“Really, all of this speaks to the broader picture of how the middle class in America is struggling to exist.” ~ Bill Faith, from “Where the Tea Party Rules (Rolling Stone, 14 October 2014)

Saturday afternoon. Sunny, 76 degrees.

Date night tonight, two movies at one of our favorite places to see movies, Cinema Cafe; tonight’s selections—Fury and Gone Girl. Hoping the ones we chose this time are better than Noah and Oculus, both of which were a major waste of time and money.

Anyway, thought I’d share a few tidbits I came across in my perusing. It’s a theme—you know, Tea Party and Rolling Stone. Corey actually forwarded me the article below about his hometown in Ohio. Happy reading . . .

                   

From Rolling Stone article, “Eight Tea Party Morons Destroying America

This guy is my hero. No really:

Steve Stockman
State: Texas
Elected: 2012
Core Beliefs: A fierce defender of the petrochemical industry. Believes “the best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it, oil and gas come out.” Said president’s post-Sandy Hook gun-control push “reminds me of Saddam Hussein.” Invited rodeo clown who dressed in a racist Obama outfit this summer to be an honored performer in Texas.

But this one runs a close second:


And speaking of Rolling Stone and the Tea Party, here’s its article about Corey’s hometown—Lima, Ohio:

Lima Ohio
Abandoned storefronts, empty streets and rundown housing plague Lima, Ohio, once a manufacturing hub. Photo by Geordie Wood

Where the Tea Party Rules

Lima, Ohio, has been struggling for decades – and the GOP’s radical policies are making it even worse

By | October 14, 2014

Dewey Chaffins was 19 years old when he left Appalachia for northwestern Ohio in 1958. The youngest of 10, he’d grown up in Garrett, Kentucky, a hardscrabble coal town where his family had lived and mined for generations. During the 1950s, when the coal industry in eastern Kentucky fell into a steep decline, scores of young men packed up all they had and headed north toward the industrial Midwest. Chaffins found opportunity in the city of Lima, a manufacturing boomtown where there were so many factories, as one retired autoworker recently told me, ”you could walk into a place, get a job without even a high school diploma, and if you didn’t like it, you could quit, walk across the street and have another job that afternoon.” By the time Dewey and his 18-year-old wife, Linda, settled in Lima, seven of his siblings, their spouses and some of their in-laws were living in and around the city, where they quickly found work in the automotive plants or tire factories or steel mills, joined the UAW or other unions, and set about raising their children in a manner none of them had ever dreamed possible.

Dewey and Linda worked for Hayes-Albion, a Michigan-based company whose Lima plant provided Ford with chrome and trim. Their combined annual income was almost $50,000 a year, not a lot but enough at the time to buy a home in the middle-class suburb of Bath Township, just east of Lima. By the end of the 1980s, each of their four children had graduated from high school, and two had gone on to college. There was no reason to doubt that their family’s continued upward mobility was secure.

One recent morning, I went to visit Dewey’s son Scott Chaffins, who still lives in Bath, in a small three-bedroom house he shares with his wife, Lori, and their two college-age kids, Joshua, 21, and Alyssa, 18. Now 50, Scott is a burly guy who meets me dressed in long cutoffs, a blue polo shirt and flip-flops. He shuffles through his kitchen followed by the family’s big brown Lab, Brutus. Stopping briefly to say hello, Scott then excuses himself to lie down. “It’s his blood pressure,” Lori says, apologetically. A chemist and former college professor, Scott’s been out of work for six months. “Stress adds a lot of health issues, as you can imagine,” she says.

Photo: Geordie Wood

A short, round woman wearing a pink T-shirt and shorts, Lori Chaffins sits at a long, rectangular wooden table, drinking Dr Pepper. It’s a Friday afternoon, and she’s off for the summer from her job driving a school bus and working in the nearby middle-school cafeteria. The schedule isn’t bad, she says – working only nine months out of the year means she’s had more time to spend with her kids. On the other hand, her annual income is roughly $25,000, and she hasn’t had a raise in six years. Since her husband’s been out of work, they’ve liquidated Scott’s retirement and drained most of their savings, about $60,000 in total. Still, they have close to $160,000 in debt between their mortgage ($1,200 per month), car payments ($305), health insurance ($300 per month, with a $1,750 deductible per person) and the loans ($7,000) they took out to help pay for Joshua’s living expenses at Bowling Green State. Their home, which they purchased in 1999, along with 20 acres of land, for $170,000, has depreciated by a third, Lori says, ”and we’re still upside-down on our loan.” She shakes her head with the tight, exhausted expression of a woman who’s just barely hanging on. ”I mean, when a family can’t afford to buy steak at seven to 10 bucks a pound, that’s ridiculous. But ground beef at $4.99 a pound? That’s outrageous,” she says, her voice rising in frustration. Last year, their family had $18,000 in medical bills. ”And that was with our insurance,” she says. ”I just get so mad when people say the economy is turning around. Are you kidding me? I’m poorer today than when my husband was in college.”

