Author Archives: rbkhoury

News & Views

A roundup of news and analyses from and about Ohio – 10 September 2012

Over the last two weeks politicians and analysts alike have sought to give and take credit for Ohio’s economic recovery. My favorite piece is “Did Barack Obama Save Ohio?” by Matt Bai for the New York Times Magazine on 5 September 2012. You can listen to the discussion here, read more about Ohio’s centrality in the campaigns here, and see how the parties’ are sparring here. I have my own take on the centrality and reality about Ohio in the elections, “Are You Listening Ohio? It’s Me, Washington.”

“State of Working Ohio 2012,” a report released by Policy Matters Ohio on 2 September 2012. This report spurred a lot of discussion and offers critical insights (and reality checks for the overly-optimistic) on the nature of Ohio’s recovery.

“Federal judge orders Ohio to allow early voting on 3 days before Election Day,” by Jim Provance for the Toledo Blade on 31 August 2012. A blow to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s in the battle over voting rights in Ohio. But, this isn’t over yet: Husted is appealing the decision.

“USDA Declares Most of Ohio a Disaster Area,” WOUB/npr/PBS on 5 September 2012. After a long period of drought, federal assistance will help Ohio’s farmers. Here’s a breakdown of the corn production which is so vital to the state’s economy.

“School cuts cost Ohio a lot now, more later,” by David Kushma for the Toledo Blade on 9 September 2012. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities sees the state’s policy of cutting $1.8 billion from public schools as making it less likely that “Ohio will have the workforce it will need to succeed in the future.

“Unglamorous but effective ways to create more jobs,” Bloomberg, 2 September 2012. As it turns out, public and private collaboration in Ohio is one of the best examples of collaboration for the nation to follow. In other words, neither Romney nor Kasich nor even Obama and his bailout are going to do it alone.

“Steel Shipments Reviving Ohio River Valley,” by Keith Schneider in the New York Times on 5 September 2012. Change and continuity in the rust belt.

Are You Listening Ohio? It’s Me, Washington

Please check out my latest article on the centrality (and reality) of Ohio in the presidential campaigns on Aslan Media:

“Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio?” asked Bill Clinton during his notable speech at the Democratic National Convention this week. He wanted to ensure that Ohioans heard him loud and clear when he announced the “job score” that came out of the auto industry restructuring enacted by President Obama at the start of his term: “Obama, 250,000. Romney, 0.”

If Ohioans failed to hear this particular appeal, they surely could not have missed the 31 other times their state was mentioned during the three nights of the Democratic National Convention. Even if they were not tuned in to the party conventions of the last two weeks, they will still have been on the receiving end of the unprecedented 400 television ads per day, or 16 per hour, with which both campaigns are flooding the state. And if Ohioans want something more personal, then they can walk out their doors and catch one of the two presidential candidates who visit their state almost every week. During campaign season, Washington has an unabashed love affair with a place usually derisively referred to as flyover country. As in most affairs, the suitor has one goal in mind. Read the rest here!

Linkon: Can Working-Class Women Have It All?

I wanted to share this recent piece by Sherry Linkon, co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University (see my previous post, “Visiting Youngstown“), entitled “Can Working-Class Women Have It All?” and inspired by the now rather legendary Atlantic piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” When I read Slaughter’s piece a couple of months ago, I was forced to think seriously about my own future and the limitations and challenges I would face as a professional woman if and when I choose to start a family. Slaughter’s piece spoke directly to me, because I am part of the cohort of the highly educated (soon to be) career professionals that her case relates to. Yet as Slaughter herself points out, and as Linkon eloquently expounds in her article, class privilege shapes the nature of this discussion. Linkon writes: “Gender is classed. That’s old news in Working-Class Studies, but it’s a lesson all those pundits talking about women have yet to understand.”

When talking with people in Ohio, including women, I often think of – and am in fact partially motivated by – the distance between public thinkers in Washington, DC, (and their ‘creative class’ brethren in other urban centers), and the reality being lived by average Americans in the rest of the country. I think of Lisa from Grafton, Ohio. Lisa is a nurse and is raising three children on her own, having been divorced from her husband many years ago. Lisa isn’t asking herself if she can get them to soccer practice and then to piano lessons on time, all while ensuring she is personally and professionally satisfied. She loves her kids as much as a woman from any class, but that love is in her concern with avoiding emergencies to stay afloat. As she said to me: “all my kids have always worked since they’ve been young. I taught them how to do that. I live on a budget. And then when emergencies come up, they’re not really emergencies. If the car breaks down, if you’ve got the money there, it’s not really an emergency. If you don’t, it is.” For Lisa, merely asking herself the question “can I have it all?” would be a privilege.

Voting Rights at Stake in the 21st Century

It’s not that national party conventions are entirely irrelevant. Amidst all the pomp and circumstance are significant theatrical displays that reveal forged alliances, potential cabinet picks, and stymied aspirations. But because the party’s nominee is already a given before convening, and no longer decided by debating delegates at the time of the gathering, national party conventions have lost most of their technical and practical usefulness. Other norms, like lobbying on the physical lobby floor of the Capitol Building, have also become rather obsolete in our matured political system. We may have thought that contending for fair voting rights across class and racial lines was also among the remnants of politics past. But on the same day that Mitt Romney was soliciting Americans for their votes, a federal district court had to strike down a Texas law that would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and minority voters. That was just the latest development in a nationwide battle over voting rights. *Read the rest of this article here.

Every Day

Sometimes while I am transcribing interviews, I encounter a statement that hits me with renewed force upon second hearing. I wanted to share one of these exchanges from my conversation with Carl. Carl worked in a refractory plant in Negley, OH, for 38 years before contracting silicosis in his lungs. According to the American Lung Association, silicosis causes fluid buildup and scar tissue in the lungs, cutting down breathing ability. It is common among people who work in construction, mining, sandblasting, etc.

