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GROSS: ALICE through the looking glass

• Jan 23, 2018 at 2:00 PM

I am both surprised and confused that the liberal voice I hear would spend so much time dedicated to telling us how bad our government performs, how self-indulged they are, how ineffective they are, and then continue to tell us that the solution for those living in hardship is a government safety net.

I say this because it is both an assault on logic and a waiver of our responsibilities as citizens and neighbors.

For a long time now, Ottawa County has been a bastion of conservative ideals. A place where we believe hard work generates success and individual freedoms are only as assured as our personal responsibilities would support.

In this county, we take care of our own. We each do so by building safety nets of family, friends, co-workers, classmates and fellows in faith. We do not expect the government to support us, only protect us from our enemies; the rest is on us.

As a result of this conservative ideal, Ottawa County has a healthy job market, excellent education standards, substantial community involvement and the lowest poverty rate of all of our surrounding counties.

We know there is more left to do. There are 24,000 people spread across 9,000 households living in poverty in our county. We know that half that number is transitory; meaning individuals who move in and out of poverty over 18-month cycles. We also know that some 5,000 of these citizens are single parents under the age of 24. Our conservative values continue to drive us toward poverty reduction as they have for the past 10 years. Each church, organization and individual does what is necessary, each to their own ability.

Conservative ideals have made America great and continue to do so. We are the silent majority, preferring to use our actions to show our faith and caring instead of the over-inflated hate speech that the liberal left now uses.

Some of you may be familiar with the A.L.I.C.E. Report. For those who are not, the report details the living conditions for people of every county in each state. This report is underwritten by the United Way. I have read the A.L.I.C.E. report on Ottawa County, as well as a dozen others of these across several states. The report paints a very bleak picture for us here, as it does for every single other county in every other state. What a surprise that a report sanctioned by an organization whose goal it is to convince people to donate to it would show such a negative narrative.

The report tells us that half of our citizens in Ottawa County are living paycheck to paycheck. That inflation and basic costs outpace income. However, look closely at the report, and you begin to see the bias. It is in what the story does not tell.

It does not say that the most significant driver of the cost of living over average pay raise is health care; which has outpaced cost-of-living increases for nearly 10 straight years. It does not tell you that the age group most likely to live financially challenged are adults under age 35; a time in everyone's life when they are acquiring debt.

Coming out of school, paying school loans, buying houses, buying cars, getting married and having children are all contributors to household debt. It is the nature of things that adults spend the first third of adulthood establishing themselves and acquiring debt, the second third paying off that debt, and the final third enjoying the outcome of their labor.

Finally, the report does not interpret the values of the local population. It does not take into account that our conservative values, our pride in our work, our belief in education and our faith in God is what allowed us to recover from financial recessions over and over again. Our conservative values are what keeps Ottawa County a financially robust and loving place to live our lives.

Never let your conservative voice and your ideals be subdued by the liberal mindset that hides from debate, vetoes free speech and assaults your deepest beliefs simply because they do not share them. That voice is what continues to make Ottawa County great.

— By Michael Gross, Tribune community columnist

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