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Opinion | The answer to Alabama’s 200-year problem: Vote for yourself


Alabama celebrated its 200th birthday on Saturday. 

In a few weeks, researchers from UAB will begin testing children for a disease — hookworms — that was last widespread around that same time. 

Three steps forward, two steps back should be our state motto. 

Since this state’s birth, its people have struggled with issues of class and race. And we have mostly done a fairly poor job of handling both. 

Which is why, in 2019 America, there are some 60 percent of homes in one Alabama county, Wilcox, which lack proper sewer or septic plumbing. Instead, those homes straight pipe their waste into local waterways. 

Thus, hookworms. A disease most common these days in third-world nations, where plumbing and vaccinations are less common. 

Testing last year by researchers from Baylor University turned up a number of positive tests. Now, UAB and University of Alabama researchers want to know more. 

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And isn’t that all just wonderful — as we’re celebrating 200 years and talking up innovation and record-low unemployment and technological advances and cutting edge car manufacturing in the state, here is an 1800s disease making a comeback. 

Because 60 percent of the people in at least one county (and in several others, if we’re honest) are too poor, too impoverished and too forgotten to have something as basic as working sewers. 

This week on “The Voice of Alabama Politics,” the topic was raised on the panel of a recent study of child poverty in this state. There are more than 250,000 kids living in poverty in Alabama. 

The state also ranks near the bottom in children food insecurity and infant mortality. 

We’re 44th in poverty overall. We rank somewhere between 45 and 52 in education. And we’re 49th in social justice. 

Most of these issues we’ve had since our birth. Even when the state was one of the most prosperous because it built its fortunes on the free labor of slaves, the overwhelming majority of Alabama was impoverished men, women and children who were hungry and sickly. 

You know why? 

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Because the majority of Alabamians, for the entire 200 years, have been hoodwinked into voting against their own interests. 

Our people will go to their graves believing that the rich guy deserves it and they don’t. That the tax structure shouldn’t benefit them, and so what if it benefits the wealthy. That the education system shouldn’t be fair for everyone (especially if “everyone” includes the blacks). 

In this representative democracy, where the will of the majority is supposed to dictate the goals of the government, the majority in this state has, without fail, voted to give the other guy the breaks. 

I have literally listened to blue collar workers in this state argue against a tax break for themselves, because they “don’t want no handout from the gub’ment,” and then dismiss the fact that a rich person or a wealthy company is getting a bigger break. 

Our people spend months bemoaning the microscopic fraud and loss that occurs in this state’s social programs and not 10 minutes on the billions — BILLIONS! — wasted on corporate welfare through failed economic incentives. 

If you doubt that, let me ask you question: The last major economic incentive deal this state handed out … was it successful? How do you know? What happened to the money? 

Before you go looking, let me stop you. You can’t find that information. It’s secret. Our lawmakers made it secret, and you gave so little of a damn that you didn’t even know that. 

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Because it wasn’t a poor guy getting a free meal. So this state’s majority didn’t care. 

It’s pathetic what we’ve voted ourselves into. What we’ve allowed the wealthy to fool people into voting for, using race and selfishness and plain ol’ ignorance. 

If this state’s majority, regardless of race, voted together, we could have decent health care, an equitably funded education system, decent trade schools and training programs and a better environment. We could have judges who follow the law and better trained and paid police officers and corrections officers. 

And it’s so simple. Just vote for your actual interests — for the things that make your life, and the lives of those closest to you, better. 

Don’t worry about if the black guy gets it too. Or if that makes you a “socialist,” as if you getting a break on your student loans is somehow more socialist than a bank getting bailed out. 

Stop listening to the noise. And vote for yourself. 

The alternative is hookworms.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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