“I’m going to go hide for two years,” he said, until “he” — President Obama — is on his way out. “It’s sad. People are hurting. There’s no reason for it to be happening, other than what he’s doing.”
If you want to understand the congressional Republicans who have forced confrontations with Obama on the “fiscal cliff,” the government shutdown and the debt ceiling — and whether those lawmakers might feel encouraged to force more confrontations in the future — you need to understand the economic struggles of the Republicans’ home districts.
People in those districts are poorer and more likely to be unemployed than in the nation at large. They have focused their anger about their economic circumstances on Obama, and they want someone, anyone, to make him improve things for them. This is why Hackett praises his congressman, Tom Graves, for voting against the plan to end the budget impasse with Obama that produced the shutdown. “I think he’s great,” he said of Graves. “Somebody’s got to stand up to him.”
Forty-five House Republicans have most consistently pushed their caucus to brinkmanship over the past several years, according to a Washington Post analysis of voting patterns.
On average, the economy in the districts those Republicans represent is significantly worse than it is in the nation at large.
The median income in those districts last year was 7 percent lower than the national median, according to the Census Bureau. The unemployment rate averaged 10 percent. That was almost two percentage points higher than the national rate, and two percentage points higher than the overall rate in the states that contain each district.
The epicenter of that economic distress lies in the Deep South. Four of the congressional districts are in North Georgia. A dozen others are close by in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and North and South Carolina. Nearly all of them ended 2012 with jobless rates in the double digits.
The Rome metro area has fewer jobs today than it did when the recession ended in 2009. The unemployment rate was 10 percent last year, and it has fallen this year, to 8.8 percent in August, only because so many people have given up looking for work.
The city of 36,000 sits a little more than an hour northwest of Atlanta, near the Alabama and Tennessee borders. It doesn’t look depressed. Construction crews are building big-box stores on the highway into town, and on a recent night, several restaurants in the historic downtown were nearly full for dinner.