The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

May 23-24 Economic Equality Caucus in Washington, DC Area--Deadlines are May 2

Posted on April 24, 2018 at 01:58 PM

The Economic Equality Caucus conference in the Washington, DC area is now a little less than a month away. Group hotel and early registration deadlines are next week, May 2.

We have Members of Congress, national executive branch officials, and policy organizations on job creation at good wages, economic equality, health care, nutrition, infrastructure, and education on the program.







For those attending all the sessions, early registration fees deadline at $100 is May 2, Wednesday, close of business. This goes up to $125 after May 2.

For people based in the Washington, DC area who have work restrictions on their schedule and can only attend one session, we ask for a registration fee of $20 per session.

You register by paying the registration fees.

The easiest way to register is to go to the website at and use the PayPal link that says “Donate.”

The PayPal process automatically produces a written record of your payment, but we can certainly also send along an invoice if you like.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601


The group hotel is the Staybridge Suites, Tysons/McLean Virginia, which is only three minutes by the hotel shuttle from the May 23 opening session meeting venue, and not a long taxi ride from the Capitol Hill sessions on Thursday morning and luncheon, May 24, on Capitol Hill.

Please call the hotel by May 2, Wednesday at (703) 448-5400 and say you are with the Economic Equality Caucus/Delta Caucus group to get the group discount of $239 for the night of May 23. This is the busiest time of year and Washington, DC is majestic in the spring. The hotel offers free parking, free breakfasts and is very close to the opening session, not far from Capitol Hill, and situated close to two of the DC area airports.

Washington, DC hotel rates in the spring are admittedly high, but with the parking, breakfast and location, this is actually a fairly good rate by DC standards.

OPENING SESSION, Wednesday evening, May 23, 4:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer sanctuary in McLean, Virginia, 1545 Chain Bridge Road.

The location is in McLean, Virginia, across the Potomac from Capitol Hill, at the McLean Lutheran Church of the Redeemer sanctuary. We have many people based in the northern Virginia/DC/MD area who are transplanted from Arkansas, Mississippi and elsewhere in the Delta, and we have an opportunity to hear firsthand from one of the two or three most heavily watched Congressional races in the entire country in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia, of which McLean is at the heart.

This seat is hotly contested, with incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) facing a Republican challenger and six Democratic challengers.

People originally from the Delta region with strong ties to the northern Virginia/DC/Md region include former First District Congressman of Arkansas Bill Alexander and his wife Debi (now a nonprofit senior official in northern VA; Congressman Alexander and Debi live in McLean), Kay Goss, Lee Powell, Rodney Fisher, Wilson Golden, and we are inviting the Arkansas State Society in DC to attend.

This district is not only receiving national attention as a race that will have an impact on the national make-up of Congress, but this district has both rural and urban areas, is highly diverse and is thus a microcosm of the national public policy debate. It begins in urban northern Virginia but stretches out to rural and agricultural areas in western Virginia that have much in common with the Delta, Midwest, and other more small-town and rural regions.

The Republican challenger is Shak Hill, a veteran, private businessman and staunch supporter of President Trump.

Democrats in the crowded field include:

· Alison Friedman, Obama administration appointee, diplomat, anti-human trafficking activist;

· Dan Helmer, veteran, Rhodes Scholar, private businessman;

· Paul Pelletier, attorney, former prosecutor for 27 years in the US Dept. of Justice;

· Lindsey Davis Stover, Obama administration appointee, veterans’ affairs advocate, private business owner;

· Jennifer Wexton, attorney, and state senator representing a district in northern Virginia.

Opening session with nonrprofits and grassroots leaders:

We will start off the opening session at 4:45 to 5:15 with a brief reception, and then have nonprofit and other grassroots leaders from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m., including:Piper Phillips Caswell, CEO, Phillips Programs for Children and Families; Don Frickel, president of the nonprofit Share, Inc. Deanna Heier, Chair, Social Concerns Committee, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Eileen Ellsworth, president, Community Foundation of Northern Virginia; and Mayor David Smith of Winchester, Virginia.

Forum for 10th Congressional District candidates of both parties, 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

This emphasizes question and answer format, focusing on job creation at good wages, positions regarding the Trump administration’s economic policies, infrastructure investments, economic equality for women and minorities including DACA/Dreamers issues, health care, SNAP and other safety net programs.

Thursday, May 24 US Senate Session, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Senate Russell Building Room 485

“Hunger and Nutrition, Rural Community and Economic Development & USDA-Related Issues”

8:30 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.—Katrin Kark, Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corp.)

8:40 a.m. to 8:50 a.m.—Lynette Johnson, Executive Director, Society of St. Andrew, national anti-hunger organization

8:50 a.m. to 9 a.m..—David Lipsetz, Executive Director, Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC

9:a.m to 9:07 a.m..—Patty Barker, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, on SNAP and other Nutrition Issues

9:07 to 9: 15 a.m.—Carrie Calvert, Feeding America

9:15 a.m. to 9:22 a.m.—Shannon Maynard, Executive Director, Congressional Hunger Center, invited

9:22 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.—Lauren Badger, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)

9:30 a.m. to 9:40 a.m.–USDA FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE Deputy Administrator, Rich Lucas—high ranking official at USDA national headquarters, to address the SNAP program

9:40 a.m.– Congressman Rick Crawford, Arkansas (introduced by Harvey Joe Sanner, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Des Arc, Arkansas

10 a.m.—10:20 a.m.—Congressman French Hill, Arkansas

10:20 a.m. to 10: 27 a.m.—Ian Record, National Congress of American Indians

10:27 to 10:35 .–Wilson Golden, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconcilation, Jackson, Mississippi

Steve Copley, Arkansas InterFaith, advocate for Dreamers and equality for Hispanics

US Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas (invited)

10:35 TO 10:42 a..m.—10:27 a.m.—Brad Cole, Executive Director, Illinois Municipal League

10:45 a.m.—10:52 a.m.—Porter Briggs, Save the White River Bridge Campaign

10: 52 a.m. to 11 a.nm–Tracy Barnett, University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Social Work professor, on her research regarding the impact SNAP cuts would have in Arkansas

Thursday May 24 Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, 212 East Capitol (near the Supreme Court)

Opening speaker—11:30 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.—Lutheran Church of the Reformation introduction

11:37 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.–Rev. Dwight Webster, Senior Pastor, Oakland, California Beth Eden Baptist Church; formerly Senior Pastor, Christian Unity Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana; survivor and victim of Hurricane Katrina

11:50 a.m. to 12:10–Congressman James McGovern, Massachusetts, Co-Chair, US House of Representatives Hunger Caucus, Senior Ranking Democrat, House Agriculture Committee’s Nutrition Subcommittee

12:10 to 12:30—Kim Brown, Chief Program Officer, DC Central Kitchen, nationally recognized nonprofit based in Washington, DC, along with an alumnus of the DC Central Kitchen’s program for training people for careers in the food service industry

12:30 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.— Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free American, national hunger and poverty nonprofit based in New York

12:50 p.m. to 1 p.m.—Karen Cunningham, Executive Director, DC nonprofit, faith-based organization—Capitol Hill Group Ministry

1 p.m. to 1: 10 p.m.—Community Family Life Services, Ashley McSwain, Executive Director

1:10 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.—Congressman Don Beyer, Virginia (invited)



Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas


Illinois Municipal League

Arkansas Municipal League

Mississippi Co. AR Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville, Arkansas

Winrock International

Contact Congress to Save the White River Bridge in the Heart of the Delta, March, 2018

Posted on March 22, 2018 at 03:44 PM

We would like to give our enthusiastic and urgent endorsement to the leaders of the Save the White River Bridge Campaign at Clarendon, in the heart of the East Arkansas Delta. A citizens group is working to save the bridge built in 1931.

