Friday Roundup: The President’s Speech

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We listened to President Obama’s jobs speech Thursday night and, as with the Republicans the night before there wasn’t much we heard that was specifically rural. But, still, there were several parts of the speech that touched on rural America.

The President wants to spend money on rebuilding schools and a Washington Post education writer says that’s needed. Valerie Strauss writes that research over the past decades finds that the condition of school buildings does affect student achievement. 

And, yes, the condition of many of our public schools is not great. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country’s school buildings a big fat “D.”

Also, the President spoke in favor of auctioning off broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless (phones and broadband). The National Journal reports

The White House has long argued in favor of proposals that could move the nation away from broadcast technology to cellular phones and tablets, framing them as sound economic policy. Such measures, the argument goes, will produce immediate revenue for the government—for instance as proceeds from auctioning off broadcast frequencies—and will help the country thrive in a time when commerce depends on wireless Internet access.

Congress must approve the spectrum auctions, which would be designed to entice television stations into going out of business, selling their share of the airwaves and taking the cash. Wireless companies are still pushing hard to move a bill this session, but various legislative efforts have fizzled.

The wireless proposal amounts to a “deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety,” the White House says in a statement.

Finally, the President backed what he called the next generation of biofuels. Biofuels Digest notes that his national infrastructure bank would have $10 billion that can be loaned for transportation, water and energy facilities. 

BD goes through the biofuels industry reaction to the speech. It’s favorable. 

•A while back, we noted that the Kentucky dailies and the AP had closed all their news bureaus in the eastern part of the state. They weren’t alone. Most regional newspapers have shuttered their bureaus in rural parts of their states, concentrating resources in the cities. The editors and publishers always say it doesn’t matter, that it won’t affect news coverage. Everyone knows they’re wrong.

The trend continues. The Washington Post gave up the leases on its bureaus last week. Again, the editors say it doesn’t matter. It does. 

• The New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise finds that people are gardening more in these hard times. She talks to gardeners in West Liberty, Kentucky, but the phenomenon is nationwide: 

“Our sales have skyrocketed,” said George Ball, chief executive of Burpee, one of the largest vegetable-seed retailers. The jump, he said, began around the time Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, when anxiety about money started to rise.

In urban areas, the words “locally grown” conjure images of affluent shoppers in pricey farmers’ markets. But in rural America, consumers are opting for locally grown food — from their own gardens and neighboring farmers — largely because it is cheaper.

• Could this really be a problem? The AP is reporting that, with high prices, farmers are planting corn right up to the side of the road and that this is creating a hazard for drivers. 

The corn is blocking lines of sight at intersections. “Those corners used to all be open when prices were terrible, but they’re worse now with corn prices being good,” said a farmer whose father died in an auto accident at one such corner.

 

 

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