Rural America, which voted overwhelmingly for Trump, is under attack from all sides. As this article from the Guardian discusses America’s factory farming system has destroyed rural America, turning many into little more than modern day serfs. Trump’s “tax cut” might actually push up the running costs of many US farmers, as it eliminated various deductions that they benefited from. Quite apart from the economic blowback from his tariff policy and trade wars. And inevitably the rate of suicides is up in rural America.
US agriculture is now heading in completely the wrong direction, as such intensive farming methods are not only bad for rural communities, reducing the number of well paid jobs (in favour of low paid jobs filled by recently arrive immigrants) but they are also terrible for the environment. Carbon emissions are higher (there’s been some efforts to claim feedlot cattle is better, but that comes from poor scope definition of the underlying LCA’s) and the energy consumption levels are much higher, leading to poorer EROEI ratio’s. Not the sort of practices you want to adopt in a warming world dependant on a depleting source of fossil fuels. And climate change is having an effect on American farms, notably with regard to more frequent droughts and flooding.
The more controversial US agricultural policies include things like pumping growth hormones into cattle or chlorinating chicken. What’s wrong with this? I mean you go through the little paddle pool at the front of a swimming pool, you chlorinating your own feet. Yes, but the reason Americans need to chlorinate their chicken is because of the terrible conditions in which those chickens are kept and processed, which all but guarantees they’ll emerge loaded with bacteria. But the trouble is that this process doesn’t always kill all the bacteria. Which probably explains why the EU has banned such practices and why food poisoning rates in the US are ten times higher than in the EU, while the dead rate from diseases like e-coli, listeria and salmonella is about five times higher in the US than the EU.
Another controversial practice on US farms is the US of GM crops. What’s wrong with that? While there might be some benefits with GM (drought resistant crops for example), but this is beside the point. The primary purpose of GM in the US has been to allow the crops to tolerate the mass spraying of pesticides such as Roundup (which is banned in the EU on grounds of public health). Furthermore farmers are forced to sign contracts with corporations, which lock them in to only receiving seed and pesticide from one particular company. Control of their farm is essentially lost. They are, like I said, reduced to the role of modern day serfs.
Another area of concern is the EPA, which has basically stopped doing its job since Trump took over. Take this piece from Vice news about coal dust ash, which is often loaded with heavy metals and carcinogens and how its working its way into US rivers and thus ultimately the drinking water of Americans. Or this piece, also from Vice, about Petcoke production and toxic fumes being openly realised over or near US towns and nobody is doing anything about it. Or there’s the US practice of mountain top removal, which again often causes major pollution problems in rural areas, impacting on local drinking water.
Then there’s the US opoid crisis, a direct result of improper regulation of medicines in the US, the fact that doctors get kickbacks from big pharma for pushing their pills and a lack of affordable heathcare, which leaves some with no choice other than popping pills and hope for the best. And another issue with the US healthcare system is that control of heathcare services is in the hands of corporations not the people. Hence way there is a growing problem with hospital closures in rural America.
And education too is under pressure in rural and small town America, with teachers quitting in droves and school boards finding it very difficult to replace them. Which should hardly come as a surprise. You elect a bunch of politicians who hate public services, they cut taxes, starve services of funds and label those that insist on teaching “facts” as the enemy. And you elect a president whose base is literally the poorly educated, what did you think was going to happen? Schools and hospitals got gutted, rural and small town America get’s shafted. I mean whose side do you think these plutocrats are on?
But at least all of these rural voters in the US have now learnt their lesson and they’ll vote for a democrat next election. LOL! You’ve obviously never met anyone from rural America! Not only would I expect support for Trump to be undiminished, it might actually increase.
In fact, probably one of the reason they came out in droves to vote for Trump was that they were feeling the initial effects of all of the above, which they blamed the democrats for (even though it was policies brought in by Bush at fault). And no doubt next time, they’ll probably find a way to blame the democrats for everything again. Its Turkey’s voting for Christmas sort of stuff….and then blaming the cows for it.
The brexit connection
I mentioned brexit, because there is a connection here. One of the things that you hear from brexiteers is how they feel the UK should try, post-brexit, to emulate the US and turn the UK into a bit of the old U-S of A. And some republicans too also share something of a misplaced admiration for the British empire, as discussed in the vlog post. Of course in both cases, its a view based on a misplaced understanding of history.
The Brexiteers seem to ignore the fact that the US is a large federated state, you know like the “United states of Europe”, they are in the process of leaving (because they think its too oppressive). And the republican plutocrats seem to forget who the enemy was when they fought for independence (you know the redcoats who wanted to hang the founding fathers for treason).
I mean can you imagine the outcry if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on left leaning states (like New York or California) to break away from the USA, then trade on WTO terms, require those who were born in red states to register and get work permits. Yet Farage can do exactly that in front of the the heritage foundation and get a standing ovation. As I’ve said before, conservatives hypocrisy syndrome is a well established phenomenon.
But going for a hard brexit and a free trade treaty with the US (and there’s zero chance of getting a free trade deal without giving in to the US on farming), means (as noted) accepting a tenfold increase in the chances of being hospitalised due to food poisoning, a five fold increase in the odds of your children dying of food poisoning, GM crops and roundup being sprayed on fields, with farmers losing control of their seed stock.
And another condition of any US/UK free trade deal will almost certainly include giving US healthcare companies access to NHS contracts. Or in other words, opening up the NHS to further privatisation and corporations getting to decide on whether or not to close your local hospital or GP’s office. I don’t recall any of this being on the ballot paper back in June 2016.
So what the brexiteers actually mean, is they want to copy certain US policies, such as its single payer healthcare system, its less than stellar commitment to environmental protection, lower taxes, lack of welfare state, its predatory finances and turning many British into defacto serf’s. They’ll never publicly admit to this of course (because that would be letting the cat out of the bag), but let’s be clear, that’s what they actually want.
Certainly there are some aspects of the US we in Europe should be copying, most notably in the UK. But equally, there’s a lot US policy which we shouldn’t copy, as its clearly been shown to just breed inequality and crime. So it leaves one confused as to exactly which US policies the UK should emulate, given that the obvious answer would seem to be to stay in the EU, lobby for a more democratically accountable EU and establish a UK constitution. All of which is the polar opposite of what brexiteers have spent the last few decades lobbying for.
And Americans would be well advised to take a leaf out of Europe’s book. These issues in rural America stem from a grossly unfair US electoral system, which basically guarantees many US representatives their seats, upon which they can get back to ignoring their constituents and lining their pockets with corporate cash. Proportional representation could help to break the duopoly of US politics.
And the US federal government has way too much power. Combining the powers of the head of state and head of government in the president is also just open to abuse (as Trump is perhaps in the process of proving). Not to mention the need to de-politicise the appointment to posts such as the supreme court or agencies like the EPA. And one thing the EU has been good at is directed funds in the direction of deprived areas, including rural areas, thus avoiding a number of the issues discussed above.
But clearly certain plutocrats both sides of the Atlantic share a desire to impose some sort of neo-feudal system, with them on top and at the bottom a lot of poorly educated, peasants on the edge of bankruptcy who’ll be too busy keeping their head above water to do anything other than vote for whoever the 1% decide to put on the ballot paper.