COMMENT By Bob Weaver 2005|
There are troubling trends 'midst glowing government reports about the economy, particularly with major increases in gasoline and energy costs, added to the lack of decent paying jobs that have been globalized.
The average cost of low-test gasoline was about $3 a gallon over the weekend. (The price went much higher)
The US Census Bureau has just confirmed that poverty rose a fourth straight year and the gap in health coverage has widened.
Most people who had "company" health insurance earned about $50,000 annually.
Nearly 46 million people have no health coverage at all. Employers are dropping coverage every day because they can no longer afford the costs.
Natural gas costs are projected to go up by 70% in some parts of the country, after already reaching all-time highs.
It is a paradox that Calhoun sits on one of the nation's greatest natural gas deposits, much of it deep in the earth, whose residents have seen little benefit, except a few dwindling jobs.
Heating oil prices are expected to jump more than 30 percent in the northeast and electric rates are projected to go up between 10-15%. (That was an underestimate)
The costs of transported food and other products are inching upward. (Many food products have gone up 50-75%)
Calhoun residents and several of their neighboring counties must surely have a "worried mind," their per capita income being near the bottom in the State of West Virginia (and the USA).
Calhouners have had great resilience to survive tough times, using virtually every method to hunker down and someway, somehow make a living.
Now, the high price of gasoline and energy gives workers little wiggle room to drive 100-150 miles a day to work.
The crunch will likely mean that most will have to quit their commuting jobs, and move to a place of greater opportunity.
About half of West Virginia's mountainous counties have few jobs available. Most of the low-paying jobs have been sent to other countries, since we are to thrive as partners in the world market.
The globalized jobs will not be factored in government and corporate news spins in the declining economy.
We are producing fewer and fewer products in the USA, relying on the service industry to keep the country afloat, plus the juggling of invested money on Wall Street.
The globalized economy is what free market is about.
Calhoun ranks 53rd of the state's 55 counties, a per capita income
Clay County is dead last in the poverty-rated income column at $15,202 per capita, a county that is listed as having the most commuters in the USA.
Roane's average personal income is listed at $17,713 (48th in the state) and Wirt at $17,379 (49th in the state).
After several years of improvement, more Americans are living in poverty, more children were poor, and more people lacked health insurance, according to the US Census Bureau.
The numbers looked worse this past year with children in poverty, according to WVs Kid's Count. They said the increase was "troubling."
Income for Americans in the bottom 20 percent - went down, while the income for the wealthiest fifth of Americans went up.
"Compared to prior recessions, the effect in the USA is quite mild," says Robert Rector, a fellow in domestic and economic policy studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The Bush administration says the methods used to develop poverty numbers is flawed. Developed in the 1960s, the poverty threshold is essentially three times the amount needed to feed a family.
It doesn't count non-cash income, such as food stamps, housing subsidies, or the earned-income tax credit, and also doesn't acknowledge regional differences in cost of living or the fact that food now constitutes a much lower portion of a family's expenses while housing and child care costs have risen.
The statistic "does a pretty good job of measuring the temperature at the bottom end of the economy," says Douglas Besharov, director of the American Enterprise Institute's Social and Individual Responsibility Project.
No matter what the spin, Calhouner's, as economic survivalists, know what the deal is, and the deal is not good.
Simply put by one of my neighbors "The further I go, the behinder I get."