Is this what rural voters asked for?
BY ART CULLEN
Rural voters gave Republicans the keys to the car in Des Moines and Washington the last election. They took a look at what has happened — stagnant wages, 67 counties losing population every single year for the past 30, consolidating schools, foreigners in the checkout lane who can’t speak English but use food stamps.
They wanted a change. With the GOP in control, we can finally and forever get government off our backs and out of our bank account.
Did they really want to gut collective bargaining? Do they really think the guy driving a snow plow at 3 a.m. on windswept Hwy. 7 should not be able to negotiate over sick days?
Do they want the clerk of court’s office to be closed to the public a couple days per week?
Do they want reduced hours at the driver license exam window?
Yes, these voters believe teachers get paid plenty to take summers off. They obviously don’t think that community colleges do them much good, having just rejected an Iowa Central Community College bond issue even in Webster County and embracing a $3 million cut to vo-tech statewide.
They think that state university professors who take sabbaticals to study gender identity in athletics aren’t doing real work. They think that the University of Iowa hasn’t sent Sac City many doctors lately.
They think that justices who do not rule to their liking should be thrown off the bench. It happened. Three Iowa Supreme Court justices were thrown out of office by voters for affirming homosexual rights to marry. Many deeply religious rural people think those justices cannot understand justice.
Most rural voters have to be pretty happy with the way things are going.
The state court system will reduce public accessibility at the courthouse window. It will happen. It has happened. The same will happen with hours for driver license exams. Eventually the courts will effectively shut down its offerings in Sac, Ida and Pocahontas counties, those with less than 10,000 population, and refer them to trial centers in Storm Lake, Carroll and Fort Dodge.
Throw out collective bargaining and watch the seams of government and trust fray. Road workers will go on strike. It is hard to understand why a $15 per hour worker cutting loins would vote against the guy making $15 per hour filling potholes with hot asphalt on a cold day. But they do.
Thirteen nursing homes shut down just this year over Gov. Branstad’s changes to Medicaid funding. North Lake Manor was among them.
Laurens-Marathon and Pocahontas will have a harder time maintaining satellite facilities in Laurens while being slowly choked to death with state aid that does not keep pace with inflation. Next year, allowable growth will be 1.1%. Laurens wants to keep its middle school and elementary school. How, when families abandon the district for lack of prospects?
None of this will raise the welder’s wage to a prosperous scale. Driving out a Mexican will not earn you a raise in a bank cubicle. Cutting funding for community colleges will not improve your life. It will not show up in your paycheck or your Social Security account.
Defunding Planned Parenthood will not repopulate Pocahontas or Laurens with school-age children. It will result in more unplanned pregnancies in rural areas where services to women are not widespread.
Increasing property taxes for school districts to make up for state income shortfalls will not help farmers.
Stifling funds for sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University will not increase the price of corn or hogs.
Forcing local law enforcement to hunt down undocumented immigrants will not cause any new houses to be built by skilled Anglo carpenters.
But when the legislators hold their public forums, advertised well in advance, no teachers show up. No snow plow drivers. No students hoping to learn to be machinists through Iowa Central. No lawyers or clerks pleading for the courts. Legislators take the silence as assent.
Rural Iowa appears to be pretty satisfied with the direction this freight train is heading.
Rural residents don’t think rural schools deserve better support. They don’t think community colleges sustain their values or their lifestyles. They don’t believe court services will ever shift to a regional system and that there might not be an Ida County magistrate someday soon. They think that if there are fewer Mexicans in Buena Vista and Pocahontas counties, wages for uneducated white people will rise.
In short, rural voters think that less government is better. Absolutely.
It’s hard to see the payday for Varina. But Varina hasn’t seen a payday in generations. So the vote goes: Just starve the beast. They will still teach the kids. We will still have cops. Everything will be okay. And the Democrats must think the same thing because that train just keeps picking up speed.
Overreach is at full throttle.
Rural voters will get what they asked for.
But is it what they wanted?