There are thousands of Delta residents supporting the White River Bridge Campaign’s plan to save this bridge from destruction and “re-purpose” it for use as a key link of the hiking and biking trail for the Greater Delta Region. The bridge would play a key role in promoting Delta heritage tourism.

The entire 2 ½ miles of the bridge goes through the wilds of the Big Woods which envelop the Cache and White rivers.

This bridge is currently scheduled to be demolished due to a deeply unfortunate, ill-advised bureaucratic decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Demolition has been suspended by a court decision until May 29.

Right now, we need to ask Members of Congress to change the demolition decision and save this Delta landmark.

Please read this brief description, and then call the office of Sen. John Boozman, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee at (202) 224-4843. Ask him to lead the campaign to save the White River Bridge for hiking and cycling uses.

Sen. Boozman is a fine, fair-minded man and we know you will take a courteous approach in your appeal to ask him to support this beneficial campaign.

We would also ask those who live in east Arkansas to contact Congressman Rick Crawford, in whose district the bridge is located, at 202-225-4076. Congressman Crawford is also a very fair man who has always listened to us about our concerns for the Delta over many years.

This is an opportunity to do something real for the Delta as opposed to talking about it. We want to save the bridge, as Porter Briggs of the campaign emphasized in an op-ed column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on March 22:

The bridge would be “the highlight of the cycling route through the Delta between Little Rock and the Mississippi River Trail that is being built along the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans.”

Let’s think big–this is not just about one area in Arkansas but is a vital link of the regional effort to promote tourism and appreciation for the Delta’s natural splendor through hiking and biking networks.

In Arkansas, we have seen the impact of bicycling with the Razorback Trail, the new Delta heritage Trail, the Big Dam Bridge and other trails being developed. The 2.25 miles of the bridge offer a unique tree-top perspective through the wilds of the 550,000-acre Big Woods. As Porter Briggs wrote: “The beauty of the bridge is sublime.”

Many people who live in the area are working their hearts out to save the beloved bridge. Thousands of people across the wider region have signed petitions and otherwise sought to aid their effort. We are calling on all Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus partners to do the same to save the White River Bridge.

FACTS: There is an $11.3 million contract that has been let to a company in Mississippi to demolish the bridge, but a court has suspended it until May 29. The White River Bridge Campaign did their homework: they retained the nationally recognized engineering design firm, Kimley-Horn, to prepare their alternative plan for repurposing the bridge for the Delta heritage tourism campaign.

The national engineering design firm concluded that complete renovation of the bridge would cost $5.376 million, $5 million of which the campaign would have immediate access to from the same source as the demolition funds–so the “repurposing” plan would actually cost $6 million less in federal spending than demolition.

Maintenance costs of $60,000 annually will be met by partners of the White River Bridge campaign. No city, county, state or federal funds would be used to maintain the bridge.

The bridge will not do any harm to farming, hunting or fishing. Parts of the bridge that had earlier obstructed flow of the water from the rivers when they are flooding have been removed, so that is not an issue. There is every reason to save the bridge and no legitimate reason to destroy it.

We will certainly weigh in with Members of Congress and Trump administration officials at our May 23-24, 2018 Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus conference in Washington, DC.

Porter Briggs will speak on behalf of the White River Bridge Campaign at our session at the US Senate Russell Building Caucus Room 485, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., May 24.

But we need to act now. While we expect to fight until the end and our conference is a week before the May 29 deadline, we need to contact our elected officials today.

We are running out of time. We must act now. Our federal bureaucracy is planning to spend $11.3 million to destroy an icon of our Delta heritage that could benefit the economic, aesthetic, and environmental development of our region for the present and future generations.

Help us ask our elected officials to stop federal bureaucrats from this pointless, destructive decision.

Lee Powell on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Delta Grassroots Caucus

Economic Equality Caucus Set for Greater Washington, DC Area, May 23-24, 2018

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 02:55 PM

The Economic Equality Caucus annual conference on economic policy for working American families is set for May 23-24, 2018 for the Greater Washington, DC area.

We greatly encourage everyone to come to the Greater DC area and make your voices heard to the powers that be in Congress and the Trump administration on economic progress and equality, jobs at good wages, health care, immigration (including DACA/Dreamers), women and minority issues, infrastructure, hunger and nutrition and related issues.


The opening session is close to but not on Capitol Hill this year–Wednesday evening, May 23, 5 p.m. to 7:40 p.m., at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Virginia just across the Potomac from Capitol Hill. We have had many key partners from Virginia for literally decades now and this location is in the Greater DC area.

There will be a reception from about 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and then from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. we will have speakers, including major candidates from the nationally watched 10th Congressional District election in Virginia.

This district election makes a good microcosm for the national public policy debate, is hotly contested and will have an impact on the make-up of the next Congress. This district starts out in urban northern Virginia but extends westward to rural and agricultural areas of Virginia, so it includes rural as well as urban issues.



US Senate Russell building Room 485.

This session will focus on a wide range of issues including infrastructure investments to repair our deteriorating infrastructure and create jobs, USDA agriculture, rural development, SNAP, school meals, WIC and other major nutrition programs that are currently facing budget cut proposals.


The Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in DC is a block from the US Supreme Court, at 212 East Capitol Street, NE, Washington, DC 20003.

Set up individual meetings on your own Thursday afternoon, May 24–We are concluding the conference meetings early, shortly after lunch, to encourage all our partners to set up individual meetings on your own with additional Congressional offices, executive branch agencies in our nation’s capital. This will increase the number of Congressional and Trump administration offices we can have a dialogue with.

You should be able to have a one-on-one or small group meeting with one or more additional officials and then get a plane back home in the early evening of May 24.

For anyone who wishes to stay an extra night, that will give you time to do additional outreach and advocacy on the morning of Friday, May 25, to take advantage of your time spent in our nation’s capital.

Subject matter of your individual meetings is up to you, but we will develop a one or two-page memo condensing some key recommendations on job creation, infrastructure, health care, nutrition, women and minority issues that you can distribute. We welcome feedback on this memo that we are developing now.


We constantly hear people complain about how they don’t like either President Trump’s administration, or the Republican leadership in Congress, or Democrats in Congress or all three–well, okay, if you think it’s that bad then come to DC and tell the powers that be to get their act together and stop being so dysfunctional.

