|By Bob Weaver|
With Washington's drive to cut longtime social programs like Social Security and Medicare to balance out-of-control national spending, studies are showing that such cuts could be devastating to many poor, rural communities in the USA.
Calhoun County with three other West Virginia counties have the highest numbers of Social Security recipients in the USA per capita, among the top fifty of 3,114 USA counties.
Fifteen percent of income derived by Calhoun residents is from Social Security, estimated to be about $25 million annually. Nationally, 5.5 percent of income is derived from Social Security.
West Virginia counties among the top 50 in the nation in Social Security recipients: McDowell, 19th; Tyler, 24th; Calhoun, 27th; Wyoming, 36th; Webster, 42th.
Calhoun is still on the 100th poorest counties of America's 3,114 counties for median and per capita income.
West Virginia has six counties on the 100 poorest list in the USA for median income: McDowell (8)$16,931; Webster (51) $21,055; Summers (53) $21,147; Mingo (57) #21,347; Calhoun (62) $21,578; Clay (81) $22,120.
West Virginia has two counties on the 100 poorest list in the USA per capita (individual) income: McDowell (28) $10,174; Calhoun (76) $11,491.
The worst pockets of poverty and low-income in America are where the greatest wealth of extractable natural resources are located, like the "billion dollar coal" field of West Virginia, indicating that the poor and under-educated historically have had virtually no voice with large corporations and their government supporters to benefit their communities.
"In many rural places, Social Security is a very critical element of the local economic base," said Peter Nelson, a geographer at Middlebury College in Vermont. "Cuts will have the greatest negative impact on rural places," he said.
The political clout of rural America has greatly diminished in a generation or two, with only 14 percent of the nation's population now living in rural areas.
Fascinatingly, the politics of most of the people in rural areas that will be directly affected by Social Security and Medicare cuts support Republican politicans and candidates that are leading the pack for cuts.
The political parties are widely divided with the overspending problem, with Republicans wanting to cut social programs and Democrats wanting to increase taxes on America's most wealthy.
Sumter County, Florida, best known as a retiree haven and a center of Republican and Tea Party politics, is most notable for the large percentage of people living there who receive a monthly Social Security check, more than 55 percent.
On average, 16.7 percent of the U.S. population receives some kind of Social Security check — retirement benefits, survivor benefits or disability payments.
In average urban counties, 5 percent of personal income comes from Social Security.
In rural counties, an average of 9.3 percent of personal income arrives in the form of a Social Security check.
In Calhoun it is 15 percent.
Calhoun voters in recent years have supported Republican candidates who favor the cuts, mostly based their anger about individuals receiving Social Security benefits they did not earn by working.