Georgia Votes: Inflation remains top of mind for Georgians (pt. 2)

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This story is Part II of a two-parter highlighting what Georgian’s have to say about inflation. Subscribe to State Affairs at STATEAFFAIRS.COM to read all of our election coverage.

Georgia Votes

Georgians have different experiences — and strategies — when it comes to dealing with soaring INFLATION, this week’s topic for State Affairs’  10-member elections focus group, which includes people from different political, social and economic backgrounds throughout the state.

Casey Villarreal is aghast at the price of groceries, particularly dog food for her beloved golden retrievers. James Flanagan is feeling the pain of the folks in his church and Peachtree Corners community who live on fixed incomes. Marion Butler, who works with disabled adults, is on the look-out for free ways to keep the people she serves engaged in her south Georgia community. Art Gallegos is trying to organize the Hispanic-Latino community in Gainesville to vote for fiscal conservatives this November. And Ellis Davis is hoping to vote for candidates who’ll bring more industry and better-paying jobs to his coastal Georgia town.  

Over the next month, they’ll be weighing in on kitchen table issues and chronicling their journey toward the Nov. 8 midterm election.

Marion Butler

Marion Butler, 76, retired in 2008 from a 34-year career as a developmental disabilities caretaker; lives in Cuthbert; single, widowed, lifelong Democrat.

In what ways has inflation affected you or your family recently?

I’m a widow, I live alone. If this had happened when my kids were here, I don’t know how I would have handled it. But it’s just me, and I’m already on a fixed income, so I just cut back a little bit. I don’t eat out a lot. I don’t buy a lot of groceries. My light bill is definitely higher.  

I am glad I have a part-time job, and have some extra income – I am still working with adults with disabilities, and I take them on outings into the community. I will say inflation has affected what I can do with them  — their incomes are even more limited than mine. We used to go out to eat or maybe do a little shopping at Walmart. Now we just go out for a ride. We might ride over to Albany or Dothan, and take the scenic route. We don’t do anything that costs money.

Who or what is responsible for the inflation that we’re facing now?

I think that businesses and companies are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to raise the prices. I don’t think they really need to do it, and I don’t think it’s fair. I think they’re taking advantage of the situation to charge people extra. I really don’t think it’s the government’s fault. I think it’s commercial people.

How will inflation or cost of living issues affect your vote in November?

I’m going to look and try to think about what the candidates say. And we know they don’t always do what they say.  We really want to come out of the pandemic on the good side. I want to see what these politicians are going to offer us to get back to the norm. Not just in terms of personal and social get-togethers, but also what are they going to do to help people find good-paying jobs, and safe workplaces, and places in the community where we can go and relax and feel safe.

I used to go with friends and family on a women’s retreat each year. We used to go on cruises every other year. We’re still afraid to go places. It’s been three years. I’d like to breathe easier.

Art Gallegos

Art Gallegos, 48, Republican; community organizer with Latinos Conservative Organization; married with five children; lives in Gainesville; second generation Mexican-American.

In what ways has inflation affected you and your family recently?

There’s no doubt prices have gone up overall. Not just groceries. Anything you go out and purchase  — fuel, clothing — everything has gone up. My travel has decreased. Where before, on weekends, I would travel just for leisure. Now it’s just for work, for church; if I need to go somewhere, I’ll do that. I won’t go to the Mall of Georgia or a park or an event center just for fun. There are some ice cream shops in Gainesville I haven’t been to in a while.  

My kids range in age from 9 to 20,  so they need and want a lot of things. We didn’t buy any new clothes this summer  — I said just keep wearing what you have. You don’t need new shorts and T-shirts. We’re just using what we have until the economy gets better. We did get some help with back-to-school shopping with school supplies from some local programs.

Who or what is responsible for the inflation that we’re facing now?

I can’t pinpoint it to who. I do have to say the current administration really hasn’t offered any solutions. And one of the main reasons we are seeing inflation getting worse is we are fighting an administration and political figures who are spending money we don’t really have. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know if you’re spending more money at a higher price, you’re going to find yourself in some hardship. And we’re seeing that in a lot of families and a lot of communities in this country. Everybody in all levels of the economy is hurting. 

