WEST VIRGINIA: SQUIRMING IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

(09/15/2007)

By Bob Weaver

A lack of entrepreneurship and education has earned West Virginia low marks in a new report on prosperity in the United States.

After more than 100 years of multi-multi billion dollar extraction of coal, natural gas and timber, the state has little to show for it.

Opportunity is hard to come by, with many of the best and brightest leaving the state during the past 50 years.

The state's economy has been further crippled by the exit of low-paying manufacturing jobs, plus a number of high-paying jobs, to the globalized market.

West Virginia got a "D" in the Corporation for Enterprise Development's 2007-08 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard.

Opportunities to build wealth and attain financial security are relatively limited in West Virginia, the study said.

The US Chamber of Commerce has blamed an unfair tax system, too much litigation and too many environmental controls.

There is a disagreeable opinion about their stance, certainly some consideration must be given to the unholy relationship between WV politicans, extractors and corporations.

"Family financial security rests upon the ability to invest for the future and having safety nets in place in the event of job loss or emergencies," said President Andrea Levere.

Chief among the state's problems are a low number of households with bank accounts and low levels of small business ownership.

Perhaps the most bothersome, the state received low marks for reading and math skills at the eighth-grade level and ranked 51st in college education rates.

A report issued earlier this week said the state has the smallest number of college graduates.

The State Department of Education has used an economies of scale model to deliver education, implying savings through school consolidation which requires longer bus rides.

But WV is among the nation's biggest spenders on education, has the most costly bus transportation system - with some of the worst results.

The State Board of Education took over the Lincoln County school system seven years ago because it was doing poorly. Since then it has gotten worse, hitting the bottom.

State Superintendent Steve Paine has blamed the Lincoln School Board, ignoring the fact the board has been neutered by the take-over.

"The state has the second lowest rate of households with interest-bearing bank accounts and seventh lowest rate of households with non-interest bearing bank accounts," CFED said.

"The state has the second lowest rate of small business ownership and is 47th in micro-enterprise ownership.

Women entrepreneurs in West Virginia are scarce as hen's teeth, 50th in the nation for women's business ownership.

The state falls near the bottom in employer-sponsored health insurance, though West Virginia has the seventh-lowest rate of uninsured low-income kids because of the CHIPS program.

The CHIPS program is currently under the hammer by the Bush administration.

The report does show that West Virginia is high with homeownership, housing affordability and low levels of household debt.

"West Virginians hold some of the lowest levels of debt in the nation, ranking first in median mortgage debt and third in credit card debt."

Despite having near the worst per capita and medium incomes in the nation, West Virginians tend more than most to pay as you go.


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