Our country has an incredible opportunity, as we build back from a pandemic and the economic toll that has taken on many communities, to drive shared economic growth and prosperity. To better understand how the policies referenced in this document can help rebuild rural communities, it is important to understand how policy choices from our recent past have contributed to growing disparities for many rural communities.
These disparities are not simply a function of macro economic trends, but also driven to a great degree by policy priorities of leaders in Washington – from both parties. The historical trends highlighted below are, admittedly, incomplete. But they provide a narrative framework to help understand how the economic decline experienced in many rural communities is not an inevitability and can be reversed.
SOME IMPORTANT TRENDS IN THE LAST FORTY YEARS:
THE REAGAN/BUSH ERA
Rural communities were hit hard in this period by policies that focused on cuts in government funding and services. Concentrated corporate power, the War on Drugs, and a farm price crisis began to reshape rural people’s views of government. The emerging narratives of “jobs versus the environment” and “deregulation” were popularized by many conservative leaders.