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Opinion | There’s a reason Alabama always ranks at the bottom

Alabama ranks at the bottom in most quality-of-life polls. The reason for that is you.


There was much talk on Tuesday of Huntsville being named by U.S. News & World Report as the best place in America to live. It was rightfully a big deal, because such a ranking isn’t really subjective. It’s a result of Huntsville ranking very high in a number of statistical categories, and then U.S. News compiling the raw numbers from those stats and using them to declare it the best place to live.

It’s math, so to speak. And I didn’t hear anyone in Alabama disputing the magazine’s arithmetic.  

So, that made me wonder: Where did Alabama rank overall in the same magazine’s list of best and worst states? After all, it uses a similar methodology to compile that list, utilizing state rankings in areas such as education, health care, infrastructure, economy, crime and opportunity. 

Using those metrics, Alabama was the fourth-worst state in 2021. 

Our shortfalls, according to U.S. News, were not at all surprising. We were 47th in education and 45th in healthcare and 43rd in crime and corrections and 38th in overall economy and 37th in both opportunity and natural environment (probably because we do such a purposefully poor job of protecting the incredible natural environment we have in Alabama). 

Not great. 

But the sad reality is that U.S. News did us a favor by limiting the judging to those few categories. Because we’re drop-dead awful in way more. 

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Like being the third-worst state in child well-being, according to the 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book compiled by Voices for Alabama Children. That data found nearly a quarter (24 percent) of Alabama kids living in poverty and 20 percent of Alabama kids experiencing food insecurity. 

We also ranked near the bottom in life expectancy, according to that same report, with citizens in the 7th congressional district (73.2 years) expected to live a DECADE LESS than people in San Francisco (83.4 years), which had the nation’s highest life expectancy. 

We also had the nation’s fourth-worst infant mortality rate. So bad that the March of Dimes gave the state an F, primarily due to a 13 percent preterm rate. The state averaged 7 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared to a 5.5 average nationally. (Pro-life, indeed.) 

Not surprisingly, Alabama was ranked the worst state in the South for women. Not even Mississippi could save us, according to research compiled by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The state scored Ds and Fs in every statistical category, including political participation, earnings, poverty, work and family, health, reproductive rights and well-being. 

I suspect that no one – Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, Auburn or Alabama fan – is surprised by these poor rankings. Every single issue is something we’ve talked and talked and talked about. 

There isn’t a set of parents in this state who hasn’t sat around a table or talked in bed at night about the quality of the schools their children attend, and wondered if they could make a move to a different school district, or hoped like hell their kid got the “good teacher,” or wondered why their struggling system was losing money and resources because of poor test scores when any dope could see that would only make things worse.

There isn’t a soul in this state who hasn’t been affected negatively by Alabama’s decision to not expand Medicaid, or its decision not to participate in the insurance exchange established under Obamacare. 

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There are a whole bunch of people in this state who’ve wondered just what in the hell they’re going to do in the case of a medical emergency that occurs after 5 p.m., when the only local doctors close up shop for the night. Because the nearest hospital, after more than a dozen closures over the past 10 years, is more than an hour away for some folks. 

There are a whole bunch of Alabamians trapped in a seemingly unbreakable cycle of poverty. And the job training, access and opportunities simply aren’t within reach for many of those people. Just like they weren’t for their parents and their parents’ parents. They’re living two-job paychecks to paychecks and they’re a hole in a radiator hose away from their lives falling apart. 

This is real life in Alabama. And I bring it all up not to throw shade on the state or to undercut Huntsville’s very well deserved recognition. 

I’m bringing this all up because this is an election year, and as far as I can tell not a single Republican running for statewide office – and very few running for any office – has mentioned ANY of these massive problems and issues that affect everyday Alabamians. The things you actually talk about every night. 

Oh, listen, if government agents are taking guns out of your purse or if anyone ever defined “CRT,” much less put it in an Alabama classroom, I know some people who could help you. I’ve seen their ads. 

And, boy, if that Joe Biden ever tries to come here, instead of just sending the money that saved us from personal bankruptcies and bread lines, he’ll find a line around the block of people ready to fight him. 

And if being liked by a NYC (alleged) billionaire were an attribute that in any way helped to solve any problem, well, we would be in great hands. 

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The reality is there are a lot of people in this state suffering every day. From legitimate problems that have been solved, or at least adequately addressed, in other states. We all know it. These are our friends, our neighbors, hell, even us. 

And every single day, people complain and whine about the inept, crooked government that never works for the people. They complain about their lives. About their taxes. About their schools. About their roads. About their basic government services. And they wonder out loud why nothing ever changes. 

Here’s your answer: Because in 2022, when you had an opportunity to demand that your elected representatives were knowledgeable, competent people who were informed on the issues affecting the state and had viable plans to address those problems, you instead voted for the people who vilified trans kids.

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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