If all people do is sulk in their tent at home, that is the surest way to guarantee that political leaders in our nation’s capital will continue to fight among themselves and ignore the vast majority of working families’ concerns in America.

Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, conservative, moderate or progressive, many more people today complain about Washington, DC but just silently sulk and won’t go there even once a year to make their voices heard–and that is in sharp contrast to the way it was six to 10 years or earlier.

If you don’t take part in the process and remain silent, you are part of the problem. Come to DC and make your voice heard, whatever your point of view is. A big part of the problem is the lack of civic involvement of far too many US citizens in recent years.


**Opening session: 5 p.m. to about 5:45 p.m.–Recepttion and Introduction from Economic Equality Caucus/Delta Caucus leadership to set the stage for the conference as a whole.**

By convening in the affluent area of McLean/Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, we are highlighting the point that even prosperous areas have some working families who are struggling economically, because they do have some immigrants, homeless, those struggling with health care issues, and others who are not wealthy even in this famously wealthy area. Economic inequality is a problem virtually everywhere in our country today.

Then we will hear from Share, Inc.’s President Don Frickel, a nonprofit based in the McLean/Tysons area, Eileen Ellsworth, director of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and a representative of the Social Concerns Committee of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, a church that is deeply engaged in helping people in need.

5:50 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.–10th Congressional District of Virginia forum: We will hold a nonpartisan forum for the major candidates from both parties for this nationally watched race.

On the Democratic side, candidates Dan Helmer and Lindsey Davis Stover have confirmed already, State Sen. Jennifer Wexton and Alison Friedman are invited; on the Republican side Shak Hill, Republican candidate is confirmed, and the incumbent, Rep. Barbara Comstock, has been invited.

It is very positive and unusual that we have already gotten confirmations this far ahead of time. Busy Congressional candidates usually confirm much closer to the time of the event, but this is already attracting attention, is bipartisan in a prominent location in the heart of McLean so we are making early progress.

Social networking dinner after opening session ends on May 23 in the evening: When we finish the event about 7:40 p.m. or so, we plan to have a social networking dinner at a restaurant across the street from the group hotel in McLean, the Staybridge Suites Tysons McLean. Group hotel info is below in this email.


It is too early to get many confirmations, but we will be inviting Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Rep. Don Beyer and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama; Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi; Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. French Hill of Arkansas, and others.

Joel Berg, CEO of the national nonprofit Hunger Free America based in New York will be one of our main speakers at the luncheon session. Most of you know Joel or know about him. He is one of the leading poverty, hunger and economic equality experts in America and author of the critically acclaimed new book, America, We Need to Talk, focusing on ideas for economic, social and political reform in our country.

We will be inviting many other major organizations, to list some examples:

–Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center, and other hunger/nutrition organizations;

–National Education Association and Virginia Education Association;

–Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, the world’s most efficient steel mill and a corporation that pays good wages, has excellent training and other benefits for its employees, and is generally an excellent corporate citizen;

–Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission, a leading nonprofit in the Greater Mississippi Delta region;

–We will be inviting the National Congress of American Indians, the Housing Assistance Council, the United Farm Workers, who have participated in previous years;

–the League of Conservation Voters;

–Virginia Latino Leadership Council;

–InterFaith Arkansas and the Arkansas United Community Coalition, a major Hispanic organization based in Arkansas;

–the NAACP and other civil rights/diversity organizations;

–state Municipal League organizations;

–Appalachian economic justice and progress groups;

–Southwest Border regional economic justice and progress groups; Economic policy advocates from the Midwest;

–grassroots advocates from across the country.


For the two-day conference, registration fees are $100 for those who have not sent in annual dues, or $75 for those who have sent in their annual dues.

You register by sending in the registration fees to PayPal or by check. We do not use registration forms to cut out unnecessary paperwork.

You can pay the registration fees in one of two ways:

Go to the website at and to to the PayPal link and click where it says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to the Delta Caucus, which is our partner that handles the registration fees for the EEC coalition; and mail to:**

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

Early registration fees deadline is May 2. After that, registration fees go up to $125.

For those who are very late and pay AFTER the conference is over, registration fees go up to $150 each. We discourage the practice of a few who do not pay until after the conference, thus forcing us to take up time inquiring about and collecting registration fees for days or weeks after the conference is over.

For people in the local northern Virginia race who can only come to the opening evening session, we don’t ask for the registration fees but if you can make a small charitable donation to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer that will be going to a good cause.


The group hotel is Staybridge Suites Tysons McLean at 6845 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, Virginia.

Please call the hotel at 703-448-5400 and say you are with the Economic Equality Caucus-Delta group to get the group rate of $239 for Wednesday, May 23.

This hotel is very close to the opening session location at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean–less than half a mile, four or five minutes away.

Continue reading...

Joel Berg's Great Book Sheds Light of Truth on Political & Economic Reform in US

Posted on January 04, 2018 at 01:38 PM

Joel Berg’s brilliant new book, America, We Need to Talk: A Self-Help Book for the Nation, should be read by all people in the Delta region and across the country who are concerned about reforming the American social, economic and political system.

The book is poignant for the entire country, but especially so for regions like the Greater Delta that have historically lagged behind the rest of America and bear unusually high rates of poverty and food insecurity.

It’s partly a hilarious parody of self-help books, but more importantly, the work is a deadly serious analysis of America’s political, social and economic challenges today.

Joel Berg is CEO of Hunger Free America, a national anti-hunger and poverty nonprofit with headquarters in New York that works in the Delta region and across the country.

Joel lived in Arkansas for a while earlier in his career, did extensive projects in the Delta region as a Presidential appointee at USDA in the Clinton administration, and has continued his strong commitment to the eight-state area from New Orleans to southern Illinois and Missouri and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt in recent years.

Joel will be one of the speakers at the Economic Equality Caucus conference on May 23-24, 2018 in the Washington, DC area. We have a number of authors on economic development and justice, and we like to encourage people to read informative books on these subjects.

You can get a copy of the book in several ways-you can go to the website-in which half of each book’s price goes to the vital nonprofit work of Hunger Free America. Or you can go to, or other book sellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Mr. Berg is the most dynamic and eloquent leader on poverty and hunger issues in our country today, but this book encompasses a much broader scope including middle class issues, the grave flaws in the “trickle-down” economic policy that caters to the wealthiest 1%, and the folly of a militaristic foreign policy that devours vast resources of our blood and treasure.

As advocates for an economic equality organization focusing first of all on the Delta but also on Appalachia, Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest and other economically distressed regions, the Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus senior partners often have people decline to take any action in contacting their federal, state or local elected officials on the grounds that “Well, the politicians and the system are corrupt, so it’s a waste of time.” Berg forcefully argues that we must move beyond simply bashing the powers that be “and own up to our individual roles in letting the nation slide, and our joint obligation to save it.”

America, We Need to Talk gives our country a wake-up call about personal responsibility–start with yourself in taking action and demanding constructive change from our elected officials rather than just complaining. You are a big part of the problem if all you do is whine about the system’s broken but do nothing to make your voice heard. The best way to assure that nothing changes is for Americans to sulk in our tents. With an apathetic electorate, then the powers that be truly have a field day in advancing their own interests while ignoring the good of the country.

