Headed into Midterms, Blue Dogs Focus on Rural America

As the midterm elections draw near, the Blue Dog Coalition turned its attention to rural America this week. Led by Arizona Representative Tom O’Halleran, the Blue Dog Special Task Force on Rural America released an in-depth policy agenda that they argue takes a common sense, bipartisan approach to revitalizing rural communities and addressing the level of inequality between rural and urban parts of the country.

“Ten years ago, our nation experienced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and that period forever changed the American economy,” said O’Halleran (AZ-01). “Although the data today shows that the country as a whole has seen economic improvement, the reality is that rural America hasn’t seen the same results.”

In releasing “A Strong Rural America,” the Blue Dogs introduced specific policy proposals aimed at carving out a path to prosperity and restoring the American Dream in rural communities across the country. The in-depth analysis and policy agenda proposes five key ways to put rural communities on the path to prosperity, including growing the rural economy, increasing access to affordable health care, empowering the next generation of workers with the skills they need to succeed, expanding the 21st century infrastructure to rural America in order to connect businesses with the global market, and ensuring rural veterans get the care and services they need after they return home.

“For too long, Washington has taken a one-size-fits-all approach to economic policy,” said Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration. “What works for big cities doesn’t always work for rural areas, and we as Blue Dogs know this. The current inequality of opportunity between rural and urban communities is striking, and it feeds into the divisions our country is seeing today.”

Last weekend marked the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which began a global financial crisis and an economic recession—a period of time that fundamentally changed the American economy and brought about a recovery that has left behind much of rural America.

In a digital, knowledge-based economy, the Blue Dogs argue that a four-year college degree is not the only road to success for young adults or mid-career professionals who are looking to succeed in rural areas. Instead, they say Congress should increase access to trade schools and eliminate higher education deserts, align federal career and technical education programs with the changing economy and support collaboration among career development partners by crossing and combining funding streams.

“Now is the time for Washington to address the needs that are unique to rural communities, because a strong rural economy is the path to a strong American economy. That’s why we, as Blue Dogs, decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle this problem head on. Because we firmly believe that success in this country shouldn’t depend on your zip code,” added O’Halleran.

Read the full report here.

Members of the Blue Dog Special Task Force on Rural America include:

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA)

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX)

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX)

Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)

Rep David Scott (D-GA)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)

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