Maybe the spotlight is on the presidential election, but I’m surprised there hasn’t been more coverage of the Seventh Congressional District election. After two terms of Tom Rice, the district needs someone who understands the issues and solutions. The district won’t improve by repeating the same thing. The district needs Mal Hyman.
Take jobs. Rice claims jobs are his top priority. The August unemployment results showed that the nationwide rate was 4.9 percent and the South Carolina rate was 5.1 percent. The district continued to fare much worse, as all eight counties exceeded the nationwide and statewide unemployment rates. That’s the same relationship that existed when Rice first took office.
What can be done?
Mal understands the importance of putting money into the hands of those who need it. When people spend money on necessities like food, clothing and shelter, they put money back into the local economy.
One way to do that is to expand Social Security. In 2015, the district had the highest number of Social Security beneficiaries of any district in the state. The Annual Report of the Board of Trustees states that 74 percent of the benefits will be available through 2090 with no changes. Mal understands that there is one big change that should be made to expand Social Security – lift the $118,000 income cap so that the wealthy begin to contribute their fair share. Right now, only income under $118,000 supports all of Social Security.
Another step is to increase the minimum wage to a livable wage. Many district workers depend on the minimum wage. As Mal points out, when inflation is included, the minimum wage is less than it was in the 1960s. Working full time, the annual minimum wage is about the poverty level for a family of two. When living in poverty causes people to turn to government programs, it puts additional strain on taxpayers. A living wage benefits taxpayers by lessening the need for programs like food stamps.
Mal understands preventing offshore drilling and seismic testing along our coastline is vital. The push to drill for oil off the South Carolina coast risks our atmosphere, beaches and jobs. In economic terms, nearly 18 million people visited the Grand Strand this year. That’s a $7 billion a year industry with 83,000 jobs, and 80 percent of those are permanent. There is no rate of return to justify that level of risk.
Rice though, may be more interested in what’s under the water. It was a long time before he agreed with his constituents to oppose offshore drilling. Afterwards, he still supported offshore exploration.
Our infrastructure is falling apart. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades our country’s infrastructure as a D+. Investments in infrastructure yield about $1.60 for each $1 invested, and they mean more jobs. As Mal likes to say, if a business ignores that kind of return, it shouldn’t be in business.
As a teacher, Mal knows that funding early childhood education and affordable college are sound investments. A dollar spent on early childhood education yields about $7 in return. It’s economic common sense.
As the middle class shrinks and the rich get richer, our elections become auctions with the wealthiest 1 percent putting in 98 percent of the money. That’s why Mal does not accept contributions from financial firms, banks, investment houses, etc. He relies on small grassroots contributions. Rice, on the other hand, relies on PAC money for 59 percent of his campaign financing. It’s all perfectly legal, but Mal’s actions show his commitment to his beliefs.
Action and commitment. Mal does not sit back waiting for things to improve. Mal traveled to and worked on human rights issues in eight countries, monitored elections in Nicaragua and Mexico, served on the Homeless Shelter, the Disabilities Board, the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, the Earth Day Festival, and the Sustainability and Faith Conference.
Mal dedicated himself to teaching. He taught at a men’s prison in California. He’s been on the faculty of Coker College for 30 years and he’s taught at the Governor’s School for Science and Math for 12 years.
Re-electing Rice to a third term will be déjà vu all over again. Nothing will change. Mal understands the problems and the solutions. Winning the election is the first step; it is not the job.
The job is to represent the district by creating more jobs, protecting the environment and getting big money out of politics.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.