WEST VIRGINIA'S "BLACK HOLE" GETS DARKER - Report Says "Economic Freedom Nowhere To Be Seen," Living On The Bottom

(12/18/2002)

By Bob Weaver www.hurherald.com

In the world of the presidential fast track, globalized markets, NAFTA, GATT, WTO and free markets, our government would do well to look at who is being left behind.

It is depressing to keep reporting West Virginia is at or near the bottom of most lists, except when the economic studies are done by state government. During Underwood's administration, a published booklet gave glowing reports, indicating growth indicators and four chickens coming soon to every pot.

A new independent study released by the National Center for Policy Analysis says "West Virginia has the lowest per capita income in the US and the worst economic record through the 1990's ... economic freedom is nowhere to be seen. The taxation system is so bad it can't even give Canada a run for its money."

Granted, a lot of federal money gets sprinkled on the state, but there is little change in the dynamics of work, taxation and the economy.

We have reported on the Appalachian Regional Commission, a government poverty agency created in the 60's to help the under-served in the mountains. Studies of the ARC discovered the big bucks went to mostly developed areas with lots of voters, areas that were flourishing, at least compared to our poor counties.

Some self-serving politicians, mostly those in leadership roles, have often sold their soul to special interests, keeping our beloved state in the economic pit for several generations, and now, state government is paying the price.

I nearly flunked college economics, but I do remember a statement by the professor, "When the takers out number the producers," you're in a lot of trouble.

The natural resource corporations have successfully managed to polarize West Virginia workers (the politicians have generally cooperated) against the wrong people or groups, trying to maintain favored status.

Opportunity and economic freedom, the promise of our great society, seems to be fading as the gap between the have's and the have not's widens.

It the sinking of the American middle class.

My dad, during the Great Depression, said his saddest day was when he could not find a job - no opportunity, no freedom.

Here is Sunny Cal, and over 30 counties where the school board is the biggest employer, the joblessness has been charted among the worst in the nation for years, ignoring the monthly stats issued by the state citing low unemployment.

Now it is worsening as thousands of jobs, including the low paying ones, are leaving the region, moving abroad through globalization for cheap labor.

Calhoun people must dutifully get into their car and drive 100-150 miles a day for work.

We're not talking about people who don't want to work.

Now, the government seems to enjoy spending millions of dollars on re-training, but in Appalachia there are few jobs to be had.

Here in Calhoun and in the region, hundreds of "dislocated workers" have been getting or will be getting training for jobs that do not exist.

Thousands of jobs have left this region in the past 72 months, and more are likely to go.

Furthermore, the state of West Virginia seems to be broke, using such phrases as "under funded," using a cedit card, just like the feds, to keep the state afloat.

Lots of areas are "under funded" from retirement programs to health insurance to worker's compensation. There will come a time for paying the fiddler.

Will a new breed of elected officials, Democrat or Republican, take a leadership role in pulling us toward economic freedom and opportunity.

West Virginian's have a hard time admitting they're poor, a fact manipulated by politicians.

At a time when the United States and U.S.-backed international financial institutions are encouraging countries around the world to adopt free market economies, a new study examines how well our own states fare by that measure.

The independent study released last week by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and Canada's Fraser Institute, shows a remarkable diversity among the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces.

Delaware has the greatest economic freedom, opportunity and prosperity for its' citizens and West Virginia, you guessed it, is the worst.

"It's easier to give advice than follow it," said NCPA Research Manager Devon Herrick, "but the pay off is significant for those states that promote economic freedom."

"With few exceptions, economic freedom and prosperity go hand in hand," said Herrick. "States with low taxes and limited government tend to grow faster than states where the opposite is true."

While economic freedom is not the sole determinant of a state's wealth, the correlation is strong.

George Herbert said cynically "Hope is the poor mans bread." Let us have hope, but who or what will save us?


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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