fossil Energy with Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency: Investing in farm-based renewable energy production, as well as supporting rural electric cooperatives in the transition, would significantly reduce energy companies’ ability to price gouge, rural consumers.
- Climate-Smart Programs to Reduce Farming Costs: Fertilizer and other input costs have risen by 30-50% in the past year. As such, funding conservation programs would reduce costs, reduce fertilizer application’s impact on the environment. They can also provide income support to many farmers while reducing costs.
- Building Rural Water Infrastructure to Reduce Costs: Despite the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there is still much work to be done. On water infrastructure, investing in rural water infrastructure would keep rivers and streams flowing while maintaining the fresh water at a reduced cost for rural residents.
- Raising Corporate Tax Rates: Corporate profits have soared, both because of price gouging and because of the 2017 Republican tax cuts. Increasing the corporate tax rate would not only increase federal tax revenue, but would also incentivize corporations to spend to invest in new equipment or materials, raise wages, or hire more workers. Plus, raising the cost of doing business for corporations will help independent Main Street and small businesses throughout rural communities.
The Democrats should also put money directly into people’s pockets right now to compensate for inflationary expenses in addition to anti-inflation measures and investments. Democrats should take credit and increase their investments when it comes to helping working families, as they did with the American Rescue Plan Act last year.
Also, the 2021 expanded Child Tax Credits should be extended, along with the expanded SNAP benefits in 2021. Funding for rural affordable housing should also be increased, as well as energy assistance programs for low-income families.
Democrats must run on a track record of success and get the job done for rural America if they hope to have any chance of winning these political races. Their chances can be improved by passing a budget that will decrease inflation, as well as help poor and working-class families, pay their bills. By resolving their “rural problem” and the “Democrats-can’t-get-anything-done problem,” they can improve their chances. Currently, all of this is still possible, but time is running out.