Lori grew up in the nearby town of Elida. Her father, a nonunion carpenter, made less than $4.50 per hour, when he worked at all. ”We had an outhouse in the 1970s,” she says. ”I mean, we were dirt-poor. I refused to raise my children like that.”

Scott, who has a chemistry degree from Ohio State, was the first member of his immediate family to go to college, which at the time cost him $1,500 per year in tuition. While he was in school, Lori helped pay their bills by waitressing at a Pizza Hut, and she kept working as they moved from Columbus to Bowling Green, where Scott studied for his master’s, to Cincinnati. They had no intention of returning to Lima to live, but after the kids were born, they began to think it would be good to be closer to their families. So in 1999, Scott, then 34, went to work in the oil industry, managing 30 other chemists at the city’s large oil refinery, the longtime anchor of the community. Depending on his bonus, Lori says, he would go on to make between $100,000 and $125,000 a year, a small fortune in an area where most people earn less than $60,000 annually.

That was a good period, Lori says as light streams in through sliding–glass doors and reflects on a series of wall photographs: Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Pacific Coast. Scott took those, she explains, back in the days when they could afford to take family vacations. Today, she says, they can barely afford to go to the movies. ”The last movie I saw was Harry Potter, in 2011,” she says. ”We had no idea it would get as bad as it did.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

House Debate

There is an ongoing debate in my house between my husband and me; actually, I think that we have reached the stage of a cold war. Let me back up and give you some background: When I went out on disability, one of the things that Corey and I both agreed on was that I would try very hard to get back into writing mode; hence, we invested in a very nice computer system for me, one with an obscenely large screen with an ultra-high definition so that I could work on my photography and design hobbies as well. (My daughter Alexis is sooo jealous of my screen because she claims that it is larger than her television to which I can only reply that I have worked long and hard for many years to have such a decadent item.) Anyway, I have been using this blog as an exercise to keep my brain active, and I am happy to say that it has been working.

What started out as a way for me to comment here and there on whatever popped into my head has become more and more focused, and I have found myself getting back to a more tightly-written style, reminiscent of how I wrote when I was writing articles for the museum. I pay more attention to structure and development, and I do more background reading now before I write some of my entries. I am thoroughly enjoying myself—the research, the reading, the perusing of other blogs—it is all engaging, and I am spending more time on the computer, and less time in bed reading my mysteries. I also find that I am going back to previous blogs and fine-tuning them, honing them, editing them, which I know is counter intuitive to the whole blogging exercise; i.e., It should be more of a freestyle, journal-entry format, less concerned with grammar and structure; however, I just cannot do that.

And so, this brings me to my main point: These entries are becoming more and more like little pieces of something bigger for me. Although it did not begin that way, I foresee it moving in that direction, and as a result, I find that I am investing more and more of my creative self in them. Hence, I want them to be read. So, would it not therefore make complete sense that I would want them to be read by the very person who has been pressing me, nay nagging me these past years to get back to my writing and stop claiming to be a writer and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? One would think so . . .

So where is my reader, my great audience? He is playing Grand Theft Auto until the wee hours of the morning. Now let me pause and give him a little of the credit that he is due: The shipping industry has been as hard hit as everyone else, and he has yet to find a new company to take him on. This lack of gainful employment even after completing his latest training has been a big blow to our finances, but more importantly to his sense of self worth, hence, his addiction to video games and inability to sleep at night. But I have assured him that perusing my blogs might help him with his inability to sleep (half-heartedly, of course).

In fairness, my increased prolificacy and his increased gaming addiction may both spring from the same source: our household was affected by the economic downturn well before the NYSE, and the mortgage company is none too happy with us. We are in the mode of what is known as “creative bookkeeping” (in use by probably more than a few households in the country right now). That being said, I have tried to rein in my tendencies towards being a shrew when feeling that my artistic side is being underappreciated; however, I cannot help but feel that there is a black squishy leather bag out there calling my name and that I am much deserving of it. But yes, I know, it would be the whole nose to spite my face thing, blah, blah, blah, and it really wouldn’t solve the problem of going unread and unappreciated. Alas, alack . . .

And so, I will just have to muddle on with my daily doses of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” (truly great great Special Comment on October 13 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27188346/) and “The Rachel Maddow Show” to keep me sane and to keep me inspired, and once Corey gets a job, I’ll buy new ink cartridges and print out all of the blogs he hasn’t read, put them in a binder, and pack them in his bag so that he can read them when he goes to sea. See, even I, the worst person in the household, can come up with something approaching compromise (sometimes).

And on that note, back to politics after the real great(?) debate tonight. More later . . .