When people think of Florida, they usually think of two things: Disney World and sunny beaches. Ask a national politician what they think about Florida and they will tell you there are three of them: (1) Southeastern Florida from West Palm Beach on down to the Keys, (2) a fifty mile wide band that runs from Tampa to Titusville and (3) Everything else. People whose job it is to classify regions in the United States would classify southern Florida as Caribbean, the Tampa to Titusville strip as Urban and Everything else as Deep South. People who vacation in Florida only know about the Caribbean and Urban country. Politicians focus on the Deep South. That’s where the voters are.
I am not from Florida but I have lived in the Miami area for almost thirty years. Today, as it was in 1990, if I travel 70 miles north, I might as well be in Tuscaloosa. And it’s like that for the next 100 miles and the next 100 miles and another 100 miles after that. Except for that little bit of Interstate that runs through Orlando.
Horse farm in Bronson. Only Texas has more.
There are a lot of things that would seem to most people to be terribly wrong in Florida. The state is a reasonably rich, maybe not a California or New York rich but certainly it holds its own with the likes of Ohio or Pennsylvania and does a fair shade better than places usually thought of as nice places to live – Colorado, Washington and Oregon come to mind. Tourism is the number one income producer here but there are a lot of large national service companies in Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Northern Florida is covered with rich farmland and if they are not breeding horses, they are growing fruits and vegetables for their northern brethren. There is money here, lots of it.
But the voting part of Florida doesn’t like parting with their money. We don’t have an income tax here which the natives and snow birds just love but it also means it’s hard to get money to pay for things governments usually do. Things like education – Florida is 50st lowest state in per student funding. Nobody does screwing kids better than us. What about healthcare? Well Florida ranks 48th
in health access and affordability, prevention and treatment metrics. That comes from the Common Wealth Fund which even the Governor agrees is nonpartisan. Only Louisiana and Mississippi fare worse. The Florida Department of Health offers their own impressive statistics – we have the highest uninsured population in the US, rank 49th in providing mental health services, and have some of the rottenest teeth in the nation. If you live in Urban Florida, 74% of us see a dentist at least once a year; in Deep South, 31%. They don’t eat those grits in Pensacola for nothing.
You can’t swing a cat without hitting a prison in Florida
It goes on –We love prisons. Florida has the highest incarceration rate in WORLD. But for all the fun we have putting people behind bars, we are the third lowest in the amount we spend per prisoner so if you in a jail here, it’s a pretty rough ride. Alabama and Louisiana are worst but only by a couple of percentage points.
Then there’s the drinking water – last year we had more EPA drinking water standards violations than any other state except Texas (of course they have almost twice as many people as we do). It’s pretty bad water. When northerners come visit me in Miami, they notice that the commode always looks like it needs to be flushed. They don’t say anything at first but after they flush it another a couple of times, they figure it’s OK to politely observe that the water in these parts is yellow. I respond, “Yep, and you don’t want to drink it either.”
Potable means you can drink it.
I have a neighbor who works for the State who says bottled water was invented in Florida. He leaves off the reason – only a fool would drink the water here. My water is yellow because the farmers up north dump loads of fertilizers on their fields whose run-off goes directly into the aquifers. Nobody in Deep South Florida gives a shit and when it comes to election time when there could be a change to elect a government that might care to do something about it, the Urban and Caribbean Floridas stay away from the polls. They figure it’s cheaper to buy bottled water.
The Thing That Cannot Be Named
It goes on and on. State employees are forbidden to use the phrase ‘Climate Change’ because our current Governor as well as our last two former ones didn’t believe such a thing exists. If you live in the Miami or Tampa areas twenty years ago, streets were pretty dry throughout the year even if they were a couple of blocks from the ocean. Now we get localized flooding every time there is high tide due to the Thing That Cannot Be Named. Since global warming does not exist in Florida but property insurers have suddenly become reluctant to sell insurance for homes within three miles of a beach, the state stepped in to guarantee any losses insurers might incur if The Thing That Cannot Be Named causes flood damage to a property. The Deep South Floridians haven’t figured out that they are now paying to ensure the big high rises along South Beach. However, they have done a lot more dumber things so I am betting they aren’t going to figure that one out for a long, long time.
The Home Depot in Lake City
What else have we got? Conceal and Carry – you bet – it all started here. Ditto with Stand Your Ground laws. You don’t see a lot of gun slingers out in the open here in Miami but stop in at a Wynn-Dixie (it’s a grocery store chain) in Ocala and it’s like walking along Main Street in Tombstone when the cattle drive comes through.
There is another interesting area that Florida is also a leader in – the number of hate groups that call this state home. The Southern Poverty Law Institute inventories hate groups by state. Last year, Florida had 66 of them, more than any other state except California (‘natch) and tied with Texas (double ‘natch). Some people might say that relates to another interesting statistic – 93% of all white people who shoot someone with a Stand Your Ground defense get off while only 26% of blacks do. I am just saying.
Most people who live in Florida know most of this stuff one way or the other. Maybe not the statistic but certainly the effect. None of us pay income taxes. We like that. A whole bunch of us drink bottled water because we want to live. The larger bunch that don’t drink bottled water eventually gets a dreaded disease but as the chance of them having medical insurance is pretty low, they won’t do much about it until it’s too late and the state has to pay a lot of money to medicate them while they die. Their survivors will still continue to complain the state shouldn’t be providing medical care to anyone anytime – doctoring ain’t the business of the state.
How can you go wrong with Spring Water that has an Eagle on its label?
It is not likely anything will change. The Deep South Florida has been keener on voting than the rest of Florida for the last eight presidential elections. Forget the off year elections – most people in Miami don’t know such a thing exists. So if you ignore elections and nothing changes, well you really can’t complain can you? And that seems to be just fine for every one that lives here – the Urban and Caribbean guys get to keep a whole bunch of tourist dollars every year and no income tax is a nice thing if you think about it that way. Sure you can’t drink the ground water but that’s why Wynn Dixie stocks all those shelves of spring water.