Taking personal responsibility: Whining that we are powerless is not only a cop-out, but a falsehood. Berg cites examples where getting involved produced impressive results-such as the recent organizing efforts of fast food employees and others that led to California, New York, the cities of Seattle and Washington, DC raising the minimum wage to $15, with other states and localities following suit.

While today’s America faces dire challenges, Berg reminds us that “we’ve gotten through far darker times than these-slavery, moves to crush the suffragette movement, the internship of Japanese Americans, state-sponsored violence against unions, World War II, rampant child labor, segregation, the Depression, the McCarty Era, and so on. Ultimately, we make the choices for good or bad-witness the stark contrast in the 1930s when most Germans chose Nazism while most Americans chose the New Deal.

So when people complain to Berg that its just “too hard” to write an email to a Member of Congress or governor, or pick up the phone and advocate for better health care programs or job creation and infrastructure improvements, or real efforts to reduce poverty or hunger, he eloquently reminds us of what the definition of “hard” really is:

“Hard is landing at Normandy Beach under ferocious machine gun and mortar fire. Hard is marching for civil rights over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma while being viciously clubbed. Hard is looking into your daughter’s eyes and having to tell her you don’t have any food that night for dinner. Get over yourself, America, and get back to work fixing our country and world.”

Grassroots movements AND governmental officials are essential in making progress in reform. A telling example is the civil rights movement–many grassroots advocates or admirers of the Kennedy-Johnson administration have wasted great amounts of time and words in claiming “credit” for such achievements as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Berg points out that both were essential–if Martin Luther King and many other grassroots advocates had not inspired thousands of activists to take direct action in challenging racism, and had not generated massive media coverage and gained the attention of powers that be, these historic bills would not have been passed. On the other hand, if President Johnson and the leadership in Congress had balked in passing the laws, it also would not have happened. We need both grassroots activism and wise leadership from the political powers that be.

As Mr. Berg rightly explains: “Those who argue over whether political leaders or social movements are more decisive–such as in the debate over whether Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Lyndon Johnson played the most influential role in passing great pieces of civil rights legislation in the 1960s–are missing the point: that both are needed to alternatively pull, push and aid the other.” Exactly.

The domestic impact of military quagmires and bloated military budgets: Why should a book focusing mostly on domestic reform include analysis of our bloated military budget and the military quagmires we have constantly plunged into? The US military budget is larger than the next seven or eight largest nations’ combined, we are mired in interminable wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations across the globe. We have learned nothing from the tragic experience of Vietnam, having embarked on the tragic intervention in Iraq on the falsehood that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction–a lie chillingly similar to the dishonesty of the Johnson administration in the early stages of the Vietnam escalation.

As Berg poignantly writes, “Few American policy makers understood or even tried to understand the history and culture of Iraq or Afghanistan.” The results in Iraq were 89,000 direct war deaths, including 4,488 US service personnel killed, 32,223 troops injured (not including post-traumatic stress syndrome) 134,000 civilians killed, 655,000 persons who have died in Iraq since the invasion who would not have died if the war had never occurred, and 2.8 million people either internally displaced or forced to flee the country. Yet, “the country is neither secure nor free.”

If vast economic, financial and human resources were not being poured into our tragic foreign adventures, we would have vastly greater resources to address our issues of economic inequality, a deteriorating infrastructure, educational opportunities, hunger and poverty here at home.

At a time when fundamental safety net programs are being threatened, Berg sets the factual record straight: safety net programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, Section 8 subsidized housing, and, if they are working, Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits have provided vital services and lifted millions of people above the poverty line.

Right wingers who claim that the War on Poverty was a failure fly in the face of a mountain of facts demonstrating that these programs did cut poverty in half, reduce the worst forms of deprivation, and boosted economic mobility. Berg states the facts:

The Kennedy-Johnson programs-many of which actually continued into the Nixon administration-cut poverty in half between 1960 and 1973 and elevated 16 million Americans out of poverty into the middle class.

Subsequent cuts in poverty-reduction efforts reduced these gains, but poverty and hunger levels always stayed above the high rates as of 1960.

More recent history has witnessed major shifts in the US economy depending on what policies were followed by later administrations: in the Clinton administration, 2.8 million people who had been previously unemployed entered the workforce, median worker wages increased, and poverty declined-with African American and Hispanic poverty levels achieving historically low levels.

The book is a 600-page gold mine of insightful research and data. Here are some of the many illuminating facts, especially for a region like the Delta which has one of America’s highest rates of hunger and poverty:

–The exorbitant incarceration rates fostered by our criminal justice system cost taxpayers $260 billion a year, which is approximately two and a half times the amount devoted to SNAP, WIC (the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) and school meals combined.

–As of 2013, tax breaks, which went disproportionately for the wealthy, equaled $1.145 trillion, or 14 times the amount the government spent on SNAP nutrition aid that year; SNAP payments amount to about $1.40 a meal, far too tiny to live on, especially because SNAP recipients cannot use them for rent, clothing, transportation or other essentials. This refutes the falsehood that the payments are large and foster dependency.

–The benefits are so small as to not even come close to provide any incentive to stay dependent on them. SNAP rolls increased when poverty levels increased, as happened under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, while the SNAP rolls declined under the strong economy during the Clinton Presidency. Berg rightly points out that economics, not laziness, is the fundamental variable determining SNAP participation.

–The fraud rate of SNAP is only about 1%. While any fraud is bad and of course all efforts should and are being taken by USDA to prevent it, SNAP is in fact one of the most efficient large-scale government programs.

–SNAP is not socialism but is a voucher program that enables struggling families to shop at private sector businesses, thus generating economic development.

–Most SNAP beneficiaries are children, seniors, working parents, and people with disabilities. Most adults who get SNAP are hard-working taxpayers who are using SNAP to supplement their low wages.

–About 900,000 veterans use SNAP, as well as many active duty military families.

–As of 2016 48 million people were food insecure, but more than a quarter of the people eligible for SNAP did not receive them. Outreach programs are intended to reach the many working parents, seniors and others who are eligible.

–As of 2015, less than 1% of Americans received cash welfare (which is of course very different from the SNAP programs tied strictly to food assistance), and only 6%of Americans living below the poverty line received cash welfare. This refutes the myth that are huge numbers of Americans dependent on cash welfare.

A final fundamental point to be made about Berg’s book is that it is based on pursuing the truth and facts wherever they may lead, and is bipartisan in the best and most accurate sense of that word.

Bipartisanship and fairness does not mean that for every positive or negative comment or fact about a progressive Democrat or a conservative Republican, you cite another fact favorable to the other side. Journalists, advocates, nonprofits, and conscientious leaders of both parties should cite the truth regardless of whether it makes one party or leaders in question look good or bad.

Berg is a former Clinton administration Presidential appointee and of course a Democrat. To cite examples of true bipartisanship and fairness, we should note that he gives credit to Republican President Richard Nixon for continuing many (but not all, of course) of the constructive nutrition and other War on Poverty programs.

