Friday, November 10, 2017

Michael Lewis and Larissa MacFarquhar, two takes on rural America

Lewis in Vanity Fair and MacFarquhar in The New Yorker in current issues of the magazines write about rural America from different angles.  "Made in the U.S.D.A." is Lewis's look at the Department of Agriculture under the Trump administration and the new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.  At this point the department is significantly understaffed and what new staff has come in as Trump appointees have little idea about their responsibilities.  In the July 26th issue of Vanity Fair, Lewis did similar look at the Energy Department under Rick Perry.  When he completes his rounds, no doubt this will be an interesting and probably disturbing look at what is being done to the basic administration of this country under Trump's disinterested and cavalier "management" style.

The Department of Agriculture covers food stamps, school lunch programs, meat and food inspections, and significant grants and loans for rural development.  The U.S. Forest Service is also under its umbrella(It was learned that a graduate of Louisville area school where I once taught had been head of this agency under Obama).  One of the many concerns raised is that control of the rural development funds will be jettisoned to a broader financing function or privatized, to the likely detriment of rural needs.

Reporter MacFarquher looks at a rural community, Orange City, Iowa, that has remained vital as a way to shine a light on why many rural communities across the country that have stagnated.  Orange City has not. It has retained its businesses and has been able to keep enough of its young people coming back to the town.  All of the reasons that pull young college graduates away have to some extent been offset by an attractive way of life and an open minded society.  Certainly the small city hailed from here did not maintain any center of gravity for much of its young and educated for a variety of reasons, some related to being in receding industries and some cultural.  The question becomes whether this small Iowa town could be an indication of what could come, what could lead to a resurgence in the attractiveness of small towns.

Both articles were constructive and well written.


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