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Economy: ‘Recovery’ leaving many behind

Still wondering when that alleged economic recovery is going to come along for you?

You are not alone. In West Virginia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, nearly one-fifth of the population is below the poverty line. Notice the word “still” was not used in that sentence. That is because the percentage of Mountain State residents has gone UP — 336,000 people, approximately 19.1 percent of the population, in 2017.

West Virginia had the lowest median household income in the country in 2017, at $16,867 per year below the national average.

Breaking down the numbers makes the situation look even grimmer for children (25.5 percent in poverty), women (20.9 percent), African-Americans (31.7 percent), those who did not graduate from high school (32.9 percent) or those who are unemployed (42.6 percent).

“The census data shows the reality and economic hardships of everyday West Virginians are being ignored as state policy makers claim a West Virginia economic turnaround,” said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

“Ignored” may not be quite the right word for what is happening, but certainly it is more appealing to politicians to speak in terms of the reality they hope for, rather than the facts of the moment.

Lisa Doyle-Parsons, executive director of the Circles Campaign in the Mid-Ohio Valley, was absolutely correct to point out ALL socio-economic classes must work together to truly help West Virginia’s economy recover. But she also reminded of the importance of letting go of the idea that pursuing a post-high school education means going to college.

Skilled tradesmen are needed; apprenticeship programs and training are available. Parents and schools should encourage students to consider such options. It is time for an attitude shift, all around, folks.

West Virginia’s economy will not truly be moved forward by looking back, by doing things the way they have always been done. We cannot move ahead if we refuse to face reality, but rather pat ourselves on the back with one hand for allegedly tossing out politics as usual, while with the other hand cling as firmly as ever to the bad old days.

Who does that serve?

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