Government Creating Poverty in Appalachia

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Northfork, WV,Photo --  Jimmy Emerson, DVM
Northfork, WV,Photo — Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Written by John E. Mahlberg

I was recently asked what, in my opinion, was the number one cause for poverty in Appalachia.

This is a very broad and perhaps loaded question. As a proud resident of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia, I have grown to detest the words “Appalachia” and “poverty” being used in the same sentence – as they are generally only used in a derisive manner by some graduate student who pronounces the mountains outside my window as “App-ah-lay-sha,” instead of “App-ah-latch-ah.” Pronouncing “them thur hills” by the first term is a dead giveaway that the person knows nothing about this area other than what he or she has read in a book. The mountains of Georgia and Maine may be “App-ah-lay-sha,” but no mountain within 200 miles from here is called that.

Nevertheless the question was very piercing and caused me to dedicate serious thought to its answer.

First, I had to determine the merits of the question. Are the people of “App-ah-latch-ah” really impoverished?

Though in my pride and love for home, I am tempted to scream to the top of my lungs, “absolutely not,” the reality is that I do not even need to pull the census data or any other published research to know that the communities of Northfork, Kermit or dozens of other towns just like them are living far below the standard of what should be acceptable for America. I say this not meaning to be offensive against anyone, but simply out of an honest and undeniable assessment.

But why? Why are so many areas that were once thriving communities now wrecked by poverty? Why is it that you can’t leave anything out in your yards of value for fear of the “neighbors stealing anything that ain’t nailed down?” What is the number one cause for poverty in Appalachia?

As with most questions of grave importance, there truly isn’t one clear cut answer and in answering this question, I do not pose myself as an expert in the least. I can only write based upon my life’s experiences, which encompass four decades of living in what is referred to by every do-gooder this side of the Mississippi as “Impoverished App-ah-lay-sha.” And my life’s experiences are as follows:

1. Too many eggs have been placed into one basket.
As was stated in another article earlier this week, “Any community built around a single industry, coal, a large manufacturer, tourism or anything else, is just one phone call away from looking like a ghost town along historic US-66… or US-52 for that matter.”

The reality is that for better or worse, coal is a dying form of energy and is quickly being overtaken by natural gas as well as alternative fuels. This is a hard one for me to bite personally, as my family has been employed for generations by this industry and I was educated on money my dad brought home from the coal mines. To put it simply, I am and have always been a friend of sensible and responsible coal mining.

Unfortunately, the writing is on the wall and the longer we sit around complaining about it vs. looking for new industries to fill these voids, the farther we are going to be behind when the inevitable finally happens.

2.) Government handouts
A consequence of point number one is Mr. Government arriving on the scene to help the poor and helpless folks of “App-ah-lay-sha,” because after all, they are far too uneducated to find a way out on their own.

Big Brother Government arrived on the scene back in the 1960s and has been doling out clothing vouchers, food stamps and countless other “entitlements” to virtually anyone who desires to sign on the dotted line ever since.

Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that people fall upon hard times and that in a civilized society a safety net is necessary – unfortunately, what I see on a daily basis is not a safety net of government aid, but a hammock of government handouts.

Over my lifetime, I have watched the destruction of my community and the one person to be blamed above all others is Uncle Sam. It was his “war on poverty” that has ensured its very survival for generations.

While I work +70 hours each week, barely hoping to “get by” and satisfied for what I get, my neighbor and countless others in my community have inherited a mentality of “Why work when I can get my meals, housing, electricity, healthcare, clothing and anything else I want — including pills — from the government?”

To use a term I often heard my dear ole mother say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

A true story – I was recently in a tiny grocery store in McDowell County, West Virginia, and went to purchase my milk at the counter.  The cashier looked at me and the five dollar bill in my hand and acted like she had never seen a cash transaction for milk in her entire lifetime – up to this point, all  milk purchases had been funded by… well, I guess… me.

Uncle Sam’s free goodie bag of stuff has in turn removed any incentives for the common people to diversify their local economies from the coal industry – which is why problem #1 (mentioned above) even exists in the first place.

