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

‘Broke USA:’ Exploiting The Working Poor Is Big Business

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin opens in Dayton, Ohio, a city 20 miles or so to the east of my hometown of Eaton. The opening vignette is the story of a hard-working man who fell on hard times when his wife developed health problems. Eventually, the couple travel to nearby Huber Heights, where they are duped into signing a predatory loan.

When the story opens, the couple have lost their home and have moved a second time — this time into a less than ideal mobile home park — and the man, now in his early 70s, does not see retirement as a possibility. He seems resigned to his fate.

His story is just one of many sprinkled throughout the book as Rivlin crisscrosses the Midwest, including frequent stops in Dayton and Montgomery County. The author investigates the various industries that have exploited lower income workers. These industries include: Rent to Own stores, paycheck lending stories, pawn shops and loans stores dealing in subprime loans. And, as the book notes, these businesses have left behind devastated communities.

In the City of Eaton (pop. 8,200), we have three payday lending stores, a pawn shop and a rent to own store.

What really gives the books ‘its legs’ is the author also reports the other side of the story. He interviews industry leaders and travels to the various networking events each industry holds. He reports on their marketing tactics, their training methods and paints a complete picture from a consumer, industry, and consumer protection point of view. The story includes a lot of ‘unsung heroes’ who fought for the disadvantaged and duped.

After reading the book, I became very aware of the holes in our legislation, and economy, that create exploitation. And, the stories of the victims make it difficult to believe that the current legislative drive — to deregulate — will benefit the middle and lower-middle classes.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. This book gets a high rating because it’s written in a way that all players get a say. Granted, some of the players do not come across as positively as others, but I am okay with that because of the loss of wealth inflicted on many from the working class.


Afterthought

My interest in Rivlin’s book is the unresolved foreclosure crisis Preble County still faces. According to Policy Matters Ohio, Preble County ranked in the top 10 for home foreclosures every year between 2007 and 2013. It peaked at 3rd in the state in 2013 before dropping out of the top 10 in 2014 when it ranked 16th in Ohio.

With 4.5 foreclosures per 1,000, in 2016, our foreclosure density ranks eighth in the state.

Despite the economic decline, as evidence by our foreclosure rates, Preble County saw an uptick in property values during the 2017/2018 revaluation. The uptick in values (mostly for non-farm properties) came as the farm lobby successfully drove down property values on Preble County farmland.  But, some of our farmers are doing okay thanks to government handouts (see chart, click on chart to access database).

According to the EWG Farm Subsidy Database, Preble County farmers received $118 million in subsidies between 1996-2016. Ohio ranks 13th in the nation for monies received. Preble County ranks 16 (out of 88 counties) in EQIP funds received. The most common use of EQIP funds in Ohio is to build fences.

Click on chart to access database.

Categories: 8th congressional district, Books I have read, My America, Preble County

‘We’ve Got A Job’ Tells Forgotten Story Of 1963 Children’s March In Birmingham

Scene from 1963 Children’s March courtesy of Wikipedia.

Although not formally educated in American history, I consider myself a devout student. My interest was casual until the death of my father 17 years ago when it intensified. My first foray was tracking down his Korean War medals. Then I dove into my family’s history learning about its colonial and pre-colonial American past. The natural progression led to studying American history.

When I look back over the nearly two decades, I’m pleased with the quest and the natural growth it produced — including a better understanding of America’s race wars.

It’s Just A Word

Growing up in an evangelical home, I was acutely aware which words not to use. Soft curse words like damn could evoke a lecture. When, as a seven-year-old, I told Mom I wanted a recently released toy called Son of a Gun, she threatened to punish me (‘You want me to mash your mouth’).

But the N-word was more acceptable.

That is not to say my parents used the word or embraced it (they didn’t), but when I dropped the word as a teenager, in anger, at a black man, there was no lecture. I learned the word years earlier from my paternal grandfather who used it to describe a community of  ‘yella n-word’ (a reference to their lighter skin tone) that lived near him in Cumberland County, Kentucky. As an eight-year-old sitting on the couch watching TV with Grandpa, he used it freely when black entertainers appeared on TV, saying, ‘Now there’s one happy N-word.’

I relay this, not to expose the subtle, and not so subtle, prejudice of my childhood, but rather to show that what we teach our children matters.

We’ve Got A Job

Juvenile-level literature like We’ve Got A Job matters on many levels. The book teaches our children positive role models, and it also tells the stories of parents who did ‘teach their children well.’

Like most Americans, I’ve long been familiar with the images, and TV footage, of the Civil Rights movement. Some of the most gripping images, like the one above, capture dogs attacking peaceful protesters. The water hose news footage is also very disturbing to watch especially since, as Americans, we lie to ourselves and say we’re a Christian nation ordained by God as a ‘city set on a hill,’ but our actions say otherwise.

But, what I never knew, until reading We’ve Got A Job by Cynthia Levinson was that thousands — literally thousands — of black juveniles were arrested and crammed into American jails because of their peaceful protests. In Job, the author details the lives of four participants — the youngest is nine-year-old Audrey Hendricks — telling their stories of courage and resolve as they took on the blind hatred of Alabama’s White power structure.

The Birmingham Children’s March took place between May 2 and May 11 in 1963. In the March, roughly 4,000 elementary, middle and high school children were arrested and jailed. The March was organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the author weaves in the role King, and other Black leaders, played as they navigated the delicate balance of protest amid the violence.

Although written for a 12-15 year old audience, the book is a compelling read for adults — and include many unknown facts and stories. One that struck me was — on the day four black girls were killed in a church bombing — two other black juveniles were murdered. One was killed by a police officer and a second, a 16-year-old black male, was shot and killed by a white Eagle Scout.

Levinson received several awards for the book including, the Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction. The book is a reminder that when evil exists — good people, of all ages — rise to resist.

Rating 5 out of 5. I rate this book highly for two reasons: it is very well written as it weaves a lot of information together, some well-known, some hardly known, into a compelling account of an important week in American history. The other reason — the author captures a story that was nearly lost to history.

Categories: American History, Americans Who Got It Right, Books I have read, My America