Tea Party: Not Actually to Blame for Midwest Deindustrialization, Sad Personal Stories


Janet Reitman produced a blockbuster piece of close-focus reporting on some people from and around Lima, Ohio who have had some hard times, made some bad choices, used welfare, complained about others using welfare, and had kids, and for some reason framed it as being about the "Tea Party"'s dire effects on America.

The Tea Party hook, in the story's title and cover headline ("Where the Tea Party Rules"), comes strictly from the fact that Lima's congressman, Republican Jim Jordan, is by her telling a serious Tea Party small government ideologue. (One of Ohio's senators, Sherrod Brown, is a Democrat.)

As Reitman writes of Jordan, he has a record of:

opposing virtually any government-spending proposal: the TARP stimulus package, the auto bailout, the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, raising the debt ceiling, even emergency aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He has voted to defund the Affordable Care Act 52 times.

She lays out some of the overarching facts about Lima. Average home price $39,000, 34 percent of citizens below the poverty line with an average household income in Lima of $28,000 (much lower than $53,000 national average) and an unemployment rate of 6 percent (pretty much the national average).

She explains that state-level budget balancing has left cities with less money for services, though the overarching sadness of crummy towns with opportunities drying up is not easily solvable by slightly richer city governments, nor does she try to claim it is.

Reitman does find, and tell, a handful of stories of people disappointed in their income, mortgages, or job prospects. They are well told enough, and a bit depressing. If you wanted to scan them for times when maybe it was choices and not just malign fate (and certainly not their congressman's record of failed votes) that made things harder on her subjects, you could do that.

Turns out leaving your six-figure oil industry job for reasons of scruples to teach college chemistry might leave you less well off later on than you want to be. And while you can retrain yourself for new careers, like in wind turbines, if you get a good job in that field out of state but then leave it rather than relocate your family, you might end up working a maintenance job. Turns out if you run a "specialty wine and beer shop" in this desolate sad wasteland, some customers might make you feel uncomfortable for being Democrats by things they say.

Lots of women have kids young, even though abortion is theoretically legal though hard to get in this state. The uncharitable might get the sneaky feeling that Reitman is sorta implying some of Lima's current infant class would have been better off never having been born.

An unredacted excerpt:

Most of the young middle- and working-class women I meet in Lima had children very young, many before they were 18; Allen County has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Ohio. And yet, Ohio has been at the forefront of recent attacks on reproductive rights. The state has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and its most recent budget placed $1.4 million in funding for Planned Parenthood at risk, while allocating money to Christian-based "crisis pregnancy centers." Lima's one family-planning clinic offering limited abortion services recently closed down; today, a search for abortion clinics in Lima will turn up a pro-life organization called Heartbeat of Lima. Though the county health department offers free birth control, a woman wanting an abortion must travel more than an hour to Toledo, to a clinic that, thanks to restrictions that have closed almost half of Ohio's abortion clinics in the past year, may soon be forced to shut its doors. "People don't talk about abortion in Lima," says Carissa.

She's just sayin',perhaps, but it's kind of a weird way to lead into your completely disinterested discussion of the availability of abortion in grim Lima.

You will learn the basics of the politics of these people she profiles struggling through hard times, and they will be neither surprising nor interesting, except maybe for the woman who wrote in "Mickey Mouse" for president, or the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" 33-year old "aspiring writer who blogs in verse and writes reviews for a small culture website, -TheCultDen.com, [and] has spent much of his adult life in the service industry" (currently working a tech support call center), carless and spending half his meager income on child support.

He calls himself an anarchist disgusted with politics and:

he insists the system is being manipulated. His divorced father worked sporadically during McKenzie's childhood, and since 2009 he has received disability, which McKenzie thinks he doesn't need. "I love my father, he is one of my best friends, but he is lazy. He gets disability, food stamps, and he has a plasma TV with all the HD channels." Several of McKenzie's relatives are also on disability, which he blames on the welfare system itself. "They've all been ushered through the process of how to get it, and so they take advantage. It's become the American dream to get everything for free without having to do a lot of work."

Reportorially, despite some diligent work in painting its sad picture, this is the kind of story that troubles to repeat that a "Lima Democrat" referred to the way state Republicans gerrymandered the state to lock the Democrats into only four statewide House seats as leading to a district that "kind of looks like a deformed salamander."

If you wanted to question whether the very fact of living in American modernity is as dispiriting and awful as she wants to make you feel, you could do that. Reitman's sad, sad Lima features:

gigantic homes on lots with their own private ponds, each of them a near-mirror image of one another. Out on the broad, open streets, the faceless strip malls, chain hotels and smaller one- and two-story houses fade into a seamless tableau. Even in Lima's urban neighborhoods, where, [retired nursing instructor, and pal of Reitman's mom, Sandie] Kinkle tells me, some of her friends from the country club refuse to go, there is a strange homogeneity. 