Me: Was your job ever physically risky?

Carl: Every day.

Me: But you were never affected?  Never hurt?

Carl: No. No.


News & Views

A round up of the latest news and analyses from and about Ohio – 27 August 2012

“Romney’s Auto Bailout Stance Complicates Campaign in Battleground Ohio,” by Karen Kasler for NPR on 26 Aug 2012. Romney was against the bailout before he was for it because yes, the bailout helped Ohio.

Senator Rob Portman’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. By Rob Portman, US Senator from Ohio in the CantonRep, 25 Aug 2012. Sums up the Republican stance on Ohio – more resources, less regulation. Romney and Ryan visited Ohio together last week. And of course, Obama was here too.

“Ohio needs more to graduate from college.” The Marietta Times on 25 Aug 2012. 26% of Ohioans have an undergraduate education, compared to national average of 31%.

“China trade deficit cost Ohio nearly 100,000 jobs.” The Dayton Business Journal on 24 Aug 2012. Since 2001, Ohio ranked 8th in losses among the 2.7 million jobs lost across the 50 states due to growing trade gap with China.

“Four Ways Ohio Republicans are already stealing the 2012 election,” by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman for CounterPunch on 23 Aug 2012. 1) Purging voter rolls; 2) Voting machines designed by Republican-backed firms; 3) Possible conflict over photo IDs; and 4) Early voting closures

“Ohio farmers work to keep climate change on the agenda: ‘the drought moved the needle.'” By Stephen Lacey for Think Progress on 22 Aug 2012. A great piece on the effects of climate change on Ohio farming and its entrance into the political discourse, where two major lobbies – the farm bureau and the coal industry – compete for the message.

Visiting Youngstown

“I’m at work most of the day, and I’m so tired at night that I just go to bed as soon as I’ve eaten supper. I have ideas of what a home ought to be, all right, but the way things are now I just eat and sleep here.” – Jim Barr, steelworker, 1910

A couple of days ago I went to Youngstown, Ohio, for a meeting with John Russo, co-founder and co-director (along with Sherry Lee Linkon) of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. I discovered Russo and Linkon through their co-authored book Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown. (I have yet to review the book here, though I intend to. Suffice it to say it is one of the most successful academic works in the country.) After the meeting I spent a couple of hours wandering and wondering about the city. Below is a photo gallery with a few shots using my very amateurish iPhone. I’ve included some interesting bits of history along in the photo captions.

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Occupying Ohio: The Tea Party, Occupy Cleveland, and the Cold War That Wasn’t

For a couple of hours last Saturday, the Tea Party gathered in downtown Cleveland for a rally entitled “Occupy the Truth.” Yes, the Tea Party was operating under the banner of their apparent rivals, the Occupy Movement. That is because the stated purpose of their gathering was to protest the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of a foiled bomb plot by five individuals associated with the Occupy Cleveland movement last spring. One by one, the featured speakers railed against Occupy and the liberal media to a crowd of about 250 (the organizers claimed 1500, the cop I spoke to estimated 250) mostly 50 and 60-year-old white Ohioans. Except for Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and CEO of the Tea Party Patriots, all the speakers were themselves media pundits and producers; most were bloggers. In essence, it was a war against the media by the media.

Update: Read the rest of this article on The Huffington Post!

News and Views

A roundup of news and analyses from and about Ohio – 20 August 2012

“Obama back in Ohio Tuesday following last week’s innovation, infrastructure news,” by John Michael Spinelli for on 19 August 2012. Obama bringing $30 million to Youngstown, 15 transportation infrastructure projects, and himself to Ohio.

“Swing state voters don’t see US economy rebounding,” by Aaron Blake for The Washington Post’s blog “The Fix” on 16 August 2012. The Post is still trying to figure out why Ohioans don’t feel confident about their economic recovery. And here’s the poll itself, showing at least an uptick in confidence in recent years.

“US Plans Institute of Innovation to Strengthen Economy,” by Lalit K Jha for Outlook on 17 August 2012. Obama administration plans an institute to keep jobs from going to India and China. I think an institute will hardly match up to profit-driven motives.

“Ohio GOP Election Official Regrets Black Turnout ‘Machine’ Comment,” by Luke Johnson for the Huffington Post on 20 August 2012. The terms of the debate on Sec. of State Husted’s efforts to reduce early voting hours become sleazier and more blatantly discriminatory against Ohio’s minorities and working class (‘read Democrats’).

“Mass Job Layoffs Decline in Ohio,” by Randy Tucker for the Dayton Daily News on 15 August 2012. This is good news, if you can swallow that 668 is a “low” number of layoff announcements last year.

“Honda’s new Accord brings investment, jobs to Ohio,” AP in CBS Money Watch on 17 August 2012. Honda doing even more good for Ohio than they already were.




What is Ohio’s Middle Class?

Published on 15 August 2012 for The Huffington Post.

On Aug. 14, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rolled through Ohio on his “The Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class” Bus Tour. Two weeks earlier, president-and-candidate Barack Obama made his own appeal to Ohio’s “average middle-class family” on his ninth campaign stop in the state. Both campaigns have placed Ohio and the middle class at the core of their messages. Each insists that they will protect and improve the middle class’s well-being, while the other will destroy it for the sake of the super-rich in one case, the welfare-state in the other. As Ohioans find themselves at the center of all this attention (often unfortunately so, being on the receiving end of 400 political ads per day), I set out to find out what it means to be in Ohio’s middle class, from Ohioans themselves. As it happens, the lower end of the spectrum is lower than Obama, Romney, and our national psyche might realize.  Read the rest here!