Alabama--State of Embarrassment
Everybody knows that Alabama is a red state. All of its statewide elected officials are Republicans and have been for a long time. It always votes overwhelmingly for Republican presidential candidates. And the University of Alabama football team is, famously, the Tide--the Crimson Tide.
Now, there is another reason that Alabama is red--red faced, that is. Alabama's septuagenarian governor, Robert Bentley, currently in his second term, is facing probable impeachment. Removal from office would be bad enough but there is much more--oh, so much more.
A state ethics panel recently determined that Bentley may have committed multiple felonies and referred the matter to the Montgomery County district attorney. Should Bentley be convicted, he would be the third of the last six governors to be distinguished with felony credentials. But that is by no means all, or even why, the matter is especially embarrassing.
The day of his first inauguration, Bentley took to a pulpit to tell his constituents how religious he was and what a fine Christian governor he would be. In fact, he proclaimed that he would be governor for all Christians. Everyone else apparently slipped through the cracks. And what cracks they proved to be.
By the time of his second inauguration, word of an affair was beginning to percolate. It is Bentley's alleged affair with a former aide that is the source of so much embarrassment in the state. Keep in mind that Alabama voted enthusiastically and overwhelmingly for Donald "Grab 'em by the Pussy" Trump. But Alabamians are mortified by their governor's moony messages and salacious conversations with a much younger woman.
Admittedly, the situation is embarrassing. Add to that the fact that Bentley is divorced after fifty years of marriage and that his possible felonies stem from trying to hide the relationship with his aide, and there is ample reason for chagrin and humiliation in every bright and deep hue of scarlet. But even all of that is not all there is to it.
Here is the kicker: There is so much MORE Alabama should be embarrassed about that doesn't merit a second thought for elected officials or many voters.
Consider some of the ways in which Alabama is a leading state:
• opioid prescriptions and use
• sexually transmitted diseases
• disabled workers
•children on Medicaid
• stress, including stress from low wages, poo health, addiction, debt, lack of education, under employment, unemployment
• regressive taxation (high proportion of taxes falling on those least able to pay)
• prison population
• segregation of public schools (still a problem after all these years)
• voter suppression
• anti-immigrant legislation
• racial discrimination
•tax rebates and erosion of the tax base to attract industries
• failing public schools
• public officials who fight to keep unions out
• public officials who fight to prevent cities and counties from enacting higher minimum wages
There are a few categories in which Alabama scores low in comparison:
• property taxes (among the lowest in the nation)
• Medicaid expenditures (Governor Bentley, who happens to be a physician, says that Alabama cannot afford to join the initiative, mostly funded by the Affordable Care Act, that helps states provide expanded Medicaid coverage to its poorest citizens. The state legislature agrees with the Governor.)
• other public health expenditures
• education expenditures
• training, medical treatment and rehabilitation for prison inmates
And there are some other reasons for Alabama to be embarrassed:
• United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, formerly United States Senator from Alabama
•United States Senator Luther Strange who was elevated by Governor Bentley after the cabinet appointment of Jeff Sessions. As state Attorney General, Strange supposedly had been investigating Bentley.
• Mike Hubbard, the former Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives whose felony convictions are currently being appealed
• United States Senator Richard Shelby
The real scandal--the true source of state embarrassment--should be the deep troubles and persistent problems that gather momentum year after year while being ignored by elected officials. Instead, legislators and many others spout outrage about an old man who made a fool of himself over a young woman.
It's Bentley's bad luck that football season doesn't start in earnest until August. At that point, nothing else matters. But it leaves plenty of time for legal gears to spin a red-hot glow on the entire state because surely all the sins against our citizens will come into embarrassing light.
in the public domain by Michael Driver (no rights reserved)
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