When Did We Become Too Calloused To Improve Our Country?

We have a lot of buildings, but a declining number of jobs, prompting some property owners to sell advertising space hoping to attract the attention of people travelling on nearby state highways.

I watched a comedy the other night with my wife — Going In Style. It was a typical, and fairly well-written, B-rated show about three retirees who, out of financial necessity, rob a bank.

Although the goal of the film is to make you laugh (which it did, but I like the three actors), the subplot is a harsh reminder of the society we created. The aged men, largely dismissed by society, are exploited by banking scams and their former employer (which legally robs them of their pension). The subplot is ripped from everyday life — referencing the banking scandals that led to the Great Recession.

Tag You’re It

In our current political chaos, we have created a society where a bully voice wins. And the louder someone yells or the more outrageous their claims, the more power we give them through air time or page views.

This has also led to a ‘tag you’re it’ blame game. The game is hardly new, just refined, but it always plays out the same. Regardless what the problem is — whether it is heroin addiction, job choice or insurance needs — the fault always lies with the individual, not the system.

The blame game is further exasperated by special interest groups which handpick our elected officials.

My Congressman, Warren Davidson, utilized the ‘tag you’re it’ model of blame when a mother asked how her adult son — employed in the service industry and insured through Medicaid via the ACA — was supposed to get insurance if the ACA was repealed. Davidson reportedly said,

OK, I don’t know anything about your son, but as you described him, his skills are focused in an industry that doesn’t have the kind of options that you want him to have for health care. So, I don’t believe that these taxpayers here are entitled to give that to him. I believe he’s got the opportunity to go earn those health benefits.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

It is the last sentence that speaks to the GOP’s unwillingness to address the real issue — the lack of economic opportunity. A party that has blended Herbert Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy with Ayn Rand’s economic theories has gutted our communities with their horrendous approach to capitalism.

The man mentioned in the article doesn’t need career advice, he needs a livable wage job — and that is influenced by government policy. I’d bet the thought already crossed the man’s mind — that if he was going to work 40 hours a week — why not find a job that paid well and had good benefits.

Anyone who lives in Eaton  — or Enon — where Davidson was speaking that evening can easily determine the quality of jobs in the region. So, to suggest that the man just needs to land a better job is ludicrous.

We Want Solutions, Not A Marketing Campaign

In the 8th, the Club for Growth spent more than $1 million to help Davidson win the primary in 2015. In a gerrymandered District the primary is the de facto general election.

The Club’s policies, though, do not reflect the views of many of the constituents in the 8th. For example, the Club opposes farm subsidies and wants them completely eliminated. Between 1995 and 2014, Ohio farmers received $5.4 billion from the program. Of that $667 million was distributed to farmers inside Davidson’s district — with $107 million going to Preble County farmers.

Presumably, voters — at least the agricultural block that benefits from the program — do not share the Club’s view about farm subsidies.

So, Davidson has aligned with a special interest group whose policies, if enacted, could bring financial harm to people who cast a vote for him.

Who Is John Galt?

It seems to me that instead of politicians marketing a ‘free market’ agenda coupled with a stripped-down government approach of problem solving what residents inside the 8th really need is a government that works for them. We don’t need someone selling the philosophies of Ayn Rand or The Club for Growth.

Those philosophies won’t bring jobs to our region. They won’t help sustain family farms. They don’t reflect our values. Many here don’t even know how to pronounce Ayn. They couldn’t tell you the person’s gender, most haven’t read her books — but even Rand was pragmatic in the end.  She willfully cashed her Social Security checks even tbough she did not believe in the program. Apparently the will to live was stronger than her ideology.

And, although I don’t know for certain, I’m doubtful that many, if any, of the 100,000 members of the Club for Growth live inside Ohio’s 8th Congressional District.

Which begs the question — why are they influencing policy here?

Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | Leave a comment

Job Openings Low, Foreclosures High

“…Warren Davidson stands out as the premier economic conservative.”Club for Growth

While my Congressman, Warren Davidson, is using the Congressional Recess to preach the Gospel according to the Club for Growth, (repeal the ACA) the ‘good news’ is not so good on the home front.

Here is a sampling of the real problems his district is facing:

Ideology over Country. In Eaton we have a heroin problem. Medicaid is one tool used to fund treatment, but our Club for Growth-sponsored Congressman decried, at an Oxford Town Hall meeting this week, the ‘moochers’ on Medicaid. As he’s vilifying Medicaid recipients for political gain, in Eaton we lost another community member to a heroin overdose the other night.

It feels like it’s time to use the tools we have — including Medicaid — to solve the problem.

