8th congressional district

Gun-Toting Liberal Inadvertently Reveals U.S. Healthcare Hypocrisy

About 150-200 people attended the Freedom Rally sponsored by Preble County businesses and churches. The event was designed to address our local drug problem.

No one deserves to be gunned down. Not even a politician with white-supremacy leanings.

The shooting of United States House of Representatives Majority Whip and representative for Louisiana’s 1st congressional district Steve Scalise, one of nine mass shootings in the United States this week, dominated the news cycle this week.

The story brought many oddities to light. Scalise, a man who once referred to himself as David Duke without the baggage, was saved by black officers. This speaks to the officers’ bravery and willingness to do their job to protect everyone and for one day — even for Scalise — Black Lives Mattered. But that sentiment was short lived as a jury in Minnesota decided, in some cases, white lives still matter more.

But, one of the greatest twists was the issue of healthcare.

Scalise underwent several surgeries, in large part, because of the open carry law he supported. His NRA-funded support meant a mentally ill man was able to use a high-powered rifle to attack him, damaging internal organs in the process. Presumably, though, the Congressman received the best health care from the best doctors funded by taxpayers like me and you because his life matters. In fact, it matters much more than the individuals he worked so hard to take health care away from with the American Health Care Act.

His medical treatment is indicative of how unfairly health care is divvied out in the United States.

‘Wrong Job’ Means No Health Care Coverage

Buried inside a story in my local newspaper is the more common approach to health care for ‘real Americans.’

A public servant in Preble County, who works two part time jobs (one for a county agency), was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Since this individual works two part time jobs, instead of a full time job with benefits, he has no health insurance. This means the full financial brunt of the medical diagnosis is on him. It means raffle ticket sales and fundraisers throughout our community to offset what is certain to be a very costly situation. Although this Preble County man, like the Congressman, is working for the public, unlike the Congressman this local resident does not have the political clout that guarantees high-quality health care.

Political Hate

Warren Davidson, who serves in the House of Representatives for Ohio’s 8th Congressional District where I live, is Scalise’s co-worker. Davidson is also a member of the Freedom Caucus, the group largely responsible for the ‘mean’ (Trump’s words) AHCA that passed a month or so ago. Davidson, placed in the House through heavy funding by Club for Growth, is fond of saying, “It is not compassionate to bankrupt America.” Although his poorly written marketing tagline is not catching on, it does speak to the political tactic which falsely frames dissenting views. When 45* released his draconian budget a few weeks ago, Davidson was one of the first to praise it. He said,

We cannot bankrupt America. Finally, it appears we have a president who takes this problem seriously. President Trump’s budget bends the out of control spending curve in the right direction by making good on his promises to reform mandatory spending, cut wasteful programs, and balance the budget. This is a serious proposal to begin addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis.

I’ll admit I’m a cynic. I’ve heard the fiscal crisis, America is going bankrupt line of reasoning from the GOP my entire adult life. Yet somehow, we always find a way to build more MOABs, spend billions protecting oil interests in the Middle East — causing many in my community — yanked in and out of the Middle East for a decade — to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as these citizen soldiers experience underreported autrocities. Trump’s budget proposal will continue to fund these imperialistic wars via military entitlement spending while gutting funding for small communities like mine.

One of the proposals in Trump’s budget is to kill the Community Development Block Grant program. A recent front page story in my community paper details what a small Preble County village will do with the $300,000 CDBG funds it received. As a county, we have relied on CDBGs for decades because it is one of the handful of resources we still have to stem our tidal wave of poverty.

Government Is Always Bad

In 1964, John Stormer, a chairman of the Missouri Federation of Young Republicans, published None Dare Call it Treason. I read (most of) the book and will readily admit, I do not have enough fear and am not conspiracy-minded enough to believe half of what is written. But the more dangerous aspect of the book — and the countless like it in the past 50 or so years — is the anti-government rhetoric. It may have inadvertently played a part in the shooting as the shooter may have grown tired of the dismantling.

We have raised a generation or more of anti-government individuals who naively believe that government can only be evil. Many are growing tired of the rhetoric realizing that politicians, not citizens, benefit from the position. But, oddly enough, in the aftermath of the gunfire aimed at the political class there suddenly arose a desire to change the tone. Even ‘Cat-Scratch Fever’ Teddy Nugent backtracked his comments about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now he wants us all to play nice.

What a cowardly hypocrite.

Hate Is a More Powerful Motivator Than Love

One of the key individuals who unleashed Donald Trump on a government-hating element of our society was political operative Roger Stone. In the documentary Get Me Roger Stone, Stone relays some of his rules which include: Hate Is a More Powerful Motivator Than Love. Stone’s political career began with Richard Nixon (he has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back) and he is the embodiment of ‘government is evil.’ He openly admits in the film that ‘unsophisticated’ (his term) voters would latch onto Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric. The film is worth watching just to get a feel for how unlike most Americans political operatives can be — they thrive on power, not justice.

