February 23, 2022

Smith Op-Ed: Biden's Bullseye on Rural America

By Rep. Jason Smith The Hill

Southern Missouri is rural, dotted by small towns surrounded by farms that have been owned by the same families for generations, including my family’s farm. Missourians are proud of their rural heritage, but lately many of them have felt as though their way of life is under attack by Washington. It is not hard to guess why.

Rural America has watched over the last twelve months as Washington Democrats have pushed an agenda that would benefit their political allies and the wealthy at the expense of rural communities — policies that discourage employment, add trillions in new job-killing taxes, promote green welfare disguised as environmental protection, and would lead to the largest expansion of the federal government in fifty years. At the same time, Democrats allowed inflation to run rampant, which has now reached an eye-popping forty-year high and erased wage gains for the rural working class.

There is no doubt that inflation is bad for everyone, but it’s hitting rural Americans the worst. Just recently, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an official scorekeeper for Congress, issued an analysis that confirmed inflation harms rural communities at a disproportionately higher rate than urban areas. CBO found inflation in rural areas was 130 percent that of urban areas, causing an inflationary erosion of wages that resulted in 25 percent slower real wage growth in rural areas compared to urban areas. In short, it is that much harder for Americans living in rural communities to afford to put gas in their cars, clothes on their backs, and food on their table.

Inflation was the predictable — and in fact, predicted — outcome of Washington’s out-of-control reckless spending to everyone but Democrats who ignored the warning signs and pursued their political agenda instead.

When the Democrat-controlled Congress passed a $2 trillion spending bill in March 2021, former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers warned that the Democrats’ reckless spending "will set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” Months later, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco confirmed what many rural residents were already experiencing — runaway government spending had ignited inflation.

Despite the warnings, Democrats continued denying the problem of inflation. As the price of everything from gas to bacon soared, Democrats dismissed it as only “transitory.” President Biden gave multiple nationally televised speeches saying as much — as if “transitory” was any comfort to the families emptying their wallets at the grocery store checkout counter. The Secretary of Energy even laughed off the high price of gas.

But now with polls showing nearly 70 percent of Americans disapproving of the way Joe Biden is handling inflation, Democrats are trying a different approach. They want Americans to believe a $5 trillion spending bill — a bill they wrote when they said inflation did not exist, and then later said it was only transitory — is the cure for fixing inflation. In truth, it is a recipe for disaster, particularly for rural communities.

For starters, it includes a climate agenda that is little more than a wealth transfer from rural America to coastal metropolises. Democrats want to give away billions of dollars in subsidies for electric bicycles and for big businesses to buy their own electric vehicle (EV) fleets. They want to give a $12,500 tax subsidy to families making up to $500,000 to buy luxury EVs, essentially creating a financial feedback loop between government and wealthy urban areas.

Unsurprisingly, the same bill included a $270 billion tax break for wealthy Americans, targeted at the top one percent. Millionaires living in high-tax states like California and New York would receive an average $25,900 tax cut from directly increasing the current cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.

Small business owners can thank Democrat policies for the ongoing worker shortage. An estimated 1.8 million Americans turned down jobs due to the extended unemployment bonuses in the $2 trillion spending bill the president signed into law. Main Street could see even more “Help Wanted” signs in the future if the Biden administration gets its way and once again eliminates work requirements for the Child Tax Credit.

Paid leave proposals Democrats have put forward would lead to employers offering fewer weeks of leave and less pay, according to a recent CBO report. The same report also found that the Democrats’ child care provision would actually raise costs for middle-income families whose child care is not subsidized by the government and may even lead Americans to work fewer hours in order to qualify for taxpayer-subsidized care.

Adding insult to injury, that $2 trillion that Democrats passed and which helped ignite the rampant inflation hitting rural communities has been used to plant trees, build parking lots and bathrooms, golf courses, driving ranges, clubhouses, and to send stimulus checks to convicted prisoners and Japanese citizens living in Japan.

President Biden’s agenda has put a bullseye on rural America. Whether it’s the policies or the spending that come with them, the pain and suffering Washington Democrats create always seems to fall heaviest on rural communities.

Read the op-ed here.