Get a Job. Admittedly employment can solve a lot of community problems including reducing the number of moochers — if there are enough livable-wage jobs to go around. As I previously posted, jobs have been declining in my county for about a decade. This week, the local newspaper listed five help wanted ads. One of those positions has been advertised for at least a month (so maybe we have a labor force issue). The other four jobs:

  • two part-time, low-wage entry level positions
  • one for STNAs/CNAs
  • a maintenance worker position with the county ($14.99-$20.51/hr)

Get a Job Part II. In the Internet age, though, the Web is the source many rely on — and Indeed’s email assured me there were ’30+’ jobs in Preble County. Turns out they were wrong. The list included three employment opportunities inside the county (the rest were in neighboring counties). The three jobs were :

  • a technical writer position
  • a housekeeping aide and,
  • a (different) maintenance position. This position was the only one listing a wage ($10-12/hr).

Get a Job Part III. To further understand the local job market, I called one of the temp agencies advertising in my community. The agency had one job opening inside the county (April 20th). It was a second-shift, $10/hour, entry-level job that I ‘could start today,’ according to the company representative. The other position (yes, they only offered two) was in Richmond, IN (20-30 minutes away depending on job location). It paid $11.25 an hour. Since we have a drug problem in the county, I asked about drug testing and was advised I would be given an oral swab test. But, in a community crippled by heroin that test was less problematic than the second test they administer: a 2-year background check for ‘possession’ charges.

In Preble County Common Pleas Court, more than 60 ‘possession of heroin’ cases exist in the 18-month period from July 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016. So, that would suggest roughly 80-100 cases exist in the past two years. That does not include possession of other drugs like meth, marijuana or illegally-acquired prescriptions. These cases could potentially increase that number significantly because, as one court official recently stated, ’80 percent’ of Common Pleas’ caseload is drug related. And heroin is not the only problem, according to two sources — one with the court system and one in law enforcement — ‘meth is making a comeback’ in Preble County.

Foreclosures Still A Problem. The statistic that outperform employment opportunities was the number of foreclosures and/or sheriff property sales. There were 17 listed in the legal section of this week’s paper. According to Policy Matters Ohio, Preble County ranked in the top 10 for home foreclosures every year between 2007 and 2013. In 2013, the county peaked at 3rd in Ohio before dropping out of the top 10 in 2014 when it ranked 16th. If you read Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business, you’ll learn how ineffective — and nonexisting — public policy in Ohio and beyond created the foreclosure problem. Several chapters in the book deal with Montgomery County which abuts Preble County’s eastern border.

Bottom line: Davidson’s worn out message of restriction and dismantling resonates with the Club that hired him (Ohio’s a gerrymandered state), but the policies won’t help Preble County. As many politicians are fond of saying (about heroin), ‘we can’t arrest our way out of it,’ well we can’t ‘dismantle’ our way out of economic depravity. Reviving the ‘Rust Belt’ is going to cost money. Federal money is available, the question is will the funds be diverted into new MOABs or into community resources.

Afterthought

Not all is bad in the world, though, because Bill O’Reilly, the charlatan once called a goon by Midwesterner David Letterman, has been axed. O’Reilly’s exit from the national conversation will give our country a much-needed reprieve from the angry, yelling grandpa.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Broken Promises, My America, Preble County | Leave a comment

Modern Definition Of Town Hall Meeting Indicative Of Political Dysfunction

Company, from a nearby county, offering heroin addiction treatment for residents in my county.

My Congressman, Warren Davidson, held a town hall meeting last night in the Ohio 8th Congressional District. I use the term town hall very loosely because it was a private event sponsored by the Tea Party. (But at least he had one — other GOP members are bowing out.) Attendees were apparently given Trump bumper stickers as they entered the meeting. I found this interesting given Davidson’s unwillingness to endorse Trump last year on the campaign trail. When asked if he would officially endorse Trump, Davidson reportedly said (at a Darke County Chamber of Commerce meeting),

“That’s been the question all year, and the answer has been the same for me all year…we were expecting Hillary Clinton to be the top of the ticket on the Democrat side, and I’ve spent the entire year as a candidate saying ‘Anybody but Clinton’ — ABC. First, second, and third priority for me is, Hillary Clinton, is not our next president…So Trump/Pence is the only way that is not going to happen.”

As the paper reported, it was a less-than-wholehearted endorsement of Trump.

But, now it’s bumper sticker time.

I Want To Hear What You Say, Unless I Disagree

Like many town hall meetings these days, Davidson’s meeting was attended by protesters. The protesters, who ranged widely in age (based on videos on the event), were eventually asked to leave. They had already been warned — and in an epitome of childish politicking they were informed they could not display their ‘Nay’ signs when they disagreed with Davidson.

So, expectedly some Davidson supporters clapped when the protesters exited the room.

What really unfolded at the Miami County event was a marketing campaign. Davidson, back home in his part of the District, leaned hard on his training as a soldier and did his soldierly duty by marching into the District with the GOP speaking points in hand. It was Top-Down management: A decision had been reached by those above him and his job was to sell the program. Trump and his lackeys decided that healthcare would, after all, be addressed before tax reforms (turns out healthcare was complicated for many reasons, including the need to siphon off ‘savings’ with a repeal and then funnel those into the tax reform — or as we say in southwest Ohio ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’).

