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Friday, June 5, 2009

Thune to Obama: Broaden Your Focus

KELO and AP offer the funny headline of the week: "Thune Hopes Obama's Focus Will Broaden."

Jeepers creepers, the President is handling a recession, health care reform, the collapse of Chrysler and GM, two wars, Pakistan in tumult, North Korea playing with missiles and regime change (and that's the short list), and Senator Thune says the guy is too narrowly focused?

Thune's beef is that Obama isn't paying enough attention to rural America. As an example, he cites the President's climate change proposals, which the Senator says will increase electricity rates in South Dakota (but not necessarily in larger states... oops, and there goes the argument with a big chunk of his colleagues).

Obama not paying attention to rural areas? Then where did we get $7.2 billion nationally for broadband for rural and underserved areas, and $38.7 million for South Dakota water and sewer projects? What about all those USDA rural electric development loans? What about his attention to farm subsidies, calling for cutting the 11% of subsidies that go to the big operators (a.k.a. corporate welfare)? And what about his efforts to reform health care, which could offer a lot of help to farmers and ranchers who struggle to find affordable insurance on the individual market?

I can't heap too much blame on Senator Thune. His job is inherently narrower than the President's. We elect him to make noise for South Dakota. And he has his work cut out for him as he tries to make rural voices heard in a nation where the population is now 80% urban.

But in the grand scheme of things, President Obama's focus is about as broad as it can be. Don't forget, we're only in month #5 of the Obama Administration. Let's see how much of the President's significant rural agenda Thune has to discuss a year from now on the campaign trail.

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