Biden Thinks Rural Americans ‘Feel Forgotten,’ Plans to ‘Fight Like Hell’ to Rebuild U.S. Industry, Education

With his inauguration less than two months away, President-elect Joe Biden is offering greater insight into his incoming administration’s top priorities.

He discussed a wide range of policy initiatives during a recent interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, focusing on international relations as well as revitalized domestic infrastructure. Responding to inquiries about his plans for trade deals with China—a topic generating significant public interest right now, in light of tariffs imposed earlier this year under Donald Trump—Biden said he intends to strengthen U.S. industries and education systems in efforts to better address global commerce issues.

“I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first,” he said in comments to the Times, citing artificial intelligence, biotechnology and energy as examples of industries that could benefit from federal resources supporting research and development. Biden told the newspaper that he will not “enter any new trade agreement with anybody” before investing in industrial and education policies “here at home.”

Biden additionally acknowledged his intentions to reach rural Americans after assuming office next year. Exit polling data confirmed Biden’s support among voters in U.S. cities and metropolitan suburbs, although Trump secured much of the rural vote, as he did in 2016.

“You know, it really does go to the issue of dignity, how you treat people,” Biden told the Times of Americans living in rural parts of the country. Continuing, he added, “I think they just feel forgotten. I think we forgot them.”

Biden said he aims to gain trust and support among the rural populace by identifying and fulfilling its needs. His approach includes policies to improve the country’s response to COVID-19 in all regions, whether they are predominantly Republican or Democratic. Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris have regarded the pandemic as one of the most pressing matters affecting the country throughout their election race, and continued to do so in the aftermath of their their projected win.

Biden noted the need for expanded public health initiatives in rural U.S. regions during his recent interview with the Times, saying leaders must “end the rural health care crisis right now” through accessible health care options and increased funding to medical centers. He advocated for wider broadband access, particularly noting the ways in which doing so would improve telehealth procedures in rural areas, and he reiterated his intentions to bolster the Affordable Care Act with a “public option” and “automatically enroll people eligible for Medicaid.”

Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks during a Thanksgiving speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 25. Biden discussed his plans to rebuild U.S. industries and strengthen education and infrastructure in an interview published Wednesday.
Mark Makela/Getty

“There’s strong support for that,” he said, referencing public backing in more rural U.S. states, such as North Carolina and Texas, despite the states themselves opposing an ACA expansion. “We can boost funding,” Biden continued. “I visited 15 rural hospitals. And the biggest problem is there’s not enough reimbursement for them to be

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University students feel bullied, tricked and imprisoned. They’re right to protest | Universities

The government’s catastrophic handling of the pandemic is so comprehensive, so multi-faceted, that devoting sufficient attention to each scandal can be a challenge. Consider this one. Back in late August, when the daily average of coronavirus deaths was 10 – it is now more than 400 – the University and College Union (UCU) released a statement entitled “Universities must not become the care homes of a Covid second wave”.

“The union fears that the migration of over a million student risks doing untold damage to people’s health, and exacerbating the worst health crisis of our lifetimes,” it warned. This was ignored. When, three weeks later, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommended a shift to online learning “unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential”, it was ignored, too. The result? The mass internal migration of young people to and from every corner of Britain, which helped fuel a second wave, and their near imprisonment in overcrowded accommodation.

The consequences are grave indeed, not least for the wellbeing of a cohort of young people who have been robbed of their youth. Being a first-year university student during a pandemic was never going to be the booze-ridden, hedonistic experience enjoyed by past freshers, but consider what they have been put through. A 19-year-old humanities student, Josh, who uses they, suffered at the hands of this year’s great A-level palaver. “I was only marked down two grades [by Ofqual’s algorithm], though, so I wasn’t as unlucky as some people were,” they tell me. As demanded by government, they were herded to Manchester University with the promise of in-person socially distanced seminars (“that was our initial plan”, the authorities there tell me). To begin with, academic staff were indeed told to deliver in-person teaching. But, as UCU predicted, outbreaks of illness on campus inevitably forced all teaching online: and so it proved, as Josh’s university was afflicted with more than a thousand positive cases. “A lot of people feel lied and tricked into coming here,” they tell me. “We’re being treated as though we exist for profit, for money, and nothing else.”

Students are away from home for the first time – some from abroad – without having being able to establish friendships and connections in the normal way as they endure isolation. “It’s getting to the point where it feels quite dangerous,” Josh explains. Manchester University tells me that “the mental health and wellbeing of our students is of the utmost importance to us,” pointing to services including online support. But when Josh looked for help from the student welfare officer, they tell me, they found an empty desk, a leaflet and a number for the Samaritans. (The university does not believe this to be a “true representation of our services”.) One Manchester student was found dead in halls last month – his bereaved father subsequently warning that if young people are locked down “with little support, then you should expect that they suffer severe anxiety”.

