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Opinion | Alabama’s government is terrible because that’s what voters choose

A view of the Alabama Statehouse on South Union Street in Montgomery, Alabama. (STOCK PHOTO)

You don’t care. 

That’s why a group of Alabama politicians — duly elected Alabama politicians, mind you — are proposing that we use $200 million worth of funds earmarked to help the state recover from an unprecedented health crisis that has economically crippled its citizens and businesses to build a new state house. 

Because you don’t care. 

They know it. I know it. And deep down, you know it, too. 

Oh, sure, you’ll post on Facebook about how “terrible” it is and how you’re “fed up” with Alabama’s lawmakers. You’ll call them all “corrupt” and you’ll say that we should “vote them all out.” 

But when it comes right down to it … you’ll do what you always do. 

If you show up to vote at all, you’ll go in there almost entirely in the dark. You’ll laugh with your friends about how you don’t know hardly anyone on the ballot. You’ll vote for the couple of folks you know — the guy who came by the church that one day or the one who helped your sister’s kid get extra money for the travel baseball team — and then you’ll vote for a few more you’ve sort-of heard of before — the guy whose ads were funny or the one who promised to take on corruption — and then you’ll just bubble in the circle beside the names of the candidates from your chosen political party. 

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And that’s if you don’t just bubble in the straight-ticket option at the top of the ballot and walk out in 30 seconds. 

You know this is true. And if it’s not the way you vote, then you certainly know at least three people who do. 

In the 2018 election cycle, more than 60 percent of this state voted straight-ticket. Sixty percent. 

Which means more than half the voters didn’t care whatsoever about the quality of the candidate or the plans — or lack thereof — those candidates had for doing anything that was important to the governance of this state. 

Which is how we have ended up with one of the dumbest state governments in all of America. 

Oh, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. You wouldn’t trust the overwhelming majority of the Alabama Legislature to watch your dogs for the weekend. 

They’d forget to feed them, disregard your instructions, steal half of your stuff or try to charge you five times more than you agreed on. 

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Let me give you an example of the people who have been elected in this state — in addition to the crooks who have gone to prison and the ones who have been forced to resign because of ethics issues. In addition to those egregious cases of corruption and incompetence, there’s also the generally ignorant. 

Like the six freshmen, Republican representatives who last week went storming into the Alabama Department of Labor to demand information on why some unemployment claims haven’t been processed by that department. 

Now, I know that you, a human with common sense and a working brain, are thinking that the answer to that is fairly simple: we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and the worst unemployment crisis in the entire history of the country. 

And that’s exactly the right answer. And exactly the way most reasonable people would think. 

But y’all don’t elect reasonable people. You elect Republicans or Democrats (mostly Republicans). 

And electing people by labels removes the requirement of competency. So, very few of them have it. 

That’s why Reps. Craig Lipscomb, Ginny Shaver, Brett Easterbrook, Gil Isbell, Tracy Estes and Parker Moore went charging into DOL last week, unannounced, demanding to do … something. 

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Who even knows what, or what they expected to find or what they expected to prove. 

But a few of their constituents have had trouble getting their claims processed. And, well, the secretary of DOL, Fitzgerald Washington, is a black guy. So, just put two and two together and there’s obviously something nefarious going down. 

It was quite the show. And they even let the Republican Party propaganda blog know that they would be making a surprise visit, so it could publish photos of the “inspection” that was performed. 

In the end, they learned that — surprise — DOL is very busy. A fact they could have learned from simply logging onto the DOL website and reading the detailed breakdown of claims processed, by county, over the last several weeks. Or they could have picked up the phone and called Washington, who has made himself available day and night for lawmakers, and who has gone out of his way to explain the processes and the problems in his department. 

The stunt — and that’s what it was — managed to tick off everyone from the House leadership to the DOL workers, many of whom have worked countless hours over the last two months trying desperately to process the much needed claims for their fellow Alabamians. 

DOL has managed to process out 84 percent of the claims that have come in the last few weeks. A monumental feat, considering that amounts to more claims in the last two months than the office processed in the last two years. 

And things might have moved even faster if DOL had been staffed properly. At the start of this past decade, it had about 250 employees staffing its call center, processing claims and providing desperate workers assistance during the last financial crisis. 

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Today, it has about 80. 

That’s one-third of the staff doing about 20 times the work. 

And instead of asking how they can get Washington and his staff at DOL more help, more bodies, more resources to process out the claims to desperate Alabamians in a time of crisis, the people you elected went storming over there in search of a scapegoat. 

It’s shameful. It’s counterproductive. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Alabama lawmakers. 

And it’ll never change until this state’s voters do.

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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