The title of this blog has nothing to do with being in foreign or unfamiliar surroundings. I was born in this state, educated here, and have lived all my life in Alabama. I am certainly not Moses living among the Egyptians. (Exodus 2:22, for the Bible scholars out there). I also was not raised on Mars, for you Robert Heinlein fans.
This land of Alabama is strange to me, though. It is strange that a state with breathtaking beauty, kind weather, abundant natural resources, and people who are generous, hard-working, and friendly, can fail so consistently on so many levels. Average income? Near the bottom compared to the other 49 states. Quality of education? Ditto. The list of ways in which Alabama ranks 49th or 50th is long and depressing. Its people are underpaid and under-educated. Our economy never really booms, at least not since the early 1900s. Poverty is rampant, and opportunities are few.
But why? What is wrong with Alabama? Are its people so intrinsically inferior to the people of other states, so unmotivated, so ignorant, so lazy that Alabama is doomed to forever come in last?
NO! Our problem is not our people. Alabamians on the whole are an industrious lot, and are more than capable of driving a thriving economy with first-rate schools and well-maintained roads. It is not at any geographic disadvantage. Alabama is blessed with coal, iron ore, rivers for hydro-electric power, and the Black Belt, one of the most productive areas for farming in the world. For tourism, we have mountains to the north, one of the finest strips of recreational beaches in America to the south, and in the middle a modern city, Birmingham, with a world-class restaurant scene and numerous cultural attractions.
The answer lies not in any natural or inherent disadvantages. The reason Alabama fails is because its leaders fail us. In 1999, USA Today published the results of a report by the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. That 50-state analysis concluded that Alabama was the poorest governed state in America. Syracuse policy analysts had graded each of the 50 states’ governments on an A to D scale in five categories: financial management, human resources, information technology, capital management, and planning. Alabama was the only state to score a D in all five categories.
It is not our state that sucks. Our government sucks.
It is not just that our politicians are bad, though many of them (like Mike Hubbard and Roy Moore) are as bad as they get. The problem is that the very system of governance created by the 1901 Alabama Constitution ensures that Alabama has government of the special interests, by the special interests, and for the special interests.
The goal of this blog is to explain why this is. I aim to raise awareness in this state. I want people in my home state to understand the great political fraud of the past century, perpetrated by five generations of Alabama politicians.
Why should anyone listen to me? After all, I’ve never run for public office. I’ve never been a professional reporter. I’m not active in any political organizations. Doesn’t that mean I don’t know what I’m talking about?
If you think about it, my lack of political experience is exactly why you should listen to me. I am beholden to no one. I owe no political debts. I’ve never held office so I have nothing political I’ve done in the past I will feel like justifying in this blog. No one is paying me to write these words. I don’t have a dog in the hunt. I am an objective observer. One exception to that, which I will disclose right now, is that I am a plaintiff’s lawyer in active practice. On issues relating to plaintiffs vs. big companies, I probably am biased.
On the plus side, I have a degree in political science from BSC. I have been a practicing lawyer in this state for 23 years. During that time I’ve watched closely as the all-powerful Alabama legislature has missed every opportunity to fix the governmental flaws that are at the root of every problem Alabama has. While I’ve lived here all my life, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the United States, and so I have a sense of how folks do things in other parts of the country. I’ve spent time in places with quality schools, efficient mass transit, and modern infrastructure, and I’ve seen how the quality of life in those places leaves Alabama’s in the dust.
I know that most of the readers of this blog will turn out to be people who are a lot like me: well-educated progressive-thinking liberals. I hate that, because I am not here to enlighten the already-enlightened. I want to talk to you, the ordinary and not always well-educated folks of this state. Yes, you, the out-of-work construction worker renting an apartment you can no longer afford and so far behind on your child support payments that you cannot imagine ever catching up. And you, the nice lady behind the counter at the convenience store by the interstate, angry because for the past week your boyfriend has had to drive you to work because the loan company repossessed your car. And you, the 25-year-old single guy who still lives with his mama because no job you can find could cover rent on your own.
I hope you read this, and think about it. I invite the unemployed, the underpaid, and the uninsured to read what I have to say, and maybe a few of you will finally realize that every vote you’ve cast in the past has elected politicians who don’t give the first damn about your problems.