Understanding Trump Counties

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

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

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