After living in Alabama for roughly 30 years, I've decided that a significant chunk of our population must suffer from a kind of mental imbalance.
(I can hear some people already: "It took you 30 years to figure that out?")
I'm guessing that quite a few folks in other red states must suffer from a similar affliction, so this is a national issue. And it seems to be coming to the forefront as the Barack Obama administration sets sail.
As regular readers know, we like to dabble in dime-store psychology from time to time here at Legal Schnauzer, but I'm stumped about what to call this newest mental imbalance.
It shows some characteristics of schizophrenia, particularly the thought disorder associated with that condition. But for lack of a better term, let's call it "Red State Syndrome" or RSS for short.
What brought RSS to our attention? Well, it jumped out at us from the front page of The Birmingham News a few days ago.
In the upper right-hand corner was a story titled "Hope for jobs rests on bailout." (The paper's headline writers must have been having a bad day; the story actually was about the economic-stimulus package, not the financial bailout plan.)
The story quoted several Alabama officials, saying that the stimulus package proposed by Obama and now being debated in Congress could bail out state budgets for next year. The package, officials said, could help state agencies and public schools avoid thousands of layoffs.
In short, Alabama's immediate economic future rests heavily on Obama's stimulus plan--and even Republicans admit that. "The stimulus package, if it passes, will make all the difference in the world for what our budgets will look like," said Jim Main, Governor Bob Riley's top budget advisor.
Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS) estimates that Alabama will receive $3.54 billion from the Obama plan. "I think that might prevent massive layoffs in both education and the General Fund," said State Sen. Lowell Barron (D-Fyffe).
We noted in a post yesterday that Alabama should change its state motto to "Wonderland of Irony." So, how's this for irony? Alabama, a state that went overwhelmingly for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, now is hoping to have its financial bacon saved by a Democratic president and his allies in Congress. In fact, Alabama was one of the five reddest states in the country in the presidential election, but now it's looking to Democrats for salvation.
Is that not enough irony for you? Well, consider this: At the bottom of the front page, in that same issue of The Birmingham News, was an article titled "Alabama's affection for New Deals fades."
The story says that Alabamians overwhelmingly favored President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, with the state's two Democratic U.S. Senators (John Bankhead Jr. and Hugo Black) providing strong support.
What about Obama's present-day New Deal? Well, Alabamians are not so supportive of that. And our two Republican U.S. Senators (Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions) say they are against it.
A sub-headline on the story says, "State different from FDR days." Alabama unquestionably has changed since the 1930s. But that does not explain the state's lukewarm response to Obama's plan. So, what does? Well, it seems pretty clear: The benefits from the New Deal, in the pre-Civil Rights era, went almost entirely to white people. Some of the benefits of Obama's plan would go to people of color, and quite a few Alabamians are reluctant to see "those people" get help.
I suspect that sort of race-based distrust is the baseline condition in Red State Syndrome.
So you have Alabama officials of both parties saying the state's economic well-being is dependent on passage of Obama's stimulus package. But the citizenry is not supportive of the plan, and our U.S. senators are against it.
Some form of mental imbalance is the only explanation I can come up with for that kind of thinking.
Want one final dose of irony, one that hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer?
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the Obama plan would be Alabama public schools and universities. The plan includes $355 million for building renovations at Alabama public schools and colleges. It includes $586.1 million to help public schools and colleges avoid layoffs.
"If it were to fail and there be no congressional stimulus package, then we would be right back to square one, facing . . . massive, massive loss of jobs," Alabama School Superintendent Joe Morton said.
Morton went even further: "I pray with one eye closed, and I keep the other eye on C-SPAN. Until this thing got legs, we didn't have a hope on the horizon--and now we do."
By far the biggest recipient of federal dollars in Alabama education is my former employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). And UAB probably would get a huge chunk of change from the stimulus package, helping it avoid perhaps the largest layoffs in school history.
But consider the recent actions of UAB's leadership. It had a 19-year employee (me) who was writing a progressive blog on his own time. The blog, while primarily about justice more than politics, was critical of the Bush Administration and supportive of new leadership on the national stage.
What did UAB do? It jumped in bed with the very Bushies who caused Alabama's economic crisis in the first place and caved in to demands that I be unlawfully fired. In doing so, it stood against the kind of leadership that now could save UAB a huge loss of jobs.
President Carol Garrison, who upheld my termination even though her own grievance committee found it was wrongful, now has her hand out to Democrats who run the Alabama Legislature. And she is undoubtedly taking behind-the-scenes action to get her hands on Obama's stimulus money.
Shouldn't someone be asking tough questions about an institution that fires an employee for practicing Constitutionally protected free speech but can't wait to eat like a pig at the federal trough?