The GOP continues to sling whatever trash they’ve got at President Joe Biden in the wake of his historic trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, and his total dunking on them about the debt ceiling, Social Security, and Medicare. They’re taking their talking points from Tucker Carlson, keeping up the narrative Biden is responsible for the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, because he hates white people.
Here’s the repugnant Sen. Josh Hawley doubling down on that, and throwing in some antisemitism for the heck of it: “My message to congressional Republican: you can either be the party of Ukraine & globalists or you can be the party of East Palestine & the working people of American.”
Let’s talk about the working Americans of East Palestine, Ohio, and who is really helping them. The population of the town is 4,761 as of the 2020 census. It’s in Columbiana County, population 101,877 in 2020. In 2021, the last year statistics are available from, there were 32,077 people in the county who were enrolled in Medicaid, the joint federal/state funded health insurance program for low-income individuals and families.
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So, yeah, that’s about a third of the population of the county—the smallest geographical area for which Medicaid data is available. Ohio as a whole saw a nearly 28% hike in Medicaid and CHIP enrollments during the pandemic. (CHIP is the program for children’s health.)
More than 7,500 households in Columbiana County were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or food stamps, in November 2022. That’s 14,407 people, including 5,421 children.
This is not a prosperous place. The median household income for the county was $49,265 in 2021, the latest figures available. That’s $12,997 lower than the median Ohio household income and $20,452 less than the U.S. median household income. The minimum wage in Ohio is $10.10/hour, $5.05 for tipped employees.
At the same time, though, the unemployment rate for the county is just 4.3%, all of which means that there are a lot of working people in this place who are living in or very nearly in poverty. And yes, you hardly need to ask: Those people voted for Trump in 2020, 72% to 27% for Biden. They’re probably now lining up in diners all through the county to be interviewed by New York Times reporters.
These are the very programs the GOP always wants to destroy, the programs that truly help working people. Medicaid, food assistance—they’re all on the chopping block as far as the GOP is concerned, and always have been.
This isn’t about Ukraine, and it sure as hell isn’t about the working people of East Palestine, Ohio—where were any of them when Trump was deregulating the rails and making this kind of disaster almost inevitable? Oh, that’s right, supporting an insurrection against the government.