I think there’s different kinds of people in Congress and the Biden administration approving funds to use as gimmicks with different programs that perhaps are not needed as much, when they should really be helping American families. I can tell you this much: The border crisis at some of these locations where we’re getting all sorts of people crossing, doesn’t matter what country they’re from, and the government is spending money on housing and feeding them. And when we have people who have worked very hard in this country, like our veterans, like law enforcement, like our border patrol that lack equipment, that lack pay and are working so many hours — it seems like we’re spending more on people who aren’t the highest priority. Our people, the American people, should come first.

How will inflation or cost of living issues affect your vote in November?

It’s a priority. I think on behalf of myself and the Hispanic-Latino community, many people think immigration is the top priority. It’s not. The economy plays a priority in the Hispanic-Latino community, because that is what drives how people are able to pay for their housing, their apartments, homes, cars, repairs, clothing, groceries on their table. The economy is the reason many people come from different nations to live the American dream. It is to prosper economically. People don’t just come to the U.S. to be an American citizen. They come for a better lifestyle, a better economy, so they can live a better life. You’ll see, the Latino vote will dictate the midterms and the general election. Many of us are conservative and this time we will not make a mistake and vote for the party that uses promises and gimmicks to get our vote — I can say it, the Democrats. They won’t be able to pander to us like they do with the African-American community and get our votes so easily this time.

Ellis Davis

Ellis Davis, 19, political science major at Valdosta State College; Republican; hometown is St. Mary’s, in coastal Georgia.  

In what ways has inflation affected you and your family recently?

It hasn’t affected me too much. In Camden County, the number one employer is, other than the naval base, the education system — the board of education, so those jobs are kind of stable. I’m a college student, so I grocery shop and I’ve got to get gas. Judging by OPEC prices it looks like that’s going to be more of a struggle. My parents do help me out, but some of it’s just on me. So I’ve seen a lot of rises in gas, groceries, it just feels like everything is getting more expensive. Some of my college friends are going to have to move next year because their rent will be higher. They’re all looking for cheaper places to live. A lot of my friends just work at the car wash and local restaurants and those jobs aren’t the most stable source of income. It’s definitely not good. 

In St. Mary’s we do need new industry. We used to have a paper mill that closed down. We had a chemical plant where an explosion occurred and that closed. We haven’t had any industrial, good-paying jobs in a long time. It would be nice to have those to combat inflation. The economy is pretty much based on tourism, to the coastal islands and along the coast, which is good, but we need more for our economy. 

Who or what is responsible for the inflation that we’re facing now?

It’s not any one person. It’s easy to say it’s Joe Biden’s fault. I think collectively it’s Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress, and I’ll also put a little bit of blame on the Republicans. I feel like there’s probably some room for compromise. I think Republicans should be more willing to work with Democrats on that issue. But at the same time, I will say, I think the Trump economy was good. I think tax cuts work. I think energy independence is a good thing. And you know the Democrats  — we’re all for protecting the environment, but we have to look after the everyday man, who’s working right now, and struggling.  

When Gov. Kemp came down to St. Mary’s he was championing the Jacoby development on the old paper mill site. Kemp said we’re combating inflation by doing these developments. And when Stacey Abrams came to Camden County, she was kind of talking about industries in Brunswick and she mentioned the paper mill in Brunswick, and it kind of feels like one side is talking about industry and another side is doing something for industry and to combat inflation. But you can’t just blame Joe Biden. It’s Washington collectively as a whole. I’d say Kemp and people at the state level are trying to combat that as best as they can.

How will inflation or cost of living issues affect your vote in November?

I’m paying attention to pro-business candidates and to fiscal conservatives and candidates that put workers first, as well as good-paying jobs and who champion tax cuts, and like Kemp, tax rebates. A lot of my friends who are seeing the increases in rents will be voting for fiscal conservative candidates and those who favor energy independence, at least at the national level. We don’t really deal with that as much at the state level. And a lot of our parents got tax rebates and they’ve seen how that has helped their families.

James Flanagan

James Flanagan, 39, Conservative; retired veteran and veterans’ advocate; married with two children; lives in Atlanta.

In what ways has inflation affected you and your family recently?

I would say it’s affecting my family and my loved ones in lots of different ways. Number one, the folks in my church, a lot of them live on fixed incomes, and their savings. And inflation really robs them of what they’ve earned. I see that on a daily basis. We help them get to where they need to be. It’s really an unjust, unfair tax to them. And you see it with grocery prices, a lot of times folks can do without other purchases, but you can’t do without food. 