Grossed out yet? How about seeing:

Rent-a-Center, a Dollar Tree, an American Budget Co. and a Check Into Cash, as well as the requisite nail salon and pet-supply shops. There is also a gigantic Walmart Supercenter fronting an empty lot. 

Ain't that America? If you don't live in New York City, yes, that's what life looks like, mostly. Want to kill yourself yet?

If you wonder what the Tea Party has to do with any of these people's lives or samey houses or faceless strip malls or chain hotels or strange homogeneity or dollar stores, you won't learn much. Longterm well paying jobs with great benefits have been replaced in many cases by temp work; it's harder to make ends meet for many residents of Lima; welcome to the 21st century, or at least one small part of it.

If inclined to blame all bad aspects of anyone's lives on political parties or movements, ponder that of the eight Ohio cities known as the "big 8" of deindustrialization,  Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Canton, and Youngstown–at least four of them (Columbus, Toledo, Cleveland and Akron) are represented in whole or in part by Democrats.

Could it be that framing this story about general diminution of industrial presence and union power in one American city (though it is true of other cities as well, to be sure) as a "Tea Party" story is merely based in an unlovely desire to demonize a political Other rather than reason or evidence? But I suppose a cover headline reading "Some Midwesterners Unhappy with their Jobs, Podunk Burg" wouldn't fly off the stands, or allow RS readers to pat themselves on the back for having such evil enemies.

Reason on how to save Ohio's jewel, Cleveland.

NEXT: LA Schools: Millions for iPads, But Not One Cent for Math Textbooks

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  1. A rolling stone gathers no facts…or sense…or journalistic integrity…or decent readership!

    1. They send it to me for free, so it naturally finds it way into the bathroom.

      But its real natural home is the trashcan

      1. Go to your home! Are you too good for your home!

      2. What, afraid of clogging your septic tank?

  2. “opposing virtually any government-spending proposal: the TARP stimulus package, the auto bailout, the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, raising the debt ceiling, even emergency aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He has voted to defund the Affordable Care Act 52 times.”

    Is this supposed to be derision?

    1. And yet, all of those things that he voted against were actually passed, right? So how did his failing to get his way have any effect at all? Another idiot journalist.

      1. He wasn’t on board to make sure his district got their share of the lucre.

        I really think that is the shit they think when they say “fair share”.

      2. come on, Bill: intentions, not outcomes, are what really matter.

  3. On top of it all, Rolling Stone can’t even stay hip and relevant anymore. Blaming the Tea Party is a bit 2010, no? We blame libertarians and the Kochtopus now (but I repeat myself).

    Can’t be arsed, but were there any mentions of Somalia in the piece? If not, take off another 10 points.

    1. When does anyone blame libertarians for anything but occasionally gifting close senate races to big government leftist? The Tea Party and Koch Brothers catch flack because that are committed to electing Republicans, the only threat to leftism left in America, while at the same time trying to change the Republican Party’s indentity. Liberals adore libertarians because they are a useful tool for attacking social conservatives and have no polifical power with which to oppose liberalism.

      1. It’s become fashionable in a lot of left wing rags, like Salon and Slate for example, to blame creeping libertarianism for the ails that were once blamed on the Tea Party. You’d probably have to have read more widely than Red State to have noticed.

        1. Tehehehe. Doesn’t contest a single thing I said. Yes libertarianism is highly unpopular with the electorate so it is often used to describe policies the left doesnt like. But the left spends no time attacking the Libertarian Party or libertarains magazines like Reason. Occasionally someone will mention CATO but only in order to evoke the dreaded Kochtopus.

          1. I can only guess from the Tehehehe that those voices in your head making arguments not seen anywhere on this website are on some pretty good shit.

        2. I’ve met plenty of progressives who will tell you with a straight face that it is the existence of libertarians that have prevented their policies from being successful.

          1. And I reply to my progressive friends, “If only…”

          2. You were expecting them to actually recognize reality?

          3. who are these libertarians of whom they speak?

      2. WAH my party sucks and my SoCon contingent is a dying force and libertarians’ fault! WAH!

  4. As typical with this sort of tripe, it tells you everything about the author and nothing about the people of Lima.

  5. It never fails to amaze me how libertarians and tea partiers were able to destroy this country without ever having any power.

    1. They’re the judo masters of politics.

    2. It always amazes me how this nation crushes millions of baby skulls each year with abortion being theoretically legal but oh so difficult. Triumph of hope over experience I guess.

      1. At least we don’t dry them out, powder their dead bodies, and make dead baby gel tabs out of them.

        Seriously, the Chinese are some sick fucks.

