Levying a sales tax in Oregon timber country • Planned Parenthood clinics closing in Texas • protecting Kentucky roads...from the Amish? • Putin's rural victory
Richard Oswald (“Letter from Langdon”) reports from the National Farmers Union Convention in LaVista, Nebraska, outside Omaha:
“Last night Howard Buffett [a farmer, and son of Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett] showed 500 farmers a bumper sticker that said ‘American Farmers Feed the World.’ Then he told the convention crowd it wasn’t true, and they applauded him for it. That’s because 37 million Americans go to bed hungry almost every night.
“Buffett has made Feeding America one of his pet projects. So he offered to feed the kitty, too, with a one-on-one match of NFU donations–up to $50 thousand. NFU contributors and member states led by NFU vice president Claudia Svarstad raised the money and more–$55,300–and Buffett coughed up his share of the dough over dinner. With a multiplier effect of 17 to one for Buffett’s pet project, Feeding America, over $1.7 million will go toward feeding the hungry right here at home — a worthy goal for farmers and billionaires alike.”
The NFU convention will continue through Wednesday.
• A sales tax, in Oregon? Never before, but since the expiration of federal subsidies to timber counties, some rural communities are putting a local sales tax on the May ballot.
Eric Mortenson’s fine story for The Oregonian explains how rural counties are scrambling to fill the budget craters left by expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Act. In Oregon, 33 of the state’s 36 counties have received federal money for unrealized profits on nation forest-land through the Act. In Curry County, one of those considering a sales tax, federal timber funds “provided about 65 percent of the operating budget, 61 percent of the road budget.”
Other proposals to sustain basic services in forested counties include raising property taxes, merging operations with neighboring counties, and even resuming large scale timber harvesting.
• Newly drawn state senate districts in Missouri put urban citizens at an unfair advantage — so alleges a lawsuit that has been filed in federal court. The suit claims that the most populous districts are made of up rural counties that tend to support Republicans, while the least populous districts “are in urban areas of Jackson County that tend to support Democrats.”
• A bill that would bar old-style steel-wheel tractors and wagons from rolling on state blacktop will likely not even come up for a vote in Frankfort, the state capitol. According to Lexington’s News 18 “The Amish, [are] riding a wave of goodwill among Kentucky lawmakers.”
• Texas, with the highest rate of uninsured women in the nation, cut funding for women’s health care by 2/3 last year. And things are getting worse.
Michelle Goldberg writes for the Daily Beast, “Now, the state is on the verge of eliminating its Women’s Health Program, which provides reproductive-health care for more than 130,000 poor women who don’t meet Texas’s narrow Medicaid eligibility requirements. It’s mostly paid for by the federal government, which contributes $9 for every $1 given by the state. But because federal law won’t let Texas bar Planned Parenthood (or any other qualified provider) from the program, the state is poised to discontinue it, refusing $35 million from Washington.”
Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo, serving two of the poorest counties in the nation, along the Mexican border, has already had to close four of its eight clinics. The Planned Parenthood clinic in Odessa, TX, will close March 9.
• The Indianapolis Star reports on communications breakdowns after Friday’s tornadoes through the Midwest and South. Thirty-six people died in the violent spring storms.
• Tensions between rural and urban citizens (along with bigotry and stereotypes) are all too familiar here in the U.S. But if you want to feel downright high-minded and amicable, consider the Russians.
Michael Fisher reports on Vladimir Putin’s victory in yesterday’s presidential elections.
“Sunday’s ballot presents a number of ironies. Muscovites [citizens of Moscow] have unquestionably benefited the most from Russia’s oil and gas-soaked economy during Putin’s tenure, yet they are the ones who have loudly condemned the president-elect and his inner circle for grabbing a large share of the country’s economy for themselves and for not having completed meaningful economic and legal reforms to prevent what they have not been shy about calling thievery and banditry.
“On the other hand, the hinterlands, which produce all of Russia’s energy wealth, have only received a tiny share of the lucre generated by almost record high prices for oil and gas. Yet voters in these distant regions still clearly admire and respect Putin.
” ‘There are two Russias. Moscow and St. Petersburg think different than all the other regions in the country,’ said Elena Istomina, who served in the regional parliament in the 1990s and was at Moscow Polling Station 174 Sunday as an observer for Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire who was runner-up to Putin in the capital but fared poorly elsewhere. ‘Those who voted for Putin are not thinking scientifically. They are uneducated. They have a Byzantine mentality. They do not think of tomorrow.'”