Monday Roundup: ‘Small’ State Senators

After 11 years, maybe (maybe) there will be COOL • The cost of drought • What do you do when life expectancy declines • Suicide in the armed forces

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The New York Times wonders if it is exactly democratic for Vermont and its 625,000 residents to have two U.S. Senators, the same as New York and its 19 million residents.

“That means that a Vermonter has 30 times the voting power in the Senate of a New Yorker just over the state line — the biggest inequality between two adjacent states,” writes Adam Liptak. “The nation’s largest gap, between Wyoming and California, is more than double that.”

We don’t know about democratic, but it is constitutional. Liptak does explain that the constitution was written to equalize power among the states in the Senate.

“The Constitution has always given residents of states with small populations a lift, but the size and importance of the gap has grown markedly in recent decades, in ways the framers probably never anticipated,” Liptak writes. “It affects the political dynamic of issues as varied as gun control, immigration and campaign finance.”

Liptak continues:

Behind the growth of the advantage is an increase in population gap between large and small states, with large states adding many more people than small ones in the last half-century. There is a widening demographic split, too, with the larger states becoming more urban and liberal, and the smaller ones remaining rural and conservative, which lends a new significance to the disparity in their political power.

Several stories in this package about an issue that is not going to go away

Onions Need Water — Colin McDonald at the San Antonio Express-News has a good story on what the drought is doing to one Texas town. He goes to Uvalde, where farmers and city (of 15,000) dwellers are preparing to get by on 58 percent of the water they normally pull from the region’s aquifer. 

Farmers are turning vegetable fields (mostly onions) to wheat and ranchers are culling their herds. McDonald writes:

Joe Hargrove, owner of Southwest Livestock Exchange in Uvalde County, regularly sees ranchers selling their entire herds at his weekly auctions because they no longer have the grass to keep the cattle.

He estimates half of the cattle in Uvalde County have been sold, and if rains don’t come in the next 60 to 90 days the herd will have to be cut in half again.

The bank reports that farmers are borrowing less. And every day, a well driller says somebody calls to say their well is dry. 

Farmers are getting support from H-E-B, a Texas grocer that was one of the largest vegetable buyers in Uvalde County. The company says it will be there to buy when farmers start producing again.

“We understand the uncontrollable impact weather conditions and drought can have on their crops and should any of them be forced to step out of growing their usual types of fresh produce items for a period of time, our doors will still be wide open when they get back in,” company spokeswoman Lacey Kotzur said in a statement.

Why’s The Water Still Bad? — Well water in the Woodlands, 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, turned bad more than a year ago. It was orange or black and smelled so bad it was undrinkable. 

At first people blamed fracking, the injection of chemicals and sand underground to pry out oil and gas. The state checked and said that wasn’t the problem. Federal investigators agreed. But the water is still bad.

Could be the wells themselves. Or old coal mines. People there aren’t getting any relief. 

Gun Control and Rural Dems — The AP reports that Democratic Senators coming from states with large rural populations are not exactly enthusiastic backers of new gun control legislation. The story says:

From Montana to Louisiana, these anxious voters have made at least six Democratic senators a little uneasy heading into next year’s election season. Both sides are aware that gun-owners’ rights are taking shape as a campaign issue that could shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

“Make no mistake — it is a very delicate dance for rural state Democrats,” said Barrett Kaiser, a Democratic political consultant. “I would be stunned if the Montana congressional delegation said anything but ‘hell no’ to gun control measures,” he added.

Suicide and the National Guard — Twice as many Texas Army National Guard soldiers have died of suicide as in combat, the Austin American-Statesman writes.  Rural soldiers are particularly vulnerable.

“The more rural you get, the more difficult it is to access those programs,” said Dave Lewis, a retired Air Force colonel and president of Veterans Resource Coordination Group, a Lubbock organization that connects rural vets with health services. “We’re good at recruiting rural folks for the military. But the reality is that when they return to those communities, when they are done with their service, then who is helping at that point?”

Life Expectancy — The Washington Post has run a story on something Daily Yonder readers have known for some time: Not everyone and not every place is living longer lives. There are many places where people are dying at ever younger ages. 

The Post writes:

The widening gap in life expectancy between these two adjacent Florida counties reflects perhaps the starkest outcome of the nation’s growing economic inequality: Even as the nation’s life expectancy has marched steadily upward, reaching 78.5 years in 2009, a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder.

And that grim fact is complicating calls for raising the age of those receiving Medicare and Social Security.

COOL Again — One of the first stories we did at the Daily Yonder six years ago was about COOL — country of origin labeling for meat. The rule (which would tell consumers where a steak was raised) was originally passed in the 2002 Farm Bill but due to all kinds of reasons, it’s never been put into use. Now, maybe soon.

Chris Clayton reports that the USDA will propose new COOL rules today (Monday). The rules will require labels to tell where a cut of meat was born, raised and slaughtered.  Retailers could not mingle cuts from different countries in the same package. 

Clayton tells us this fight isn’t over, that Canadian cattle raisers want the rule struck down.

 

 

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