In a picture that appeared with a story on Rep. Beverly Byron in Thursday's editions, Gladys Jacobs was incorrectly identified as one of 2,000 persons in Cumberland, Md., who have recently lost their jobs.
The top labor union leader in this industrial pocket of Appalachia is a Republican whose office wall is adorned with a pencil drawing of Hubert H. Humphrey.
The local welfare office was peopled on a recent day by food stamp applicants who say they support President Reagan's budget cuts.
Such apparent contradictions are fairly common here in Maryland's 6th Congressional District, a political crazy quilt of proverty-infested mountains and suburban plains that for decades has produced Republican congressmen who vote like Democrats and Democrats who vote like Republicans. Last November, the conservative, heavily Democratic district voted lopsidely for Ronald Reagan while returning to Congress its favorite daughter, Democrat Beverly B. Byron.
Now Byron, true to 6th District tradition, has deserted her party to support the Reagan administration budget in the House -- one of only two Democrats from Northern states to do so.
Beverly tries to keep her ear very close to the heartbeat of the district and to always vote the heartbeat," says Democrat Casper Taylor Jr., a Cumberland state legislator and local restaurateur. "But I don't know whether her hearing was good on this one or not."
Byron, 48, known for her close contact with constituents and her liberal use of questionnaires to tap their sentiments, said in an interview yesterday that she voted her district's wishes as well as its best interest. "The system we've been working under has not worked," she said. "I'm willing to give the president's proposals a chance." The people of Western Maryland, as elsewhere, want the federal government off their backs, she said.
That sentiment, common throughout the country, is another apparent contradiction in the context of Maryland's sprawling 6th, where the federal government last year spent about $1.2 billion of its $528 billion budget. Nonetheless, the feeling persists here that the government, for all its largesse, has done little to solve the chronic problems of the district, which stretches from the Baltimore-Washington suburbs of Columbia and northern Montgomery County to the far-flung western tip of the state.
The problems are most acute in the depressed city of Cumberland (population 26,000 and falling), which typifies Maryland's three westernmost counties. Located 140 miles northwest of Washington, Cumberland looks something like a swath of the industrial Midwest plunked down in the lush foothills of Appalachia. Like the rest of western Maryland, it reflects the problems of both regions: one and one-half times the national rate of unemployment, a shrinking job market, twice the percentage of elderly as the state, and food stamp and welfare rolls that are growing faster than the city of Baltimore's.
Social workers throughout the district predict that, for those reasons, the Reagan cuts will hurt more here than elsewhere -- and far more than people here expect.
"Oh, jeez, I just know people are going to hurt!" said Dick Paulman, who runs the welfare and social service programs here in Allegany County. "What are people going to do when they can't eat, they can't feed their children, they can't keep their families warm in the winter? I just don't see how Beverly Byron could have voted the way she did."
Byron's press secretary said her mail and phone calls are running "about 50-50," for and against her vote. Yet, interviews here in the two weeks since the House budget vote turned up strong support, not only among businessmen and party leaders, but also among working people and many who are jobless. The only consistent protests came from the elderly, who make up a disproportionate bloc of Western Maryland, as they do throughout Appalachia.
"The people of Western Maryland feel they've been shafted for more than 100 years -- shafted by the government and by business, by the feds and by the state," said Bob Wempe, head of Allegany County's school lunch program, in which almost half the students now qualify for federally subsidized meals. Many of them will lose subsidies under the budgets that passed the House and Senate.
"They think they're the last people to get everything -- roads, jobs, you name it. They don't think they're losing anything because they never had it to begin with," said Wempe, whose family has lived here since the early 1800's, when Cumberland was a booming mining town and railroad hub.
What separates supporters and opponents of Byron's vote is mainly a state of mind. In Western Maryland, there is only one gospel, people say -- the gospel of jobs -- and like the region's independent mountainfolk it is the product of generations of hard times. Those who believe the Reagan promise of economic revival through federal austerity say they are ready to hunker down and bear the pain of a transition; after all, they say, they have suffered before. The others are fearful, and many are angry -- at Reagan and at Byron.