You might expect Manchester University

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‘I didn’t feel I fitted in’: why Gypsies, Roma and Travellers don’t go to university | Universities

One day at school, Jack* was accosted by his teacher while he was putting his coat on and getting ready to leave the classroom. “Leave it there,” she insisted in front of his classmates. “We donated you that. Your mum didn’t have enough money to buy you a coat.” When he argued back – his mum, a successful public sector employee, had bought the coat for him before term – he was given detention for a week.

The same teacher referred him for an ADHD diagnosis without telling his parents. Sarah*, his mother, has worked in educational special needs, and questioned the teacher’s decision. She learned the diagnosis stemmed from a high score on a maths test, which had been deemed suspicious “considering his background”.

Throughout his school career, 12-year-old Jack has had to get used to micro-aggressions such as these. “That behaviour is quite constant,” says Sarah. “Would she have done that with another child, or is it because he’s a Traveller?”

Jack’s experience is not unique. In a recent report from the Traveller Movement, two-thirds of Irish Travellers said they been bullied by teachers, with one in five saying this made them leave school. This is one of the many reasons why just 3-4% of pupils from Traveller, Gypsy or Roma (GRT) backgrounds attend university compared with 43% of their peers, according to Kings College London research. The numbers are thought to be getting worse rather than better, although this is difficult to measure given so many GRT students conceal their identities for fear of racism.

Another barrier is cultural. Some GRT pupils’ parents experienced patchy schooling themselves, and don’t always value education or struggle to support their children with schoolwork. Jack is lucky because although Sarah didn’t attend school growing up, she had the opportunity to go to college, where she received distinctions across the board.

“The issue now is that he’s starting secondary school, and most Traveller boys don’t go. They normally go out to work with their dad,” she says. “He feels a bit torn. They’re saying ‘we’re old enough, we don’t have to’, and I’m saying ‘actually, you’re really bright, you do really well, you enjoy it’.”

So when Sarah spotted an Instagram post offering free online tutoring for pupils from GRT backgrounds during coronavirus, she leapt at the chance. Within weeks, she noticed a transformation. “It’s the attitude towards education that’s changed.”

The project is part of Rom Belong, a pioneering programme run by King’s College London and the Traveller Movement. It aims to help more bright GRT pupils like Jack get into university, and support them when they arrive. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, most of its work had to be suspended, leading the team to worry that these hard to reach communities could drift even further away from education.

But they rapidly rolled out online tutoring and discovered it to be even more effective than face-to-face. The project funds free Amazon Fire tablets and dongles for families since they are

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Virginians feel OK about their finances, gloomier about the economy

Most Virginians — 62% — say they feel good about their personal financial situations but fewer than half feel that way about the national, state or local economy, a new Hampton University-Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.

Some two-thirds of Virginia voters say they’ve been spending less since the pandemic hit — but they also don’t seem to be saving more or paying down debts any faster than usual, the poll found. The poll found 55% aren’t saving more and 67% aren’t paying down debt any faster.

Roughly three-quarters say small businesses have not had enough help from the government, and 70% say individuals are also not getting enough financial assistance. But 55% say large corporations got too much help. And a majority think the economy will remain slow or even worsen over the next year.

“Virginia voters are not optimistic about either the local or national economy,” said Kelly Harvey-Viney, director of Hampton University’s Center for Public Policy.

“However, most of the registered voters surveyed continue to support the current economic restrictions to prevent furthering the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

Two-thirds say restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should remain a priority, even if the economy suffers. Most have questions about vaccination, though: 19% said they will not get a vaccine and 38% said they are not sure.

“Concerns about side effects and the vaccine development process are driving the skepticism,” said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center.

The survey also asked about voters’ views on race, and found that 61% consider racism in the United States an extremely or very serious problem. Most said that race relations are more strained now than in recent years, while younger voters are more likely than older ones to see racism as a problem locally or in the state.

“The contrast of the perception of racism among the young and older voters here in Virginia illustrates the divisiveness gripping the nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding racism and race relations and how it continues to be problematic,” said Harvey-Viney.

The statewide survey of 887 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 6 to Oct 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The survey did not ask who voters would support.

Among other findings:

*While 66% think their city or county is headed in the right direction and 56% say the same about the state, only 28% say the same about the nation.

*More than four times as many Virginians plan on voting before Election day than had done so in the past: 59% now versus the usual 13%.

*52% of Virginia voters in Virginia view former Vice President Joe Biden favorably, while 39% feel the same about President Trump.

*42% think a Biden administration would do well coping with the pandemic compared to 27% who say that about the Trump administration.

*43% think Biden would do better handling race relations, while 24% say Trump would.

*38% say Trump

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