'We're Tired of Living Like This': Voters Await Economic Revival in Pro-Trump Wisconsin | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

'We're Tired of Living Like This': Voters Await Economic Revival in Pro-Trump Wisconsin

In this place that astonished America when it helped hand Donald Trump the White House, many of those who chose him greeted the frenetic opening acts of his presidency with a shrug



    Dozens of rural counties in middle America flipped from blue to red in November with a hope that Donald Trump will boost their economic prospects.

    (Published Monday, Feb. 13, 2017)

    She tugged 13 envelopes from a cabinet above the stove, each one labeled with a different debt: the house payment, the student loans, the vacuum cleaner she bought on credit.

    Lydia Holt and her husband tuck money into these envelopes with each paycheck to whittle away at what they owe. They both earn about $10 an hour. She did the math; at this rate, they'll be paying these same bills for 87 years.

    In 2012, Holt voted for Barack Obama because he promised her change, but she feels that change habsn't reached her here in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. So last year she chose a presidential candidate unlike any she'd ever seen, the billionaire businessman who promised to help people like her win again.

    Many of her neighbors did, too — so many that for the first time in more than 30 years, Crawford County, Wisconsin, a sturdy brick in the once-mighty Big Blue Wall, abandoned the Democratic Party and that wall crumbled. Some 50 counties stretching 300 miles down the Mississippi River — through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois — transformed in one election season into Trump Country.

    They voted for Trump for an array of reasons, and the list of grievances they hope he now corrects is long and exacting: stagnant wages, the cost of health care, a hard-to-define feeling that things are not getting better, at least not for people like them.

    Here in Crawford County, residents often recite two facts about their hometown, the first one proudly: It is the second-oldest community in the state. The next is that it's also one of the poorest.

    How is Trump Vetting His Executive Orders?

    [NATL] How is Trump Vetting His Executive Orders?
    (Published Monday, Feb. 6, 2017)

    There are no rusted-out factories to embody this discontent. The main street of Prairie du Chien butts up to the Mississippi River and bustles with tourists come summer. Pickup trucks crowd parking lots at the 3M plant and Cabela's distribution center where hundreds work. Just a few vacant storefronts hint at the seething resentment that life still seems harder here than it should.

    In this place that astonished America when it helped hand Trump the White House, many of those who chose him greeted the frenetic opening acts of his presidency with a shrug. Immigration is not their top concern, and so they watched with some trepidation as Trump signed orders to build a wall on the Mexican border and bar immigrants from seven Muslim countries, sowing chaos around the world.

    They are still watching and they are waiting, their hopes pinned on his promised economic renaissance.

    Jim Bowman, director of the county's Economic Development Corporation, says some of the economic anxiety here is based not on measurable decay, but rather a perception that life is decaying. There are plenty of jobs, but it's hard to find one that pays more than $12 an hour. Ambitious young people move away. Rural schools are dwindling, and with them a sense of pride and purpose.

    "If you ask anybody here, we'll all tell you the same thing: We're tired of living like this," said Mark Berns, leaning through the service window in the small-engine repair shop that he can barely keep open anymore.

    Berns watched Trump's first days in office half-hopeful, half-frightened. He bemoaned what he described as Trump's quantity-over-quality, "sign, sign, sign" approach to governing.

    "I just hope we get the jobs back and the economy on its feet, so everybody can get a decent job and make a decent living, and have that chance at the American dream that's gone away over the past eight or 10 years. I'm still optimistic," he said, sighing. "I hope I'm not wrong."

    Marlene Kramer is also optimistic Trump will make good on his promises. Her priority is health care.

    President Trump's Super Bowl Sunday Interview With Bill O'Reilly

    [NATL] President Trump's Super Bowl Sunday Interview With Bill O'Reilly
    President Donald Trump said he respects Vladimir Putin during an interview that aired Sunday on the Super Bowl pregame show, and when Fox's Bill O'Reilly called the Russian leader "a killer," Trump added that the United States has many of them.
    (Published Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017)

    Kramer, who voted twice for Obama, used to watch Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice." ''I said to myself, 'Ugh, I can't stand him.'" When he announced his candidacy, she thought it was a joke. "Then my husband said to me, 'Just think, everything he touches seems to turn to money.'" And she changed her mind.

    She's 54, and she's worked since she was 14, all hard jobs: feeding cows, standing all day on factory floors. Now she works at a sewing shop, where she's happy, and gets to sit. But there's no health insurance.

    Kramer said she's glad the Affordable Care Act has helped millions get insurance, but it hasn't helped her.

    She and her husband were stunned to find premiums over $1,000 a month. They opted to pay the penalty of $2,000 until Trump, she hopes, keeps his promise to replace the law with something better.

    Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    [NATL] Tennessee Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klansman

    Lawmakers in Tennessee are crying foul after Republican Rep. Mike Sparks sneaked in a resolution to honor former Ku Klux Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest with a bust under a different name. The resolution passed unanimously, 94-0, and the bust was installed at the state Capitol before lawmakers realized the mistake. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    Across town, Robbo Coleman leaned over the bar he tends and described a similar political about-face. He held up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped "Made in China."

    "I don't see why we can't make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever," said Coleman.

    Coleman doesn't love Trump's moves to build a wall or ban certain immigrants, but he's frustrated that other politicians stopped listening to working people like him.

    "We've got to give him some time," he said. "He's not Houdini."

    UC Davis Now Sells Plan B and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    [NATL] UC Davis Now Sells Plan B, Pregnancy Tests and Condoms From a Vending Machine

    Students at the University of California, Davis, can now purchase $30 Plan B emergency contraceptives, pregnancy tests, condoms and other personal care products from a vending machine. The idea came from UC Davis senior Parteek Singh, after a friend was unable to buy emergency contraceptives in time. 

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)

    Farmer Bernard "Tinker" Moravits is also willing to wait and see.

    Change is what he looked to Obama for and now expects from Trump. The price of milk and agricultural goods has plummeted, and it's getting harder to keep things running. He wants the president to reduce red tape and renegotiate trade deals to benefit American farmers.

    He has several choice words for Trump's move to build "his stupid wall." Moravits employs Hispanic workers who have been with him 15 years. He trusts them to do a dirty, difficult job that he says white people aren't willing to do.

    But unlike many transfixed by Trump's presidency, Moravits doesn't stay up-to-the-minute on the news.

    Millennials Found Most Susceptible to Robocalls and Scams

    [NATL] Millennials Found Most Susceptible to Robocalls and Scams

    A new study finds that it is not the elderly who are most susceptible to scam phone calls, but millennials, who are six times more likely to give away credit card information than any other age group. 

    (Published Saturday, April 29, 2017)

    "The play-by-play don't mean bull****," he said. "It's like watching the Super Bowl. What counts is how it ends."

    Moravits isn't sure Trump is going to "Make America Great Again" for farmers. But he feels he had to take the gamble.

    He laughed, then shrugged and pantomimed rolling the dice.

    AP data journalist Angeliki Kastanis contributed to this report.

    Girl Scalped on Carnival Ride Talks Recovery One Year Later

    [NATL] Girl Scalped on Carnival Ride Talks Recovery One Year Later

    Elizabeth "Lulu" Gilreath talks about her recovery from a carnival ride gone very wrong. Gilreath was scalped when her hair was caught on the King's Crown ride in Omaha, Nebraska, but she does not dwell on the incident, saying "My scars don't define me."

    (Published Friday, April 28, 2017)