Similarly, he cites the reality that the American tax system was much fairer under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower than it has been under later Presidents: in the 1950s the top marginal federal income tax rate was 91%. As of 2015 the wealthiest Americans paid only about 33% of their income in taxes. This is the single most important explanation as to why our deficits are so sky high and our investments in economic programs and infrastructure is so inadequate.

Continue reading...

Women, Minority & Rural Issues in the 2016 Election and Beyond in the Delta

Posted on December 21, 2017 at 05:51 PM

At this time when the role of women, minorities and rural America in our economy and society are at the forefront of the national dialogue, we convey the in-depth analyses of these issues at the 2017 annual fall conference at the Clinton Library. We had a series of speakers on the impact of these issues on the 2016 election and beyond.

The impact of sexism on the 2016 Presidential election: Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, and Angie Maxwell, Director of the Diane Blair Center for Southern Politics and Society at the Fulbright College, spoke about their path-breaking research on the impact of sexism in the 2016 Presidential election.

The Delta, rural America and the 2016 election: The impact of the rural vote on the 2016 election is a major research interest of Al Cross, Director of the University of Kentucky Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

Series of speakers on women and minority issues: We heard from a distinguished series of speakers from across the region about their work regarding women and minority issues.

For the two-day conference as a whole, participants included Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Congressman Rick Crawford, US Senator John Boozman, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Peter Kinder, Congressman French Hill’s Chief of Staff Brooke Bennett, Todd Shields, Angie Maxwell, Al Cross and grassroots advocates from across the eight-state Greater Delta Region.

This is an in-depth reference work and we do not expect people to read all of it, but you may want to read one section or a couple of sections. Please look over the Table of Contents to see which section you may be interested in and scroll down to that section.



a. Dean Todd Shields, Fulbright College at the University of Arkansas

b. Angie Maxwell, Director of Diane Blair Center for Southern Politics and Society, University of Arkansas c. Al Cross, Director, University of Kentucky Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues


a. Betty Dobson/Maggie Steed, Director of the Upper Town Heritage Foundation and the Hotel Metropolitan in Paducah, Kentucky

b. President Peggy Bradford, Shawnee Community College, southern Illinois

c. Humberto Marquez, Organizing Director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition and a DACA recipient; joined by Steve Copley, InterFaith Arkansas

d. Liz Young, Executive Director, Arkansas Women’s Business Center (affiliated with Winrock International)

e. Lee Powell, Caucus Director, and Millie Atkins, Caucus Co-Chair and Community Leader from Monroe, Louisiana, State Senator Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock)

The Impact of Sexism and Rural Voters on the 2016 Presidential Election

Ia.: Dean Shields and Director Maxwell of the Blair Center for Southern Politics’ Research on Sexism and the 2016 Presidential Election

Caucus Director Lee Powell expressed appreciation to Dean Shields for his great attention to and outreach for the east Arkansas Delta as Dean of the Fulbright College for Arkansas’ largest university, and his innovative research on women and politics.

Dean Shields’ major research interest as a political scientist focused on the area of women in politics. He said that “We knew this nation was a sexist nation, we knew there were a lot of negative attitudes toward women, but we did not anticipate how prevalent and nuanced” modern sexism is. He stressed that it was not that people didn’t think that Hillary Clinton could do the job as President, but that they did not trust her. The survey found that Hillary Clinton and other women were most unpopular when they are running for office and asking for power.

The survey was based on an intensive, anonymous survey of about 4,000 people in which they over-sampled for six demographic groups-African Americans, Hispanics and Caucusians in both the South and the non-South. They had a series of major conclusions:

There is a big racial divide in the results:

–40% of Caucasians scored at the high end of the sexism scale.

–38% of Latinos scored at the high end.

–20% of African Americans were at the high end.

There was a huge partisan divide:

–54% of Republicans scored at the high end of the sexism scale.

–22% of Democrats scored at the high end of the sexism scale.

In another major finding, sexism was much worse in the South, and of course the Delta states make up a significant part of this region. There are very significant gender expectations and traditional stereotypes in this region. Southern white women were very important in helping Trump win the “SEC” primaries.

–44% of white men were at the high end of the sexism scale.

–32% of white women were at the high end of the sexism scale.

–42% of Hispanic males were at the high end.

–36% of Hispanic females were at the high end.

Director Maxwell emphasized that African American women DID turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton, even though overall African American turnout for her was down from what Barack Obama had received.

Survey utilized meticulous methods to assure accuracy: Dean Shields said the survey was conducted very carefully to get accurate results. Traditionally, pollsters have conducted surveys on the phone or if it was a very intensive person, face to face. But he stressed that to understand what the real attitudes are about race and gender, you can’t ask them in person because they will moderate their views because they don’t want the pollster to think that they are racist, homophobe or sexist.

Therefore, their survey took thorough steps to make sure that people were responding in an anonymous way so that they can hide behind the privacy and be as open as possible.

The modern sexism scale is based on asking people whether they agreed or disagreed, and how strongly, with a series of questions, with some of the most important being:

  1. Feminists aren’t working for equality, they really just want more power for women.

  2. Women are quick to complain about sexual harassment. They interpret innocent remarks or acts as sexist.

  3. Women don’t want equality, they want special favors, such as hiring policies that favor them over men.

  4. When women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically complain about being discriminated against.

  5. Sexual discrimination is not a problem in America any more.

Director Maxwell pointed out that these are extreme statements, so if people are even neutral then that indicates a problem. But if they agree or strongly agree with these statements, that demonstrates a serious problem of distrust toward working women.

The concept of modern sexism, she said, is “an issue no one wants to talk about because it’s hard to believe, it’s hard to hear, and it’s hard to know how to fix it.” This concept digs deeper than traditional stereotypes of women. We don’t hear very often today that women are inferior, they just can’t do the job, or will get emotional and “freak out” under pressure. If pollsters ask people today about those earlier kind of prejudices, they will wind up with erroneous results that could make them think we are in a post-sexist world, but this is not true.

The University of Arkansas survey was designed to avoid the errors of previous researchers in the 1970s and 1980s erred when they thought that racism was dropping off, but in fact those surveys just revealed that they were receiving politically correct answers. Racism of the earlier era had not disappeared, but had just morphed into a different kind of racial bias.

The modern sexism concept gets at our resentment to working women, ambitious women and outspoken women.

Controlling for a range of issues: Dean Shields acknowledged that there is a wide variety of explanations of why the election turned out as it did. Therefore they asked if other issues like the economy, terrorism, hostility to the establishment, opposition to Obamacare or other issues were vital in their voting decisions.

Shields said that after controlling for all of these issues, one of the biggest predictors of who you voted for was still your score on the modern sexism scale.

Bernie Sanders’ voters impact: He said that not only if you’re a sexist were you not going to vote for Hillary, but even many Bernie Sanders’ supporters who scored high on the sexism scale voted for Independents Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or for Trump.

