Posts Tagged With: politics

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

Shopping For My Own Version Of Reality In Trump Town

Sign popping up in the various communities in my county. This one is near the Eaton Municipal Court (pictured in the background).

(Note: Since the presidential election was won at the county level, I’ve come to believe that counties like Preble are a microcosm. And, how we deal — or do not deal — with problems is vitally important because the societal problems that are plaguing small towns are also negatively impacting the country.)

According to one local politician Preble County has a great workforce. It’s a great tagline, but it’s at odds with what the official said just a month earlier when he commented on the local job market. A month or so ago he said there were ‘plenty of good jobs, but workers can’t pass a pee test.’

The pee test comment may be closer to the truth since help wanted signs — mostly for temp service jobs — are popping up in the community.

But the politician’s shifting viewpoint speaks to the issue many Americans face these days. As Matt Taibbi points out in Insane Clown President, we now shop for our preferred version of reality. Those on the right shop at Fox News while those on the left shop at MSNBC. And, some find even more extreme venues of liberal and conservative information. This consumer-based approach to information led to the breakdown of a common narrative — a common set of facts we all can agree on.

Without a common narrative, solutions are improbable.

Gatekeepers Hold The Key

American history has shown that various regions of the country hold wildly divergent views on civic involvement. In southwest Ohio, with our strong historical ties to both the Backcountry and Virginia colonies, we have a tendency to look to leaders to solve our problems — as opposed to the New England colonies’ ‘town hall’ approach which tends to be more community based.

So, locally, if a public meeting has members of the public in attendance it is because someone is receiving an award or — most likely — because people in attendance are on the receiving end of a detrimental rule, law or ordinance. In a general sense, what the citizens in attendance say falls on deaf ears because the governing body is simply engaging in a CYA action to satisfy a public notice/public meeting regulation. By this point of the process, the governing board is not overly interested in citizens’ concerns because the political leaders are in the ‘selling/marketing’ phase.

So, our approach is simplistic: The leaders have reached a decision, and the public must accept it. Understandably, this method of governing generates a high level of mistrust from the average citizen. It also perpetuates a system where elected officials tamp down opposition as they bulldoze an agenda into law.

Not As Well Off As We Were

Ad from 1950s Twin Valley News publication in West Alexandria.

Like many communities in the Rust Belt, our level of affluence has fallen significantly in the past 50 years. In the 1950s, the community I grew up in the 1970s, West Alexandria (pop. 1,200), was able to generate the equivalent of  $400,000 — to build a community swimming pool. An editorial in the town’s newspaper bragged about how the community was able to accomplish this, without tax dollars, despite the lack of ‘wealthy’ citizens.

The approach used in 1953-1955 by the village differs significantly from the recent approach of local school districts to build athletic complexes. In these cases, the fundraising relied heavily on a handful of wealthy donors. This speaks to two current realities. First a strong sense of community binding people together in a common goal has weakened and, local residents do not have enough discretionary income to donate. The latter speaks to the quality of jobs that exist — or the skill level of the workforce and the jobs those skills can attract. In the 1950s, we were awash in manufacturing jobs, many with union wages. Today, in the United States, retail salesman is the most popular job title. In Preble County, retail is the second most popular segment, manufacturing is still our most popular segment, however, we are mostly a union-free county.

Heroin Addiction And The Workforce

Ohio’s job prospects — and its economy — has not performed as projected and as CNN recently reported, American workers are failing drug tests at the highest rate in a decade. Preble County is presumably no exception since we have a heroin problem.

But, one common theme in the heroin story is that heroin addiction does not distinguish by class. In other words, the rich and the poor are equally affected by the drug. Another common thread locally, at least with some of the gatekeepers, is ‘if you make a bad decision I can’t help you,’ which, although a popular stance, displays ignorance about drug addiction — and it’s politically lazy.

Living in a should’ve, could’ve world is a fantasy-based reality. People are addicted to heroin in Preble County and it needs to be solved, not vilified. It needs to be solved so employers can employ. So workers can work and spend. So a local economy can thrive.

It’s Economics 101.

Incriminating The Indigent

Preble County heroin cases, at least those processed through Common Pleas Court, suggest heroin addiction does discriminate based on class — unless, of course, wealthier users are able to bypass the court system through insurance-based treatment. Of the 63 cases processed between July 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016 in all but four of the cases the defendant was ruled indigent by the court.

