Down a rural road dotted with silos and irrigation machines gleaming in the winter sun, we find a man working at a bench in an open garage.
“I just putz and tinker now,” the 57-year-old explains. “It keeps my mind going and my hands useful.” He makes a little money selling metals from broken down equipment, he says, but it’s not much.
Up until two years ago, he was a dairy farmer, with 24 cows to milk. But as on many small farms, it was difficult to keep up as larger farms priced out much of the local competition.
He says the Affordable Care Act – the health insurance program also known as Obamacare – only made things worse, forcing him and many of his friends to spend far more than they could afford, for a product they didn’t want.
Decades of what they see as heavy-handed government policies have fueled anger and doubt that such programs can improve American lives, the man says, visibly angry. Like people in dozens of other counties that voted for President Trump after previously supporting President Obama, he says, Trempealeau residents no longer trust traditional politicians.
“All the money goes to the cities,” he says. “All the people in the rural areas this time said, ‘We’ve had enough.’”
Voting for Trump, for him, was mainly a vote against Obamacare.
Yet he concedes “it worked out for me.”
Two years ago, he had emergency surgery for a staph infection in his leg, with affects so severe he had to stop working. His main income now is a government disability check.
“I had Obamacare for two weeks before they had to slice me open,” he says.
The former farmer is among the more than 200,000 previously uninsured people here in the state of Wisconsin who, for now, have health insurance and the more than 2 million people who, for now, have additional benefits, according to government statistics.
Yet, he says nearly everyone else he knows did not get significantly ill or injured since they signed up for the government-required insurance and many suffered under crippling costs.
Even if he did want it, he says, it should have been his choice, not a government mandate.
Slightly limping, and concerned enough about being spied on to refuse to share his name, he tells us not to listen to other residents who say they supported Trump for reasons other than resentment of the Affordable Care Act.
“Grain is worth nothing. Hogs are worth nothing,” he says, explaining how when food prices dip, his region suffers. “And now they want us to buy healthcare?”