Only about 75% of Sanders’ voters supported Hillary in the general election, and Jill Stein received votes in the close races of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

This discussion of course did not have time to go into all the details of the election results, but regarding the number of votes that went to Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the key swing states, they were quite substantial when compared to Trump’s victory margin. This would not be significant had the race not been so close, but the figures for those states were:

–In Michigan, Stein won 51,000 votes and Trump’s margin of victory was 10,000.

–In Wisconsin, Stein won 31,000 votes where Trump’s margin of victory was a little under 23,000.

–In Pennsylvania, Stein won almost 50,000 votes, and Trump’s victory margin was about 44,000.

Considering the number of Sanders voters who did not vote for Hillary, Maxwell said that “Republicans rallied around the nominee and Democrats didn’t.”

Maxwell said that “sexism wasn’t the only reason” for the election’s outcome, but it’s certainly the one we don’t want to talk about.”

Here we are providing a more detailed explanation on Sanders voters who did not vote for Hillary Clinton on the Blair Center website (please Google “Blair Center for Southern Politics” to get a copy of the full report, entitled “The Impact of ‘Modern Sexism’ on the 2016 Presidential Election”):

“Democrats were not as successful at forging a general election coalition. Only 74.4% of Sanders’ primary/caucus voters reported voting for Clinton in the general election.”

“The 25.6% of Sanders’ primary/caucus voter who did not vote for Clinton in the general election translates into an approximately 2.8% decrease in Clinton’s popular vote total in the general election…”

“Over 15% of Sanders’ supporters voted outside of the two major parties, with 7% choosing Johnson, 4.6% choosing Stein, and 4% submitting a write-in candidate. Another 4.1% decided not to vote at all, and 5.9% crossed the partisan divide and cast their vote for Trump.”

“Though the percentage of Sanders’ “sexist” supporters was the lowest measured, they were also the only group of voters who, if they wanted to vote for the nominee of the party with which they participated during the primary/caucus election, had to vote for a woman… ”

“On average, the least “sexist” Sanders’ supporters did vote for Clinton. Those slightly higher on the scale either did not vote or voted for Stein. On average, Sanders’ primary/caucus voters who had Modern Sexism scores closer to “neutral” either wrote-in their own candidate or selected Johnson. Sanders’ supporters with decidedly “sexist” attitudes voted for Trump.”

Please also see the Rutgers University Institute for Women and Politics, which has research on the status of women in the South. Maxwell is a member of the Institute’s board.

A range of issues contributed to the results in addition to the women, minority and rural votes discussed at the Delta Caucus conference: Maxwell, Shields, and Al Cross of the University of Kentucky did not say that the issues they focused on were the only reasons for the outcome and acknowledged that there were many factors contributing to the election results in addition to the sexism issues discussed by the U of A researchers, and Al Cross’ analysis of the rural vote (summarized below). Among these were included FBI Director Jim Comey’s re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, (which ultimately demonstrated that nothing illegal took place), Russian meddling in the US electoral process, and other factors. In an election so close, many factors will inevitably be cited. However, the women, minority and rural votes’ issues discussed by the three researchers do stand out as clearly among the most if not the most important explanations.

Hillary’s inherent disadvantage in effectively running as the incumbent: There was general agreement on the point made by Al Cross that an important factor was the reality that “It’s time for a change” is the oldest slogan in politics and as a Secretary of State running for the party that had been in power for eight years she was basically running as the incumbent in a year when many voters were receptive to the need for change. People from different parties will have widely differing views as to which candidate truly represented change, but traditionally there is advantage in the “time for a change” pitch to the candidate who is not seen as the “incumbent.”

Shields said that no matter what they tried to do in finding an alternative explanation, modern sexism was still the most significant predictor as to what drove this Presidential election. He concluded that “In this country we’re not ready for a female President, and unfortunately that’s for men and women.”

Pollsters in 2016 failed to take into consideration modern sexism in their surveys: Maxwell said there were zero pollsters who placed the modern sexism factors into their model. She discussed the phenomenon in 2008 when some voters who would have been expected to vote for Barack Obama based on their beliefs, party affiliation and other basic indicators but did not pull the trigger for Obama because he was an African American.

The phenomenon of voters not wanting to admit to pollsters their biased attitudes is called the “Bradley effect,” after the election in 1982 when African American Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles was a huge favorite to win the race for governor according to pollsters, but he wound up losing to Republican George Deukmejian.

The national pollsters in 2016 did not factor in modern sexism, yet the University of Arkansas research indicated that the effect was almost twice as large regarding gender in the case of Hillary Clinton as it had been for Obama regarding race in 2008.

Problem was not unique to Hillary but was shared by other women: Maxwell said that Shirley Chisholm 40 years earlier was the last Democratic woman candidate for president to get a number of delegates, underlining the problem that there are too few women candidates.

Elizabeth Dole had an impressive resume and was very popular based on her Harvard law degree and her traditional, deferential support for her spouse, Bob Dole. She was a dynamic speaker and everybody was favorable until she asked for power by forming an exploratory committee to run. Then no one gave her any money. It seems that “you can be liked or taken seriously, but not both,” Maxwell said about women’s dilemma when they decide to ask for power.

Many other women candidates gained office when their husbands passed away and they ran in their place, such as Sen. Hattie Caraway in Arkansas and Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, who represented the southeast Missouri Delta for many years. (Note–Rep. Emerson had many admirers in the Delta Caucus and worked with our coalition productively for many years.) In cases such as those of Caraway and Emerson, since they were replacing their spouses they skipped over the phase of asking for power solely in their own right.

Maxwell said that economics did not come up as a significant factor in determining the outcome, with the major factors being sexism, resentment and race.

Unusually long tracking poll record for Hillary Clinton: Secretary Clinton had an unusually long record of tracking polls from having been in public service for so long. She was most unpopular when she was asking for power. After she won her Senate race, she was popular as a senator because she was doing a good job.

When Bill Clinton lost his race for governor, one of the reasons was that as First Lady of Arkansas, Hillary went by the name of Hillary Rodham, and many people disapproved of her non-traditional decision not to use her husband’s last name. She changed her name to Hillary Rodham Clinton; so she couldn’t run under the name she would have liked to be called.

Hillary was also popular once she was serving in the Senate and doing a good job. Again, it was not when she was in the middle of a controversial policy debate over legislation or other issues, but rather when she asked for power by running for office that the distrust escalated.

The most successful attack ads against Hillary were not those that said she was too frail, even after she fainted at the 9/11 ceremony, but rather anything geared toward distrust.

Another hurdle that Hillary had to overcome was that a woman cannot serve as Commander in Chief. By gaining the endorsement of many generals and other military leaders, she largely succeeded in breaking that ceiling. “The hard thing about being the first is that there’s no blueprint for how to do it,” Maxwell said.

What does this mean and what do we do about this? The depressing news is that this means that modern sexism is a severe problem in America today. But Maxwell emphasized that “you can’t change what you do not acknowledge.”