This, of course, creates a financial drain at the county level while increasing the anger many non-addicts feel toward the addicted, making it easier to dehumanize heroin users. This is especially notable when political leaders refer to them as ‘druggies.’ Since I personally know friends, former co-workers and family members who are addicts or recovering addicts, I resist terms like ‘druggies’ because the individuals I know did not wake up one morning and decide that today was the day they would become addicted to a chemical.

Besides, it’s also about treating people humanely. A chemically-dependent individual is someone’s child, parent, sibling or relative.

Political Impotence

In a recent article, it was noted that my county is refunded, by the state of Ohio, 48 percent of the cost associated with indigent cases. The tone of the statement suggested county gatekeepers had negotiated us back ‘up’ to the 48 percent threshold, when in reality (I listened to the audio of the discussion) county officials did not negotiate. As a small, impoverished county we have the political power of a gnat. Ohio told us how much we would receive. It’s a twisted version of ‘what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander.’ Although gatekeepers relish in their ability to ‘tell’ the indigent what they will receive and when, these same gatekeepers — based on their recorded posturing — are less open to the methodology when they are told by a more powerful gatekeeper what they will get.

Do We Have A Problem?

If anecdotal methods are proof of the type of workforce we have in Preble County, I will relay what one worker told me. They said the company they worked for had a lot of turnover because the ‘younger guys’ work until they were paid and then they ‘quit showing up.’ They indicated drug use was the culprit.

Other indicators include newspaper ads and articles which suggest local firms are struggling to find quality workers. For example:

  • One company, seeking manual laborers, has run an ad in the local newspaper for months to fill the position(s). The same holds true for a local bar seeking kitchen help. Their ad has run for at least two months.
  • Another company recently highlighted the fact that it is paying a higher starting wage in an effort to attract applicants.
  • A local government agency recently filled a position with someone already within the agency, which could indicate a lack of applicants.

But it may be the county’s own marketing site that offers the best clues about our workforce. Information on their site shows that prime-aged workers — those aged 25-54 — are moving out of the county. It also shows that the number of available jobs within the county has declined since 2007.

Categories: 8th congressional district, American Workplace, My America, Understanding Trump Counties | Tags: , , , ,

Root Cause of AHCA’s Failure — Ohio’s Broken Political System?

There’s got to be a better wayFrank Constanza

Decades ago as a factory worker I was trained in ‘Root Cause Analysis.’ I’m no longer sure if that’s a real thing — or just an idea created by the company, but the concept was sound. When we created product that was scrapped due to error — the goal of RCA was to find the original source of the mistake. This often meant poring over reams of data (yes it was on paper) and zeroing in on when the initial error occurred.

If we could only do that with politics.

Political Dysfunction

One of the best books that examines how this ‘first mistake’ happened in our current political debacle — the one that placed an egotistical, pampered billionaire in the White House — is Insane Clown President. The book takes a hard look at the media and the voting public. It examines the rise of the paranoid and fringe beliefs of an ever-widening swath of Americans coupled with the media’s for-profit business model that puts ratings over substance. Insane Clown President, unlike Hillbilly Elegy (which is touted as the book to read to understand the Trump win), actually does shed light on how it happened. The gist: American vote against, not for, candidates.

I mention the book because that is also why the AHCA failed — the MO of a small group of men, with a disproportional amount of power, inside the House of Representatives — obstruct instead of negotiate. Now, let me be clear. I’m glad the AHCA failed. Even though I am not a Trump supporter, most of my community is — and many would have been financially damaged if it were enacted into law. We are a poor region of the country and another hard financial blow may have been too much for many here to absorb.

‘It’s Called Humanity’

But, I’ll admit, in a broader sense, some things amaze me. I’m amazed that in ‘the greatest country’ in 2017 we’re still trying to resolve healthcare. I’m amazed that political powers fight hard to make healthcare inaccessible — especially for the poor and aged. I’m also amazed that after seven years of promising to repeal and replace — and 15-18 months of Trump’s blathering rhetoric that when push came to shove, the Party was impotent. I feel like if this is one of those ‘big issues’ as a Party you might want to, I don’t know, plan ahead and have something that will pass.

But mostly I’m amazed at the resistance some Americans have to affordable healthcare. Personally, I agree with comedian Allana Harkin, who in a moment of candid honesty, summed it up very nicely. She said:

I honestly cannot understand why Americans wouldn’t want every single citizen to have access to proper healthcare. It’s called humanity.

Building A Caucus The Old Fashion Way — With Big Money

Although Trump called the New York Times and blamed the Democrats for the House’s inability to garner enough votes to pass the AHCA, it was his Party’s incompetence that halted the legislation. This was, in large part, because of the Freedom Caucus — which has two Ohio members, including my Congressman Warren Davidson.