At the end of the day, though, one has to question who wins in this environment of hate, propaganda and politics by marketing?

I believe Scalise will come through his health care crisis financially unscathed.

I don’t feel so optimistic for the Preble County man.

Categories: 8th congressional district, health care, My America | Leave a comment

Walking The Tightrope Of Drug Addiction

Sadness is what I wake to this morning. It permeates my very core. Last night convinced me that I, like the popular Podcast, live in S-Town.

This week’s local news flow includes the story of a young man who escaped Ohio State Patrol custody in Eaton after about a half-milion dollars of heroin was allegedly found inside his vehicle. The escape meant a helicopter was dispatched, guns drawn, people advised to stay inside their homes. It had a ‘Cops’ feel to it, but the real drug news here is significantly less dramatic — and more toxic. It’s someone’s son or daughter — mother or father — unable to kick the habit — a habit that drains the pocketbooks and emotions of untold families in the county.

Some days I do ponder how we got here as a community. What was the tipping point? When did we enter a world where drugs consume our resources and our hope? Was it the 90s? The new millenium? It’s difficult to know the exact tipping point even though what goes on here is hidden in plain site.

You can see it in our yard signs (some mystical, above), our billboards, the tents hidden just out of view in the city parks, and in the rumors that abound.

Allegations exist of a couple local police officers mishandling suspects — usually miscreants and petty criminals — ‘shaking them down’ and conficating their backpacks without cause. I do not know if its true — and both sides have a vested interest in their version of events. But backpacks can be a problem. As pointed out in Methland, some dealers use backpacks to create a meth lab on wheels. They fill a 2-litre bottle and let the meth ‘cook’ as they ride around town. What appears to be a drug house also exist just out of eyesight of some of our Neighbors Against Crime signs. And, according to the latest rumor, a new drug house opened for business on West Somers Street — three or four blocks from the Eaton Police Station.

Regardless of the accuracy of the rumors, one thing is certain — there is a thriving drug market in Preble County.

Whether the market is created by the lack of hope, economic opportunity (rumors say some drug dealers here net $2,000 a week) — or it’s a situation expasperated by the more highly addictive drugs flooding our community — is anyone’s guess. Even marijuana, considered benign by many in Preble County — including many in my generation, is 8-10 times more potent that the marijuana from the era I grew up in (70s-80s). While proponents of marijuana ignore its downsides, a tight link to depression and anxiety complications is revealed in medical studies.

Until our drug problem is solved, nothing else matters.

Drug addiction is draining our resources. At the time of this writing, the county jail has 83 inmates in custody — many associated with drug issues. The facility is designed to hold about 70 so some inmates are being housed in another county — at taxpayer expense. The number of incidents handled by the Eaton Police Department has grown here as well — by about 25 percent in a decade. In 2006, the EPD handled about 2,000 incidents. Last year it was close to 2,500. This is in a city of about 8,000 with a steady to declining population.

Admittedly some of our problems are self-inflicted. Our population is largely high school educated — only about 10-11 percent with advanced degrees. This impacts local job options. We are also fiscally and politically ultra-conservative creating a tendency to slowly crawl to No instead of Yes when solutions are proposed. Our heroin problem is also partially self-inflicted as our doctors have — for nearly a decade — prescribed opioids at a higher rate than other counties in the state. And, in the bizarro legal world of the United States, doctors will never be criminally prosecuted — only the addicts.

I’m certain the sadness I feel this morning will fade because time does heal, but when I look at what my county needs to solve, I’m not convinced we, as a community, have the fortitude and intellectual drive to do it. I know we’re not afraid to work — I’ve seen hundreds of volunteers cleaning up our parks, but this is a much more difficult task.

It requires working on our perceptions. It requires educating ourselves about chemical dependency.

And, most difficult of all, the work requires giving a chemically-dependent person one more chance — even when you’re exhausted by the predictability of the disease.

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

Congressman Davidson: Listen To Your Constituents So You Can Help Them

According to a report released by the Ohio State Patrol, Preble County outrank Ohio’s other 87 counties in the amount of heroin seized by the OSP inside its boundaries.

When the Congressional aide for Warren Davidson answered the phone on Thursday, May 4 — he said yes, Davidson was supporting the American Health Care Act. I explained it would hurt Preble County — launching the aide into a sales pitch. I cut him off and the call ended with an awareness that my opinion was unwanted and unheard. Why would it be heard? I live in a gerrymandered district with a 2-1 spread favoring the GOP.

Davidson’s snafu

The concept of a representative democracy is quite simple: the representative listens, responds and acts in the best interest of the constituents. In theory this sets up a House where each representative is fighting for what is best for the folks back home. In this type of House, Davidson’s hierarchy of priorities would fall something like this (accepting the current reality of monetary influence):

  1. Voters
  2. Ohio
  3. Nation
  4. Party
  5. Donors

His vote for the AHCA demonstrates his allegiance falls this way:

  1. Freedom Caucus
  2. Special Interests (Club for Growth, Freedom Works, etc.)

Or vice versa.