This meant the ‘rank and file’ like Davidson are using the Congressional recess to bolster support to the latest version of ‘repeal and replace’ and, last night, to ensure the message stayed on target, attendees were asked to write out their questions in advance.

Can We Just Get Rid Of The Poor?

One of the complaints Davidson and others Freedom Caucus members apparently had with the first attempt at ‘repeal and replace’ was it did not slash Medicaid enough. Of course, cutting it deeper could have detrimental effects on Davidson’s district — and especially inside my county — where Medicaid is being used to address the heroin epidemic. Medicaid is the prerequisite for those defendants ordered to get a Vivitrol injection every 28 days. Vivitrol prevents a person from getting a high off of heroin.

The Common Pleas Court does not impose Vivitrol as a condition of probation/treatment for those without Medicaid. By and large the defendants in ‘possession of heroin’ cases in Preble County are ruled indigent by the court and the injections are just one step in a long, tenuous journey to recovery.

Davidson has stated that solving the heroin epidemic is the ‘challenge of this generation.’ But, slashing Medicaid or repealing ACA will only exasperate our problems in Preble County — a section of the county where adequate recovery tools are already extremely limited.

Cutting Them Off At The Need

Vivitrol is expensive — at least that is what a spokesperson with a heroin recovery medical practice told me. I called the number on one of the many ‘yard signs’ sprinkled throughout my county — signs that offer assistance for those addicted to heroin or opioids. Depending on where a person is employed, the spokesperson said, an injection of Vivitrol could range from a low of $25 or up ‘into the hundreds’ per shot. For two area employers, she said, an injection is above $1,000, but ‘I help the client find rebates in those cases,’ she assured me.

Most successful treatment involves, what in the industry is known as IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), but what the companies advertising in my county are offering are a shot of Vivitrol every 28 days, a couple sessions of counseling each month, and assistance in setting up the client with NA meetings (which, of course, are free and heavily publicized already). The monthly costs for the first month or two — if Vivitrol is covered at $25 a shot — still ranges between $300 -$500 per month for the client. This is in a county where, according to an Indeed Job site app, the average starting wage for local jobs is about $10 an hour. Simple math demonstrates that someone recovering from a heroin addiction would spend roughly one-fourth of their monthly income on drug treatment.

That’s setting them up to fail.

No One Left Behind (Except The Ones Who Are)

But, as Davidson assured the crowd last night, the GOP does not want to leave anyone behind. I think recovering addicts (and their families) may disagree.

The community is getting left behind as well.

As these private events — masquerading as town halls — are held regions like Preble County watch as community members, addicted to a chemical, are processed through the court system for a mental health issue. It’s our children. Our friends’ children. It’s former co-workers. We watch as our county jail overflows. We watch as a new generation of felons are created — giving our community a workforce that local companies are reluctant to hire. We get to watch as national political leaders, like Davidson and Ohio comrade Jim Jordan, work to strip away the very few, and very limited resources, like Medicaid and the ACA, that trickled down from the federal government to the county level.

We watch as the addicted, denied IOP options, instead receive a monthly injection, short-term counseling, $1,000 to $4,000 in court fees and, as already mentioned, very poor job opportunities.

It doesn’t feel like the ACA is the biggest problem in Ohio’s 8th.

I Get High With A Little Help From My Doctor

Of course, someone always says — but they ‘got their self’ addicted so it’s their problem.

Most of the recovering addicts speaking at my local high school last week stated their heroin problem began with prescription opioids. Their statement is supported by data. And the heroin problem, not the ACA or tax reform, is what Davidson, the Freedom Caucus, the GOP, the Democrats, Trump — basically the entire federal and state government should be dealing with first.

It’s something that actually benefits citizens.

Doctors in Preble County doled out opioids like there was a lot of money to be made off the narcotic — societal impact be damned. Since 2010, we have consistently ranged above the state county average. For comparison, Warren County, Ohio’s second wealthiest county located just south and east of us, consistently ranged beneath the state county average.

Instead of trying to repeal and replace the ACA, building a ‘beautiful wall’ on our southern border, enacting a politicized tax reform, or finding a new war to wage — do something noble. Do something that benefits the people of Ohio’s 8th, Ohio and the United States — go after the pharmaceutical companies that delivered the opioid/heroin problem to our country. Hold them criminally and civilly responsible and take that money to restore health to our communities and our fellow citizens who are dealing with mental illness and chemical addiction.

It would be significantly more beneficial than last night’s approach of marketing a concept, kicking out dissenting voices, divvying out Trump bumper stickers, and pretending what you held was a town hall meeting.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, My America, Understanding Trump Counties | Leave a comment