American Revolutionary War

Gerrymandering: Why Fools Are Running Our Country

Billboard in Jordan’s congressional district asks a valid question. A 2017 Dayton Daily News article shows that, unlike most Congressmen from Ohio, Jordan has very little net worth (estimated at less than $400,000). His sidekick Warren Davidson has an estimated net worth of $2-11 million.

Politics is war by other meansCarl von Clausewitz

If you only glean one fact from the Gerrymandering episode of The Naked Truth news series on Netflix it should be this: Only 37 of the 435 Congressional Seats in the United States are competitive.

Gerrymandering is a structural political issue which most Americans find too complicated or too boring to understand. Fortunately, the episode — hosted by a North Carolina native — breaks it down in an entertaining and understandable way by pulling in some video game designers from Kentucky. Those who prefer an even edgier comedic angle to their information can view John Oliver’s take on gerrymandering.

Both Oliver and The Naked Truth demonstrate how:

  • Gerrymandering has contributed to our partisan divide
  • It has created a false sense of the country becoming more conservative, and
  • Technology upped the ante in 2010

It has also given us jobs-for-life politicians who have no need to compromise. As I’ve learned in Ohio, all this matters.

In 2014, 40 percent of Ohioans voted for a Democrat member of Congress, however because of gerrymandering, 12 of the 16 seats were won by the GOP. This phenomenon is being reported throughout the state as there is a growing Fair Districts movement here.

Two of those 12, Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson, are members of the Freedom Caucus — a misnomer for certain — as it is a group of white men intent on dismantling our government. They fight hard for this dismantling even as their Districts languish in need of livable-wage jobs and  infrastructure improvements. But they have a spin for everything and in an editorial co-written editorial they stated (in 2017 and re-Tweeted in 2018) ‘plenty of jobs’ exist in their districts. The solution, they said, is to put welfare recipients to work.

Of course, to do that would require a revision in child labor laws since a significant portion of welfare recipients are under the age of 18. (Looking at just two Preble County stats one can determine a significant number of recipients are children: Of the 8,030 individuals receiving food assistance in FY 2013 — latest stats available online — 3,431 or 43 percent were children. Of the 525 individuals receiving cash assistance that year, 426 or 81 percent were children.)

2017 Dayton Daily News clipping showing net worth of Congressmen from Ohio. Click to enlarge.

But the real danger in gerrymandering, besides giving us white men determined to destroy government institutions, is it reduces the electoral process to the Primary. Primary voters, of both Parties, are the most radical — and primaries often eliminate the nonpartisan vote. Using Preble County numbers, in 2010 46 percent of registered voters were eliminated from the Primary voting process due to their nonpartisan (Independent) status. In the state of Ohio, one must declare allegiance to a political party to participate in that party’s primary, an age-old disenfranchising tactic.

Gerrymandering rigs the game against the voter and places the politician in charge of who gets to vote. In recent times, it has elevated the incompetence of local politics to the national stage.

Despite what one may believe, in 2020, the issue that really matters is not the presidential race, but rather the state legislators.

They control the redistricting process and, in turn, control the impact of your vote.

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Categories: 8th congressional district, Age of Discontent, American Revolutionary War, My America | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So A Drop In Farm Land Values Nets 14 Percent Increase In My Property Tax Bill?

Abandoned school in Preble County.

The property tax on my Eaton, Ohio home is increasing 14 percent in 2018.

I knew the rate was abnormal (it’s roughly twice the increase of the last valuation) because the latest property audit generated five public meetings. In Preble County these meetings are only scheduled when something is being imposed on the public. Officials explain they ‘don’t want to do this, but outside forces are requiring it.’

In Ohio, every six years a ‘real’ audit is conducted where property is photographed, compared to other properties, questionnaires are distributed, and a new valuation is determined.

GOP Approved: The Anti-Tax Movement

Headlines from the mid-1970s highlight the frustration of Preble County farmers.

Plenty of factors affect a property’s value, and in the case of farm-rich areas like mine, so does the political system.

This year as my property value rises, a significant chunk of farmland in Preble County (and other parts of Ohio) will experience a significant decline in property value. It’s a Christmas miracle as the ‘invisible hand’ of the marketplace, guided ever so skillfully by lobbyists and legislators, yields to the pressure of the Farm Bureau and other agencies to readjust farm values.

Preble County farmers have a rich history of protesting taxes. (It is almost considered patriotic here to protest taxes — protesting violence against unarmed black men, though, not so much.) During one 1970s public meeting with Ohio and U.S. Congressmen Buz Lukens and Thomas Kindness nearly 800 farmers complained that their tax bill was out of hand. Some of them eventually marched on the capital in Columbus.

Movements, like the one in Preble County, worked and the tax laws were written in Ohio to accommodate the farmers’ concerns. They were rewritten this year.

When this latest law was implemented, it also meant a County’s revenue could take a hit, but miraculously, as in times past, it evened out as non-farm property values increased — offsetting any potential loss of revenue.

I’m not convinced it’s accurate, though, based on what I see and read.