Painter Jim Bone is in the first group; sawmill operator Gerald (Sonny) Logsdon is in the second. The two were drinking beer together at a local bar on a recent night, and in many ways, they are alike: Both refer to themselves proudly as "working class;" both suspect that the major factories here keep unemployment high on purpose, to swell the labor pool; both believe the government has done little to help the economy.
Said Logsdon, 51, the doubter: "I don't like waste, either, but if you're out of a job and you can't draw unemployment, then what are you going to do with CETA jobs or welfare or food stamps? They should take the cuts out of the higher class. The lower class always gets it."
Bone, 44, the believer: "The man's trying something that ain't been done before. You have to give him a chance. Programs are one thing. What we need in this neck of the woods is industry."
The gospel of jobs is so powerful that it has even made Reaganomics palatable to some food stamp recipients -- at least for now. Jane Ott, a 34-year-old mother of four, whose husband recently was laid off from the local PPG industries glass plant here and who said her family depends totally on food stamps for meals, put it this way: "It would put quite a bind on us if we lost food stamps. But we'd find a way. They always say where there's a will there's a way." She said she voted for Reagan, and she and her husband still believe in his program.
In many ways, these are the most compelling advocates Ronald Reagan could hope for -- the poor and near-poor with whom the Democratic party has been identified for a generation. With so much at stake, they also could become his and Byron's sternest judges. "This is either going to devastate the Democrats up here or it's going to turn all the Republicans into Democrats. It's taking one big gamble," said Democrat Tom Cumiskey, another local legislator.
One of the local officials who knows Cumberland's economy best is not betting on Reagan. He is Richard Mappin, a former county commissioner and now the head of the Allegany County Economic Development Co., which has been fighting for years to lure industry to town. "We don't have the tax base here to rebuild our economy without federal help," Mappin said.
The economy is dominated by five major manufacturing plants, all built before World War II and closely tied to the national economy. The local tire and glass plants have been hit hard by the auto and housing industry slumps; the five plants together have cut 2,100 jobs from their payrolls since 1971, a 23 percent drop, according to Mappin. He and the Chamber of Commerce have managed to replace some of the jobs by luring several small plants to town, with subsidies from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration. But ARC and EDA were pared by more than one-third in the House budget.
With each surge of layoffs, the food stamp and welfare rolls have bulged, as have the applications for the CETA public jobs program eliminated in both the House and Senate budget bills.
CETA, so unpopular in many cities, has been one of the favorites here, again because of the jobs gospel: for all its faults, it put people to work, local advocates say. In 1979, CETA enrolled 1,238 people in Allegany County, making it the third largest employer.
"The only real solution to our problems is to get full employement like this guy says," proclaimed AFL-CIO chief Stanley Zorick, pointing to the picture of Hubert Humphrey that hangs on his wall. "Then the other programs will cut themselves."
Zorick is not a believer, though. Like Mappin, he believes his area needs federal cushions such as CETA jobs. Now, he says, his union is looking hard for a more moderate Democrat to support against Byron in the 1982 primary.
It would not be easy to topple her, though. The daughter of a wartime naval aide to Dwight Eisenhower, she is the fourth in what is known here as the "Byron dynasty" -- following in the steps of her late husband, Goodloe, and his late parents, who all represented the district, and who all voted more like Republicans than Democrats, in tune with the district's sentiments.
Her vote for the Reagan budget was greeted with ambivalence by Republicans who long have coveted the 6th District seat. Said stae party chairman Dr. Allan C. Levey: "This makes her extremely difficult to beat. cWe've been monitoring her, and she has almost a 100 percent record on the votes that really count for the administration." If Byron is reelected next year, Levey said he will ask her to vote at the start of her next term for the Republican rather than the Democratic leadership, in line with her voting record.
Byron, told yesterday of Levey's plans, laughed and exclaimed: "Allan Levey's crazy. I've been a Democrat since I went down to register to vote for the most time." Asked to explain what distinguishes her from a Republican, she answered: "I wouldn't know."