Most people in America think that slavery ended in 1865, when the thirteenth amendment abolishing the barbaric practice was adapted into the US Constitution. We’ve come a long way since 1865. Today, we have an African American as our president and even South Carolina, the first state to leave the union, is represented by Tim Scott, an African American. But slavery still exists in America. Not slavery based on race but based on gender. I am referring to human trafficking.
This weekend millions of Americans will watch the Super Bowl, held in New Jersey, on TV, radio, or in person. But there’s a dark underside to this American tradition. Statistics are hard to come by but it is believed that the Super Bowl is the biggest gathering of trafficked individuals in the United States, and possibly in the world. It’s not just this Super Bowl either. In 2011, when the Super Bowl was held in Texas, the Lone Star State’s attorney general Greg Abbott told USA Today that the Super bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” Abbott wasn’t kidding: there were 133 arrests in Dallas for underage prostitution that year. A report by Forbes magazine stated that around 10,000 prostitutes were in Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Fighting this disturbing trend are a dedicated group of activists, many of whom were formerly trafficked individuals. One organization has partnered with hotel chains to put trafficking hotlines on bars of soap in hotel room bathrooms to help trafficked women escape.
Fortunately, politicians in America are finally taking notice. Recently, New Jersey Congressman Christopher Smith as well as Governor Chris Christie have taken a stand to stop the exploitation that seems poised to occur in their state. Smith didn’t hide the issues his state has had with trafficking, saying “New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem. One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks. Speaking at a recent event was Lexi Smith (no relation to the aforementioned congressman), a former sex slave. “The chains of modern day slavery are in the mind, not the hands and feet”, she said.
New Jersey state officials have been training policemen as well as civilians on how to identify signs of human trafficking. The state has partnered with community organizations, local businesses, and churches to combat this trend. But as many of the tireless activists fighting this issue will tell you, it’s not just a Super Bowl problem. It is a constant presence all over the country.
New Jersey isn’t the only state fighting trafficking. Ohio has launched a “war on human trafficking” and it seems to be working. Last year, Governor John Kasich began a new initiative to end human trafficking in the state. In an emotional speech launching the project Kasich drew from his own family life “I’ve got two twelve year old daughters. But all those twelve-year-old girls across the state are in a way my daughters. They’re all of our daughters. They’re all in our families. Can you tell me, how a thirteen year old kid can be snatched, blackmailed, drugged, raped, in our state; in our country. One of the greatest men who lived in the history of Great Britain was William Wilberforce […] William Wilberforce spent his entire life fighting the slave trade business; fighting slavery. And he was savaged for his work. He’s buried in Westminster Abbey. […] Sometimes people say I push really hard. Is there anything we should push harder for than the abolition of the slave trade amongst our teenagers in our state? I can’t think of anything.” This new crusade has yielded impressive results. A few days ago, Gregory Krajnyk was sentenced to thirteen years in prison for running a human trafficking ring, which he had operated for four years. The sting also brought down Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William F. Kaczmarek.
This issue of modern day slavery is present all over the country. We should all get together and encourage our elected officials of both parties to follow the example of Smith, Christie, and Kasich and fight this evil.
The rest of America should take a look at Ohio.
Currently our nation is faced with debt problems and a far to high unemployment rate. We do not need to look to other countries for solutions. A success story in dealing with similar problems exists in our own country.
In 2010 Ohio was at a low-point. The state’s job creation ranking was hovering around 47th place and the state had 89 cents in the bank. As then candidate for governor John Kasich pointed out, most toddlers have more than 89 cents in their piggy banks. In 2010, incumbent governor Ted Strickland lost in a close race to Kasich in a year marked by a resurgent GOP.
This new conservative leadership didn’t start off terribly well. On early issue was Senate Bill 5, a law restricting collective bargaining rights. It went down in flames during a special election.
It was not long after this defeat that Kasich and his allies began to resurrect their administration and their credibility. Kasich, who was a leader of the Clinton era balanced budget effort, balanced the state’s budget and lowered the income taxes. By the end of 2012 Ohio was 4th in the country in job creation and first in the Midwest. There has been bipartisanship in this effort as well. The governor partnered with Democratic Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson to spur redevelopment in the city. Today the state unemployment is well below the national average.
Kasich has also shown the willingness to compromise on certain issues, especially the Medicaid expansion that has irritated the state legislature. This combination of conservatism and compromise has done well for the former Fox News host. He now has a 54% approval rating including an impressive 63% rating among the lucrative 18-29 group (source: Quinnipiac University Polling, June 24, 2013).
For all the failures of the Republican Party at the national level, strong leadership exists at the state level. It’s not just in Ohio. Rick Snyder brought Michigan back from the brink and Chris Christie has done great things for New Jersey.
The problems of the United States today looks remarkably like those faced by Ohio in 2011. The president and the congress could learn a lot from the quiet revolution that has occurred in Ohio in recent years.