    3. Thinking bad thoughts. I think there was a word for it in 1984.

  6. Lima, OH. Home of a huge chemical plant that produces HCN and a host of carcinogens, and ‘GLEE’. Coincidence, I think not.

  7. You think women who want to vacuum their wombs have it tough? what about Cleveland Indians fans who live in Northern Ohio? It’s therortical possible for them to attend a game but theyd have to drive there. Kind of like how it was theoretically possible you could cross the atlantic ocean but who wants to take the risk. My question is this are we truly free if you can’t get an abortion while waiting for your Hamburger at Culver’s? I don’t think so? I’d would watch one million christian bakers driven out of business and see every pastors sermons subpoenaed if I knew it would guarantee me the peace of mind of knowing somewhere a women didn’t have to drive more than five blocks to get an abortion.

    1. If getting an abortion isn’t as free and easy as getting knocked up in the first place – then the socons have won!

  8. I used to think was a good thing that in the post-war years we went from a manufacturing based economy to a service and information based one. Turns out I was so, so naive and misguided.

    1. We still manufacture a lot of things, but not the low-end stuff any more. And note the ironies:

      1) Back in the ’50s the left bemoaned “dead-end and dirty” industrial jobs, and now they’re nostalgic for them.

      2) Major reasons why those jobs left for overseas: taxes, regulations, and unions, all of which the left loves.

      1. Yep.

        The American manufacturing sector is more impressive than ever, precisely because we produce more with fewer people.

        Does anyone want those farm jobs to return from Tractorputyououtofworkistan?

      2. Recent lefty nostalgia for the 50s cracks me up. In the 90a, the left decried social conservative 50s nostalgia, but now they are doing the same thing (but for seemingly different reasons). It’s another thing the left and right agree on: the 50s were great.

        1. I find it especially rich because the right has some genuine socioeconomic data on their side: numbers on family formation, out-of-wedlock births, labour force participation, etc. What does the left have that isn’t Krugman-level “Nostalgianomics“?

          1. It’s also very ironic that the left is pining for an era where blacks, women, homosexuals and so on were treated for worse than they are now.

            1. According to Dr. Sowell, the 1940’s and 1950’s were the decades in which the African American community made its greatest gains, economically speaking.

              1. That is true, but only because of their terrible economic state prior to then. The Chinese have made great economic gains lately for the same reason.

            2. Of course they use that whenever they want to argue against “going backward” by having lower taxes or whatever.

      3. That’s why the left now insists that it is unpatriotic to go abroad to avoid things like taxes and regulations.

  9. The Tea Party hook, in the story’s title and cover (“Where the Tea Party Rules”) and cover headline, comes strictly from the fact that Lima’s congressman, Republican Jim Jordan, is by her telling a serious Tea Party small government ideologue. (One of Ohio’s Senators, Sherrod Brown, in a Democrat.)

    Sorry, I can’t make heads or tails of this sentence.

    1. Try this: The Tea Party hook … comes strictly from the fact that Lima’s congressman … is [, by Janet Reitman’s account,] a serious Tea Party small government ideologue.

      1. Try this: Reitman no like tea party.

  10. Similar to this Reddit thread. Madison County jail in Alabama has seen three prisoners die due to neglect in the last year and a half, including a 19 year old who died due to gangrene. What’s to blame? Clearly private prisons (even though this wasn’t a private prison) and capitalism.


    1. Call Derpetologist, and have him bring his suit.

    2. [swoops in, rips open shirt to reveal a capital D]

      I’m just guessing: I can’t imagine this kind of thing happening with a federal or state run prison just because of the bureaucracy involved. I would think (assume) that this kind of thing can happen with for-profit prisons that are privately operated, maybe?
      But again, observer looking in with little to no knowledge of how that all actually works. Would be neat if someone who knows would chime in.
      edit: So I only had to scroll down a little to see, but it sounds like private prisons have a lot more leeway with what they can do with inmates.

      1. just because of the bureaucracy involved

        aw c’mon, how stupid can you be?

  11. [?]vlasvilneous [score hidden] 33 minutes ago
    Republicans… welcome to your Capitalistic society.

    [?]DKPminus [score hidden] 12 minutes ago
    We live in a capitalistic society, you dimwit.

    [?]vlasvilneous [score hidden] 11 minutes ago
    Perhaps you should look into what governs it, uneducated fool.

  12. ButtsexEurope [score hidden] an hour ago
    Free market will fix everything, eh?

    [?]Anarkos [score hidden] an hour ago
    This is government neglect you fob.

    [?]jpop23mn [score hidden] 48 minutes ago
    Did you read the article?

    [?]ButtsexEurope [score hidden] 57 minutes ago
    Small government is about reducing spending. This is what reduced spending gets you.