Key actions needed for change:

Women must turn out to vote: To bring about change, women need to have a heavy voting turnout. Many women in Arkansas are registered to vote-63%, compared to 46% of men being registered. But women in Arkansas don’t vote-“We are 44th in Arkansas for women voting.”

Women need to run for office and when they run they have to expect to over-perform: Many people will not tell they they won’t vote for them because they are women. They will say “I’m so excited about your running,” but nice comments are not the same as real commitments such as signing an endorsement in a newspaper.

At the current rate in Arkansas, it will be the year 2066 before we have gender parity in the Arkansas legislature, and Maxwell said “I will be 90 and I don’t want to wait that long.”

Equal pay’s impact in Arkansas: If Arkansas just had equal pay for women who are currently working, the poverty level would be reduced by 48%.

Maxwell called for job opportunities for women who have young children. The University of Arkansas in 2017 still does not have paid maternity leave.

Arkansas is almost dead last in the number of part-time jobs for women with children under age 6.

Great jobs for young women, she suggested, would be as state legislators, city council members and school board members.

We have to support women when they run for office, give them money and help them get elected.

We need to encourage young women to think about the contributions they want to make when they get out in the world, and fit political office into their pathway. Women’s issues will not be considered if they are not in the room when decisions are made.

In one of President Obama’s last speeches for Hillary in 2016 he said that if you just don’t like her but you can explain why, you need to look into your heart.

Hillary Clinton’s achievement in spite of the narrow loss as the first woman nominee of a major political party for President: Maxwell and other speakers on the panel regarding the 2016 election did emphasize that in being the first nominee of a major political party for President and in winning the popular vote by 3.5 million votes was “an enormous accomplishment.”

Director Maxwell’s compliment for Ms. Crystal Barnes: Maxwell complimented the presentation by Ms. Crystal Barnes earlier at the Clinton Library session. Ms. Barnes is president of the senior class of Pine Bluff High School and a co-coordinator for the TOPPS nonprofit mentoring program for young women in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Maxwell said Ms. Barnes gave “an exceptional speech” and they would like to see her enroll at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Importance of educating younger generations about the struggles and accomplishments of the women’s rights movement: Maxwell said that we need to do a better job of teaching people about the struggles of the women’s rights movement that made possible the gains women have achieved today. She recalled the National Women’s Convention in Houston in 1977, a unique national women’s convention that included every First Lady up to that date, bipartisan participation, and women’s rights advocates from across the country. There were minority women leaders there and a minority plank in the platform was endorsed.

One of the delegates was the late Diane Blair, the distinguished women’s rights activist and political scientist at the University of Arkansas, for whom the Center for Southern Politics and Society at the Fulbright College is named. Maxwell said that we are currently not doing a good job of teaching her students’ generation about what previous women leaders fought for, so they don’t know about it. Her career as Director of the Blair Center was based upon those earlier struggles: she said, “My life is not possible without their sacrifices.”

Support for the Fulbright Scholar Program: As a final note, Caucus Director Powell expressed appreciation to Dean Shields at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for joining with the Delta Caucus and the Fulbright Alumni Association in supporting the Fulbright Scholar Program, founded by the famous Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. This program has led to the exchange of hundreds of thousands of scholars across the globe and was praised by President John F. Kennedy as “the classic modern example of beating swords into plowshares.”

Supporters of the Fulbright Program joined forces to defeat an ill-advised effort by President Obama to cut funding for this exemplary initiative. Now President Trump has a much worse budget cutting proposal against the Fulbright Program, and we plan to defeat it as well.

Fulbright Scholars aid education in the eight Delta states and all 50 states as well as across the globe, and we call upon all supporters of education in the Delta to keep its funding fully intact.

Participation of legislators from the National Assembly of Ecuador: The Delta Caucus was glad to work with Global Ties Arkansas in bringing a group of seven members of the National Assembly of Ecuador-a South American nation of 17 million people-to the Delta conference at the Clinton Library. They said they were inspired by the presentations about US trade with Latin America and women and minorities’ issues at the conference. They are working on passing national legislation in Ecuador to prevent violence against women.

1.c: Al Cross’ presentation on the impact of rural voters on the 2016 Presidential election

Al Cross, Director of the University of Kentucky Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, said that since he started the Institute 13 years ago he had always wanted to take part at a Delta Caucus and was glad to do so.

In introducing Al Cross, the Caucus director said that the Institute deals with national rural issues, although being based in Kentucky they have special insights into two of America’s largest rural regions-Appalachia and the Delta-since the western part of Kentucky makes up part of the Delta and eastern Appalachia is in the heart of the Appalachian region.

Cross said that he imagined many people in the Delta Caucus were shocked, disappointed or even in despair at Donald Trump’s victory, yet despite the controversial budget cuts and almost daily turmoil, we need to remember one truth about Trump’s election: “He could not have won without rural America.”

“We need to remember that,” Cross said, “and so does he.”

Trump’s huge margin of victory in rural America: Trump won 62% of the rural vote-more than any other modern President.

In the 9 steps USDA has from most urban to most rural, the smaller the population of a place, the greater was its vote for Trump, with one small exception within the margin of error.

Trump’s victory continued a Republican trend of winning more and more of the rural vote, but in 2012 the rural turnout was down.

In contrast, there was a much better rural turnout in 2016, and this surge in turnout was tremendously important for the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Rural America’s choice of a man who is probably our most urban President suggests that “big and bad things were going on in rural communities led them to turn out in such huge volume for Trump.

Cross especially called attention to one vital measure: each year from 2012 to 2016 fewer people lived in rural America than the year before. The losses were pretty small, but each year that set a record because the total rural population had never declined except as a percentage of the total national population before 2012.

Rural America is losing people primarily because it lost jobs and businesses in the Great Recession that have not come back.

One year ago, employment was about 5% higher in the metropolitan areas than in the first quarter of 2008, which is the official start of the recession.

In contrast, employment was 2.5% less in rural areas of America over that same period.

The evidence of rural America’s economic distress was seen in closed factories, vacant storefronts, and streams of works moving to more urban places. The economic decline was accompanied by social and cultural decline, with above average drug use, divorce, poor health and increasing mortality rates-especially among middle-aged whites.

The workforce shrank as disability payments expanded, and the Wall Street Journal concluded that the statistics of rural areas today resemble those of inner cities 30 years ago.

Cross stressed that feelings are usually more influential in elections than statistics, and in rural America there was a deep resentment of urban elites, including the news media. Many rural Americans felt they were not getting a fair shake from government and its trade deals and were generally looked down upon.

“Onto this landscape strode a brash billionaire,” Cross said, who was a household name due to his television reality show and business success, and while offering few specifics primised to be the trune for the people who were hungry for a politician who would improve their daily lives. He said that “In 40 years of covering politics, I’ve never seen a candidate who attracted the depth of support and enthusiasm-especially in rural America-as did Donald Trump.”

There were half a million more votes in 2016 than 2012, but two and a half million fewer votes in urban areas. That second number, according to Cross, illustrates the low enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, especially among Hispanics and African Americans (note-this was true overall but not for African American women, who did turn out in large numbers for Clinton).

