Slouching toward Election Day

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There are facts on which the world operates and there are facts on which politics operate. Spoiler alert: The two are not the same.

For example, key Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate have fought every effort this year to allow Congress a vote to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.

Outside the political hothouse of Washington, D.C., however, several state and federal Republican office seekers this year (including those in Arkansas, Alaska, and Nebraska) strongly favor raising the base wage earned by at least 3.6 million Americans.

What’s more, Americans overwhelmingly approve raising the minimum wage when given the chance to have their say. According to the Sept. 16 Wall Street Journal, “Since 2002, wage increases have appeared on the ballot 10 times, in nine states, with voters opting to raise the wage every time, usually by lopsided margins.”

So why haven’t these on-the-ground voter facts penetrated the up-in-the-air political fog of Capitol Hill? A big part of the reason may be that, oftentimes, voters out here are just as foggy-headed as their politicians out there.

The Sept. 16 and 17 New York Times carried three — three! — stories that highlight this say-what? phenomena.

First, on its Sept. 17 front page, the Times reports that the percentage of Kentuckians without health care insurance dropped from 20.4 percent to 11.9 percent in the first year of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

One of the newly insured is Robin Evans, explains the Times, “an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour” who, “after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors” is now “being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder.”

Evans is “tickled to death” with her new health insurance, she says, and with her daughter’s new coverage because she “also qualified for Medicaid under the law.”

But, the Times goes on to report, Evans is not so tickled as to change her political stripes: She “…said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and [Senate] minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be ‘pulled out root and branch.’”

Why would the chronically ill, low-wage earning eBay employee vote against her and her family’s taxpayer-subsidized health care coverage by voting for a senator who promises to do everything he can to kill it?

The Times website holds part of the answer. On Sept. 16, a newly released Times poll showed that among “all likely voters” in the upcoming November mid-term elections, 45 percent would vote for Republican candidates and 39 percent for Democratic candidates even as the same people gave congressional Republicans a dismal 19 percent approval rating compared to a better, but still-poor 30 percent for congressional Democrats.

Yeah, go figure.

Personal view

Americans often stand facts on their head when those facts stand in the way of where we’re going or what we believe.

Take the disconnect between the endlessly trumpeted “Feed the World” mantra of American farm and livestock groups and what, in fact, the world actually needs. As detailed by a United Nations report Sept. 16 (and faithfully reported by the Times later that day), “More than 800 million people worldwide do not get enough to eat, even as the world produces more than twice as much food as it needs…”

That’s right, it goes on to explain, “Feeding the world is no longer a question of growing more food. The Food and Agriculture Organization, one of the three agencies that produced the [Sept. 16 UN] report, says the world produces twice the amount of food that the population needs. The problem is poverty.”

So will American farmers rethink export-based U.S. farm policies that already supply more food than the world’s hungry cannot eat because they cannot afford it? Nope. And that’s a fact.

Here’s another: our political leaders aren’t lost; they’re following us.

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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com

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