    1. It’s gotten to where I cannot even debate people like this anymore because I have to explain why their premise is wrong (untangling their world view) before I can rebut what was said.

      1. I scorn and condescend to them. They like the abuse, like the worms they are.

  13. The jail in question is the Madison County Jail in Alabama:


    But of course none of our very special friends bothered to look into that.

  14. The best county history museum I’ve ever visited is in Lima. They have every fire engine going back to the earliest volunteer department before the War of Northern Aggression, a bunch of really cool John Dillinger artifacts mostly related to the jailbreak up in Dayton, and a great ethnographic collection unrelated to the county except thaty it was assembled by a rich native son who travelled the exotic parts of the world exploring and big game hunting. I was truly impressed by the institution.

    I don’t remember much else other than eating a pork tenderloin sandwich with the thin deep fried meat about twice the diameter of the bun and that Lima is where they make our battle tanks. I’ve visited a lot of worse places.

  15. oh, if only they were *wise*, they’d be living in a civic utopia like Detroit!?

  16. If Rolling Stone Writers were to suddenly become Christian, they would blame the Tea Party for the Crucifixion.

    1. The Tea Party are the new Jews.

  17. The Tea Party has always been about big government – for themselves.


    1. How’s Paris?

        1. The funny thing is that wealthy Europeans can escape taxes by moving. The US taxes worldwide income. It will be interesting to see whether Europe changes its tax laws to tax worldwide income too.

  18. Sorry, I can’t make heads or tails of this sentence.

    It’s Doherty. What did you expect?

  19. Supreme Court allows Texas voter ID law to stand in ruling early this morning.

    Eat a giant bag of dicks, you left wing scumbags. Your days of voting five times in one election are slowly coming to an end.

    1. Lighting the Bo signal!

  20. OK, I was assigned to our Lima site for a couple years. Lived in a farmtown (Ottawa) straight north of there, and straight west of Findlay. Mid 2000’s, right when the economy went in the terlet.

    Loved it. LOVED. It. Best people I’ve ever worked with.

    But the areas been devastated by the loss of the railroad industry and SERIOUS cutback in gen’l mfg. You either worked for us, Dana, Valero oil, the tank plant, or Procter and Gable, or you were a farmer or on welfare. Period. The city itself was a sad place, but its wounds mostly were self inflicted. The “‘burbs” (if they can be called that) were superb.

    The old homes down main street are typical small Midwest town c. 1880’s – huge and beautiful. I SO wanted one, but none for sale. So – I lived on five acres in a former cornfield with a pond. I could shoot my guns using the dirtpile from the pond as my backstop. Rode dirtbikes in the yard.

    Heaven. Alas, I was transferred back to the D….thence on to Cleveland (which was also great), now back to the D. Life in the auto industry….

    1. PS the point being that, as others noted, the author is full of shit. Lima’s decline started – like so many other places, in the 60’s and 70’s, long before the words “Tea Party” referred to anything but the 1770’s. The current senator or congresstard has zero to do with what’s going on there, whether he/she/it is Team RED or Team BLUE.

  21. But the areas been devastated by the loss of the railroad industry and SERIOUS cutback in gen’l mfg.

    I blame BOOOOSH.

  22. According to some guy on CNN, the vast Ebola epidemic currently sweeping across America is the NRA’s fault, because their Congressional puppets won’t let the President appoint a Surgeon General.

    1. I’ve heard that, too, on a couple of sites like New Republic. Maybe when you nominate an SG, that person should be focused on, you know, actual health-related things rather than totems.

    2. If we don’t have a Surgeon general, then who’s this dude – RADM Boris D. Lushniak?

      1. And you can ask them what about when Carmona left? Who were the people keeping Bush from appointing a replacement for so long that we went through *THREE* different people serving as the ‘acting’ SG? And were they the same people who kept Obama from appointing one until the end of 2009? Or did the partisans suddenly swap places after the election?

  23. Average home price $39,000, 34 percent of citizens below the poverty line with an average household income in Lima of $28,000 (much lower than $53,000 national average) and an unemployment rate of 6 percent (pretty much the national average).

    With a cost of living that low, I’d say the residents of Lima are making out financially.

    Sure you may only be making 28k a year, but your expenses are tiny also.

    How many places where the median income is 58k also have average house prices at only 140% of that income? Most of those places will see house prices at 4+ times their annual salary.

  24. He opposed all that and it passed anyway. Since it passed and people suffered, the logical conclusion is that if these policies are related to the harm that people suffered, he was right and the people who voted for those policiess were wrong.

    You don’t get to pass lousy legislation and then blame the people who told you it was lousy for its failures.

    1. You don’t get to pass lousy legislation and then blame the people who told you it was lousy for its failures.

      Well, you do if you are a Democrat.

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