Hillary received 88% of the African American vote, whereas Obama had won 93%.

Despite Trump’s attitudes on immigration, Clinton received less of the Hispanic vote than did Obama. She won 65% if Hispanics to 71% for Obama.

Turnout was generally down among African American and urban voters, while turnout was strong among white and rural voters.

Cross acknowledged that some have argued that minority VOTES were suppressed by ovter ID laws, less time for early voters and other measures that discouraged turnout. He said this did happen and had some effect, but in his assessment only in North Carolina and Wissonsin was this impact large enough that it might have cost Clinton the election.

Even if we do switch North Carolina and Wisconsin to the Clinton camp, that still leaves Trump with 284 electoral votes, 14 more than were needed to win.

An important factor in Trump’s victory had a great deal to do with race and ethnicity, mainly dealing with immigration. Rural Midwestern towns that attracted many immigrants, particularly Latinos, were Trump strongholds in the primaries and caucuses.

Cross pointed out that Just before the general election, Gallup polls showed Trump doing very well in racially isolated white communities. In those places, Trump voters were less motivated by economic concerns than by issues of race, ethnicity and immigration.

Cross said that other researchers before and after came to the same conclusion about the national vote.

A final result of the election, according to Cross, was that it gave a wake-up call to many national journalists about the problems of rural America. The Wall Street Journal is not the only national news outlet that paid more attention to rural places. Chuck Todd of NBC News said on election night as it Trump began to win that “Rural America is basically screaming at us-STOP OVERLOOKING US.”

So rural America is getting more attention, and that should mean more attention to the Delta, one of America’s most rural regions. As Peter Kinder of the DRA said at the opening session, the Delta has some of the greatest economic challenges of any region in the country, but it also has great opportunities.

“For many people the election of Trump is a challenge, but for rural America it’s also an opportunity in raw political terms, because Donald Trump owes rural America,”

Cross said. Politicians sometimes have to be reminded of who they owe, and in the case of rural America because it’s so diverse, it makes it more difficult to have a strong lobby that speaks up for it.

Agricultural interests can help, but they can also hurt by focusing more on increasing farmers’ wealth and just paying lip service to the needs of rural communities.

There is a bipartisan Rural Caucus in Congress, but it has only 43 Members, which is 10% of the House, whereas rural America is 15% of the national population, and we need a stronger voice.

Cross concluded by saying that he hoped the Delta Caucus conference would lead to greater networking and lobbying among all the groups that try to help all parts of rural America. The Institute of Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky will try to cover it. “So make some news for us.”

UPDATE AND BACKGROUND NOTE ON NAFTA AND PITCH TO RURAL AMERICA ON ECONOMIC ISSUES: Al Cross and the luncheon speakers could not delve into all the background of all these issues due to time constraints, so we would like to give this brief update and background information.

One of the issues that Trump as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders played up during the campaign was the alleged terrible damage that was inflicted on states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Midwest, as well as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and the country as a whole by NAFTA. These claims were grossly inflated, as revealed by the thoughtful presentations made by four Republican governors in Washington, DC in December.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, and Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa met with Vice President Mike Pence, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to warn of the devastating consequences if NAFTA is abandoned.

NAFTA and other free trade agreements must be improved and expanded to include much stronger dislocated worker programs to train workers for other jobs who were thrown out of work due to the vicissitudes of international trade and through no fault of their own.

NAFTA needs stronger labor and environmental safeguards as well. It certainly needs reforms and improvements.

But to blame NAFTA as virtually the worst force causing job losses in America is erroneous. There were certainly some economic sectors that were hurt, and not enough has been done to shore up those problems. But there were also some benefits in other sectors, and in any case to blame it as the major force for unemployment in America over the last 8 years is a gross exaggeration.

Gov. Hutchinson said, according to comments in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and other news sources, that NAFTA should be renegotiated in a way to make it more fair, but he also stressed that it is very important for Arkansas businesses and agriculture to continue their vital trading ties to Mexico and Canada.

Unlike the country as a whole, Arkansas has a trade surplus with Canada and Mexico. Arkansas exported $1.2 billion to Canada in 2016 while importing $752 million. Arkansas exported $686 million to Mexico while importing $597 million. As Gov. Hutchinson said in his presentation at the Delta Caucus conference, Mexico is the largest purchaser of Arkansas rice.

Canada ranked as the top market for Arkansas products, while Mexico was third (France was second).

Moreover, Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders falsely blamed NAFTA as a major if not the major source for factories moving overseas and causing American job losses in recent years. While this did happen in some cases, the fundamental cause of moving factories overseas was the incentive to gain the much cheaper labor and lack of environmental and other regulations in Mexico, China and other foreign destinations. The marginal difference in tariffs was quite small in comparison to that major reality of wage and regulatory differentials, which existed before NAFTA and remained the basic magnet for moving factories overseas.

Fundamentally, the constant raving against NAFTA allegedly being a huge cause of job losses by Trump and Sanders distorted the vastly greater reality that the fundamental cause of unemployment from 2008 to 2016 was the Great Recession and its aftermath. NAFTA’s impact was tiny compared to the colossal impact of the recession.

In discussion, Emeritus Professor Economics Gary Latanich of Arkansas State University pointed out that Hillary Clinton had the opportunity to go back to Wisconsin and Michigan to address the real causes and remedies of job losses during the recesses and clarify the NAFTA issues, but did not do so.

Please note the states represented by the four governors who met with Vice President Pence, Secretary Perdue and other administration officials to ask for improving but not abandoning NAFTA: Gov. Snyder of the key Midwestern state of Michigan, Gov. Reynolds of Iowa where Trump’s margin was larger than Michigan but still not large, and the two Delta state governors, Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. Haslam of Tennessee.

The leaders of all these states were carrying the message that NAFTA has a net positive economic impact on their states, so the solution is to improve NAFTA, not abandon it.

Trump administration proposed budget cuts to USDA Rural Development, SNAP, school meals, WIC, health care, the Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission are all harmful to rural America:

Delta Caucus partners pointed out that these many budget cuts would be harmful to many lower income, middle income working people in rural America. This creates the paradox that many rural Americans voted for a candidate whose economic policies are detrimental to their economic interests. This could partly be explained by lack of information or confusion, but it also tends to strengthen the conclusion that race, gender, and feelings by rural Americans that they were being excluded and looked down upon were vital factors in the electoral outcome.

III. Women and Minority Issues in the Delta Region

##A. Betty Dobson/Maggie Steed, Executive Director, Upper Town Heritage Foundation in Paducah, Kentucky

Betty Dobson is always one of the most dynamic, entertaining and educational speakers at Delta Caucus events. She is executive director of the nonprofit Upper Town Heritage Foundation, which is one of the best examples in our region of an organization utilizing Delta heritage tourism to educate people about our great legacy while generating tourist dollars.

Dobson portrays the remarkable historical figure of Maggie Steed, an African American entrepreneur of the Jim Crow era who rose above the segregation and sexism of her times to become the successful owner of the famed Hotel Metropolitan in Paducah, Kentucky.

Continue reading...