What I See

First the anecdotal. Within a six-block area of my home:

  • A house ‘sat on the market’ for months before eventually being taken off because it did not sell.
  • Another house has been for sale, first by a realtor then by the owner, for more than a year.
  • A third house has been abandoned for more than a year. The lawn is maintained by the City of Eaton under property nuisance laws.

What I Read

A few statistics that suggest the 14 percent increase is erroneous:

  1. The increase of Dollar General stores in my county. According to Vox, the national chain intends to build more stores in ‘small communities that have otherwise shown few signs of the U.S. economic recovery.’  Since we are a target market for them, we now have seven of their stores. They replaced our ‘mom and pop’ establishments.
  2. According to the Census, our population is declining. People do not leave a thriving community.
  3. Our rising jail population. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, based on newspaper articles, we needed a new jail because we were spending “about $50,000” a year housing inmates in neighboring counties. Today the tipping point appears to be $100,000 — and one commissioner recently noted that, in 2017, we spent more than $80,000 housing inmates in neighboring counties. At this rate, we will build a larger jail. Jails can negatively impact private property value.
  4. We lost the drug war. According to one court official “about 80 percent” of the cases in the Preble County Common Pleas Court are drug-related. Viewing the jail roster, and comparing it to the court cases, one can quickly determine the majority of the defendants are indigent. But, in a case of a Catch-22, the county and City of Eaton are increasingly dependent on the income created by jailing the indigent. The Eaton Municipal Court, which handles about 600 cases monthly, generates $1 million in income that is diverted to the Preble County and City of Eaton budgets. This is in addition to the monies that pay the salaries for judges, bailiffs, and support staff. Losing the drug war negatively impacts property values and keeps potential employers from locating here.

But, the single most significant indicator that the 14-percent increase is inaccurate is our housing statistics. They show that Preble County has never recovered from The Great Recession.

High Foreclosures Rates

Although we are a small county (about 40,000) since 2007 we have consistently ranked high in Ohio home foreclosures. This indicates a systemic problem has not been alleviated. The initial wave of foreclosures were closely linked to Ohio’s lax predatory lending laws, the high-paying jobs exiting the Miami Valley region and a general economic decline caused by the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2013, Preble County ranked in the Top 10 for foreclosures — peaking at 3rd in 2013. Although we fell to 16th in the state in 2014, 2016 data (the latest available) demonstrates we have not recovered — and definitely not at a 14-percent recovery rate.

With 4.5 foreclosures per 1,000, our foreclosure density ranks eighth in the state.

In 2015, we were 27th.


Farm Subsidies

One interesting paradox in the farm land value issue is farm subsidies. Farm subsidies are a wealth redistribution/entitlement program implemented in the 1930s by president Franklin D. Roosevelt when roughly 25 percent of the country earned its income from farming. Today, less than two percent do. If you are interested in who gets the (mostly Blue State) money inside your state or county, visit the Farm Subsidy Database. Between 1995 and 2016, Preble County farmers have received nearly $118 million in subsidies. Critics of the program claim that most of the money is funneled to large ‘corporate’ farms bypassing the small, family farms.

Categories: 8th congressional district, American Revolutionary War, Life In A Red State, My America, Ohio, Preble County, Things I'm Tired Of, Understanding Trump Counties

‘Faith Of Founding Fathers’ Revisits Christian Leanings Of 6 Early Leaders, Wives

thefaithsofthefoundingfathersAmericans tend to be in one of two camps concerning the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Those who believe the leaders were Christians determined to create the republic as a Christian nation. The other camp believes the country was founded in a secular manner with care being taken to “build a wall” between church and state.

In The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (2006) author David L. Holmes succinctly analyzes the religious leanings of six Founding Fathers. These six are:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • George Washington
  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • James Monroe

His examination, among other things, focuses on the words these men used when talking about God in a personal letter to a family or a friend. Reading these letters bypasses the political persona of the leaders and shows what they said in private.

Holmes zeroes in on specific words these men used concerning God or their use — or nonuse — of Christian phrases. For example, a Deist usually avoided traditional Christian phraseology using “the Grand Architect” instead of “God,” while Christians like John Adams would sprinkle “Redeemer of the World,” or “the grace of His Holy Spirit” throughout a letter.

Besides these six men, Holmes examines the men’s wives and a few of their children to see what family traditions and beliefs were passed on. The book concludes with a two-to-three paragraph about each of the modern presidents — beginning with Gerald Ford and ending with George W. Bush (who was president when the book was published).

Even though I found the whole book intriguing, the most interesting section was Holmes’ discussion, at the beginning of the book, about the religious climate during the Revolutionary War era. In this section, Holmes reports which church denominations existed in each of the 13 colonies, and their specific beliefs. This detailed account provided a picture of the variations of Christian doctrine and dogma that existed when the country was born.

Rated 5 out of 5: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers is an interesting read and a great introduction into the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers. It also sheds some light on how those beliefs played out publically. With only 185 pages the book is also a quick read.

Categories: American History, American Revolutionary War, Books I have read