And I volunteer at Big Brothers/Big Sisters. And my little brother, his family lives paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs, and it’s really hit them hard when it comes to finding a good place to live. They had to live with family in a crowded apartment for quite a while and finally found a place to rent, and in a place that’s not the best environment. And they’re also paying more for groceries. We help them out where we can, but inflation really affects people on fixed incomes.

For us, my family, with the blessing of God, were able to purchase a house before high inflation hit home. We still see it. With current grocery prices, and two kids under the age of 3, who are growing and eating a lot; we’re buying a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, and it’s all gone up.  It’s housing, it’s gasoline, it’s everything.

Who or what is responsible for the inflation that we’re facing now?

Inflation is a mysterious thing. There are a lot of different forces behind it. There’s the monetary, there’s fiscal policy and there’s world events. From a fiscal policy standpoint, I think we’re spending too much as a federal government and government as a whole. When we spend a lot, that forces money into the economy, and prices go up, from a supply and demand standpoint. From a monetary standpoint, we have to be careful with what we’re doing with our interest rates. I know the Fed is raising interest rates to slow down inflation.  That’s going to take a little while to do. At the end of the day, it’s the guys and gals who are elite in society, the politically well-connected who aren’t necessarily hurt by inflation. The working class, the poor, folks with fixed incomes,they get hit really hard by inflation.  I wish there was a magic bullet to slow it down.

How will inflation or cost of living issues affect your vote in November?

Ultimately it goes back to what I think are some of the solutions we have. I’m looking for someone who encourages us to live within our means. With state government, we have to have a balanced budget. In the federal government, we don’t, and that means they can spend, spend, spend. And both parties do it, but I’m always looking for somebody who has the guts to say, ‘Look, we need to stop spending this much, across the board.’ I’m a veteran and I say we need to stop spending so much for the military as well. It’s not a very popular thing. It’s more popular to say, ‘Let’s cut taxes,’ than to say, ‘Let’s stop spending.’ But that’s a big, big issue for me.

Casey Villarreal

Casey Villarreal, 38, Conservative; mother of three; lives in Cartersville.

In what ways has inflation affected you and your family recently?

I have definitely seen inflation impact my family as a stay-at-home mom. The cost of so many things in our grocery budget has gone up tremendously. This may sound silly, but I have a line item for my dog food  — we have two golden retrievers in our family — and my goodness, they keep raising their dog food prices! A 30-pound bag of dog food for them has gone up to $80. That’s a $20 increase. Every Friday night, we go out to eat barbecue at our favorite place, across from our high school football stadium. I was talking to the owner, who’s a friend of ours, about their menu prices and he said he’s had to increase prices three times in the last two years. So we’re seeing it across the board. Everyone talks about health insurance, and I’m concerned about that, too. But I’m seeing it in everyday parts of life.

Who or what is responsible for the inflation that we’re facing now?

Well, I don’t think there’s just one answer for that. I think we need to start being more fiscally responsible with our debt. Pushing more money out into the economy makes things go up. With COVID-19 and the supply chain issues, I know that’s a factor, too. There are many things that affect it — when you have OPEC raising their prices, but we’re still not drilling here, that’s a factor. We really need to make responsible fiscal decisions going forward. We’re giving out a lot of money and we’re starting to see the effects of that.  So there are many things combining to bring that inflation up. 

How will inflation or cost of living issues affect your vote in November?

It definitely will affect how I vote. I want to hear from different candidates how they want to see money spent, how they’re planning to hold back on certain things. It’s definitely something I am watching and talking to my husband about. I’m paying attention to who might bring more jobs to Georgia. We’ve reached record highs of employment in Georgia. Amazon is coming to Bartow County, which is great. I’ve been thinking about how they’re going to spend our infrastructure funds. There’s a lot of road work on I-285 right now. I’d like to make sure we put people in office who are going to spend those kinds of taxpayer funds efficiently.  

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Contact Jill Jordan Sieder at [email protected] or on Twitter @journalistajill

Catch-up on our E-Team:


Georgia Votes: Inflation remains top of mind for Georgians

Election focus group: On health care costs, Medicaid expansion and abortion rights (Pt.1)







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