After the bill passed, Davidson issued a statement which includes these sentences,

…Reforms to Medicaid, work requirements for able-body adults, and defunding Planned Parenthood are no small victories. Americans are actively suffering under Obamacare….

Health care jobs have been on the rise for about five to six decades. Click on image to read more.

Even though the statement directly contradicts reports of a growing health care economy (and its importance to Ohio) the ‘reforms to Medicaid’ are very problematic for his constituents which I attempted to explain to his aide.

How ACA Helped Preble County

Click to enlarge

In Preble County, the ACA significantly reduced the number of uninsured — one report puts our uninsured at two percent, a 63 percent decrease in five years. This is due to the Medicaid element of the Act. The ACA is also helping in our battle with heroin.

Another report suggests the poor and elderly will be most injured should the new legislation become law — which means Preble County is, once again, in the crosshairs since we are an impoverished, aging population. But, none of that matters, I suppose, because at the center of the debate is the government’s function. Is it to stay out of the way or is it to make a more equitable society?

Solve It Yourself

Help wanted sign in downtown Eaton.

I live in a community where there is no shortage of people advising the disadvantaged that ‘all they need to do is git a job.’ People spew the advise with little regard concerning a person’s skill set or available employment. In this week’s community paper there were six job offers, mostly entry level work (and presumably without affordable health care). This is also a community which, according to the local rumor mill, has workplaces where some employees are using ‘hard drugs’ like heroin, meth, cocaine and LSD.

The path out of this dilemma is not an aggressive paring down of health care, but rather funneling individuals with addictions through recovery services. And whether, Davidson, the Freedom Caucus, the Club for Growth or Freedom Works approve, this will need to be funded by tax dollars. Localities like Preble County are too financially strapped to solve it without state and/or federal dollars.

Bill Attacks Vulnerable

After the House bill passed, both Ohio senators commented on it and as expected, Sherrod Brown (Democrat) was not supportive. He said,

This bill is heartless, it is bad for Ohio and it will leave real Ohioans struggling to afford care.

Republicans like Ohio’s governor John Kasich and Senator Rob Portman weren’t supportive either. They railed against the AHCA. Portman said,

…this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse…

Problems Inside Davidson’s District

Last month, Portman visited my hometown of Eaton — touring a 104-bed women’s mental health and addiction treatment facility which opened here in January. Portman, after listening to some of the residents at the facility, said,

“A lot of them have been through treatment programs before, but what they found here that really works for them. A lot of it is the setting, but more of it is the curriculum here. They really take these women through the brain, what happens in the process of a disease like this.”

The article also quoted the head of a Preble County agency — an organization at the forefront of tackling our drug problem. The spokesperson said,

“What we know is there is not enough treatment to cover the rising epidemic and the amount of people who need treatment in the county.”

From my personal circle I know this to be true. Two individuals in my family circle had to seek treatment outside the county with one heading out of state.

This is what residents inside Ohio’s 8th Congressional District are dealing with and gutting health care will exasperate the situation.

We have two overwhelming needs in Preble County — increasing the availability of livable wage jobs and affordable mental health/drug addiction services. These are two situations Davidson could assist us with — if he chose to focus his energies on what the District needs instead of promoting some far-right ideology.

What Can We Do?

The short-term solution in a heavily-favored GOP district is for the moderate Republicans to find a viable primary candidate to run against Davidson in 2018. A longer-term solution is for voters to demand that Ohio abandon its gerrymandering approach to U.S. Congressional Districts. It’s the only way voters can be assured their voice is heard. It will also promote a more unified populace since we Americans are willing to accept an opponent if the ‘fight was fair.’ Without a level playing field, we Americans are subjected to a top-down management system where representatives are nothing more than salesmen for special interest groups.

Afterthought

When I read books about the colonial era, I’m always struck by the fundamental difference between the New England colony, populated mostly by educated Puritans, and the Virginia Colony, founded as a business venture and populated with the ‘refuse’ of Great Britain — which included my paternal line. In many ways, the distinction between the two major political parties were drawn in our colonial past. The New England colony was definitely influenced by Christianity and many of its laws promoted — and created — a more economically balanced society. Their political offspring would become the blue sections of the country.

The Virginia Colony operated much differently. It never hid its class structure and the poor were manipulated by the ruling elite. In time many of Virginia’s lower class were known as mudsills. Mudsill is a term lost to history. It was the bottom plank of a log cabin. The weight of the cabin would drive the plank deeper and deeper into the mud creating a solid foundation for the edifice. The term is fitting, even today, as the class of people who suffer the most in our society are those at the lowest end of the social-economic pile.

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