Davidson, whose previous political experience was Township Trustee in Miami County, leapfrogged past other experienced legislators in 2016 and won the seat held by former Speaker of the House John Boehner (who was forced out by the Freedom Caucus). Davidson was able to leapfrogged to the top of the political pile possibly because he was competing against more than a dozen GOP contenders — and only needed 33 percent of the vote to win — or maybe because the Club for Growth — and Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan — took an interest in him.

One thing is certain, a lot of money was spent on the race.

Regardless of why or how he landed the job, the position should be secure because of Ohio’s gerrymandered districts. In Ohio, we haven’t had competitive districts for decades.

How Ohio’s Gerrymandered System Affects You

If this gerrymandering only affected Ohio the solution for people, like myself, who do not agree with gerrymandering could move. After all that seems to be the go-to answer in my ‘neck of the woods’ (love it or leave it). But, it affects the entire nation so unless you are incline to move to Canada — or across the southern border before the beautiful wall is built — you are stuck with Ohio’s unethical approach to Congressional map creation.

As Thomas Suddes notes in his ‘brief history of Ohio gerrymandering‘ the rigged game became even more rigged since the 1980s. After the 2000 Census it lurched into full-blown Party over Country mode. To see just how rigged the game has become with Ohio Congressional Districts, compare the stats between Trump and Ronald Reagan. They both carried the state with basically the same percentage. Trump captured 51.7 percent of the vote while Reagan carried it in 1980 with 51.5 percent. But what changed — and created the current gridlock — is the number of Republicans and Democrats Ohio sent to Congress.

When Reagan was elected in 1980, we were a larger state with 23 members in the House. We now have 16. So, using percentages instead of numbers — in 1980 the mix was 57 percent GOP (13) and 43 percent Democrat (10). In 2017, the mix is 75 percent GOP (12) and 25 percent Democrat (4).

The viewpoints of Ohio’s population did not shift significantly in the two elections, but who their representatives are most certainly did because the core of the system had been altered to put Party over Country. And, with Ohio’s noncompetitive districts locked in place for the foreseeable future, the rest of the country should not expect much cooperation from our elected officials. They can only be replaced — in a primary — by someone more radical.

So, fellow Americans, you get to live with the mess we created.

But Will Trump Get Mad?

I’m starting to fear that Ohio will get on the — well, since I try to keep my posts PG — let’s call it the Naughty List. For starters we have governor John Kasich who is a Trump critic. Now, we have two U.S. Congressmen refusing to kowtow to the wishes of our Reality-TV leader. Besides hurting the man’s ego — not to mention the show’s ratings — Trump is allegedly known to go after his enemies. But, despite the policy disagreement, Davidson and fellow Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows seem to think Trump is still on board with demolishing the ACA. Meadows reportedly said,

To put a stake in it today would not be accurate.

Meadows may be right, the president may simply sabotage the program (putting ego over country). Davidson though, in his response went with a modified compliment sandwich deflecting any personal responsibility for the legislative failure. On Saturday, he noted on his website,

I appreciate the willingness of President Donald Trump to work together throughout this process. I was stunned to see as we made progress toward repealing Obamacare’s one-size fits all approach, others lost their resolve.

The president, in his early Sunday morning excretion on Twitter had this to say,

Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!

All the hoopla apparently proved to be too much for one Freedom Caucus member. On Sunday, Rep. Ted Poe (Texas) resigned from the Caucus.

One down, 36 to go.

Afterthought

As I was researching the various things Davidson has said and done in his short time in office, I noticed he’s also a member of the 2nd Amendment Caucus. It feels like a safe bet for him being from a part of the country outsiders derisively call Murica. We definitely love our guns. And, I’ll admit I’d have a hard time imagining Boehner with a gun — some wine, a cigarette and maybe an off-colored barroom joke — but not a gun.

But it did make me wonder why a 2nd Amendment Caucus and not a 3rd Amendment Caucus. The amendments were written at the same time about the same issue (national security). But no one ever speaks out in support of the 3rd Amendment — maybe there’s no money or large lobbying group attached to it.

Or maybe Amendments are like Bible verses, you can only have one favorite.

Who knows.

P.S.

If Ohio members of the Freedom Caucus want to do something for the citizens back home to start that winning streak Trump promised the country — fix the Internet speed. It’s abysmal. Ohio ranks 47th in the country. D.C. is 1st.

Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | Tags: , , , ,