SIMMONS: An ‘Are you better off?’ checklist
Let’s tune into WII-FM, the “what’s in it for me?” station, which monitors answers to the penultimate question: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley’s preamble to the Democrats’ convention said it all: “No.”
But whether you’re a voter living in a battleground state, in true-blue territory or a Free Stater residing in Maryland, where the unemployment rate is ticking upward, the question we all will face come Nov. 6 is who will be the right president for the next four years to help us turn the corner.
So, dear readers, let’s take a quick road trip of insightful glimpses.
Foreclosures: Rates in Maryland perhaps explain why “no” rolled off Mr. O'Malley’s tongue.
During the second quarter of this year, a tsunami of at least 20,000 new foreclosure filings let loose in Maryland, or 20 in every 1,000 home loans. That’s twice the national average.
It’s also worth noting that, while Mr. O'Malley’s state is a likely Democratic shoo-in, and the foreclosure crisis is practically an unmentionable on the presidential campaign trail, more than 3.7 million homes have been lost to foreclosure in the last four years. Several of the states with the highest foreclosure rates — including Florida, Nevada and Ohio — are battlegrounds.
Poverty: When it comes to cities with populations of more than 250,000, the 10 poorest all have about a quarter or more of their residents living below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. In Detroit, 33 percent of its residents live below the poverty line; Buffalo, N.Y., 30 percent; Cincinnati, 28 percent; Cleveland, 27 percent; Miami, 27 percent; St. Louis, 27 percent; El Paso, Texas, 26 percent; Milwaukee, 26 percent; Philadelphia, 25 percent; Newark, N.J., 24 percent.
And the poorest of the poor among cities with a population of 65,000 or more is Reading, Pa., where the poverty rate is an astounding 41.3 percent.
Crime: A cafeteria shooting opened the Baltimore-area school year, following on the heels of the deadly gunfire outside the Empire State Building in New York, a mass shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee and that July movie-theater massacre in the Denver metro area — and then there is Chicago.
Compared with the first seven months of 2011, President Obama’s hometown has seen a 31 percent increase in its homicide rate this year. In fact, 82 people were either killed or wounded by gun violence between Aug. 23 and Aug. 31 alone. And on Aug. 30, while Mayor Rahm Emmanuel was sizing up the wrap-up of the Republicans’ convention and prepping for his own confab, the Windy City’s killing spree claimed 10 lives.
Unemployment: The newest numbers should be released Friday, but the rates on the books so far this year for the District, Virginia and Maryland voters aren’t reflecting a way forward. The overall unemployment rate for the nation’s capital in July was 8.9 percent, while the rate in the city’s overwhelmingly black Ward 8, which is east of the Anacostia River, was a startling 22.5 percent.
Maryland’s July unemployment rate, meanwhile, was 7 percent (compared with 6.9 percent in June). Virginia’s July unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent, an increase of 0.2 percent from a month before.
School dropouts: Nevada, home to the nation’s highest unemployment rate with 12 percent of residents out of work in July, certainly doesn’t appear to be on the road forward, with only 61.9 percent of students starting high school in 2007 graduating within five years.
Nationwide, here are the numbers of students by race who earn regular high school diplomas, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education: 56 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of blacks, 51 percent of American Indians, 77 percent of whites and 81 percent of Asians.
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