The excess time so many now have on their hands, a direct result of problems #1 and #2 have resulted in generations “looking for a buzz” when they should be looking for a job and has culminated in a government funded prescription drug pandemic.

The bottom line is this — government programs in Appalachia designed to eliminate poverty have become the greatest fuel for its continuation. To put it simply, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

This article may be a bit offensive to some, but it is coming from someone who has lived in Appalachia his entire life and has dealt with the common man on a daily basis. Until we remove the incentives for many people in this region not to work, many people in this region will not work.

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68 COMMENTS

  1. You summed up in a couple pages of what took me 60 pages to explain in my research of “Living in Appalachia Creates a Disability Phenomenon”. I really enjoyed your explanation that simplifies the problem.

  2. I find it incredible that someone who has lived in AppalaYchia for so long, who can obviously see part of the problem, is still blaming the victim. “Go out and look for a job.” What job is that you speak of? Not working in the mine — those jobs are gone. Not working in the grocery, Betty has that job. Yes, I do blame government for our lack of opportunities, and yes I do blame government for putting all of our eggs in one basket, I also blame them for failing to protect the people’s health, as well as our wealth, and livelihood. Perhaps our kids wouldn’t be looking for a buzz, or a free handout, if our politicians would actually provide means for a good job. And, by a good job, I don’t only mean one that simply feeds their children (if you’re one of the lucky ones,) I mean one that doesn’t poison them, either — and would I be reaching too far to ask for one that they even enjoy. I want jobs that stimulate our children’s imagination, and make more want to join. Well paying jobs that will not only slightly build our economy, but inspire a chain reaction of growth. Technology, robotics, engineering… Yes, our politicians are the problem, and yes, we are the solution, but not as this article suggests. Stop the victim blaming in AppalaYchia. Start placing blame where it is due — directly on the shoulders of our industry owned government. The people of AppalaYchia are better than this, and we have right to demand better representation than this. Don’t let this article confuse you as to who is to blame, and don’t fall for industry led propaganda intended to devalue your worth. Make this government do better by us.

    • Unfortunately, the local governments that have failed us in this respect are still elected by the people. In my small county, we elect the same group of people over and over with very few deviations. We expect them to do better each time. Instead, our county judge executive, who owns a local business, does not encourage new business because (a) he wants no competition and (b) he is happy with the amount of food stamps spent there. The same goes for several other local officials. Yet the citizens still re-elect these people. Why is that?

      Apathy may spring from the government’s failing us, but we also choose to be apathetic, much as substance abuse starts out as a series of choices. We cannot blame everything on the government we elected, especially when we do nothing to vote them out of office.

      • I grew up in Appalachia, (Southeast Kentucky) and am a little bit older now. I have watched as welfare has destroyed our once proud people. When I was young, for someone to even hint that they would take something without working for it, was shocking. We were poor, but we ate and went to school and had happy lives. Now they have city water, black top roads, and many of the people are getting checks, but these lazy misfits are never satisfied. They will even steal the wiring out of your house if you are hone for a few days. I blame “the war on poverty” for much of this. When you don’t work for something you will just waste it.

        • You summed it up nicely, Billy. My how attitudes and pride have changed. People no longer care or feel shame. It is generational. Working in the public you will see it even more clearly, how “the game is played” making sure you get your share. It’s ruined so many.

        • Welfare reform took place back during the Clinton adm. Since then a woman can only receive welfare for 5 yrs, during which time she is required to participate in job training

    • Thank you Dianna! I get tired of hearing people parrot the same argument over and over and act like they are the first one to say it when it’s the easiest thing to blame.

    • Dianna, you have proved the author of the articile’s point. You are expecting the government to solve the problems.
      Before the government handout programs began, people went out and found jobs, even if that meant moving across the country. Now you want someone to bring a job to you.

      • I’d give you a thumbs-up if I could. There was a day when people would “pick up and go” to find a job. My parents did it, my grandparents did it, and no one should be above it. The one difference now is jobs were readily available back in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. Not as much now. I blame part of that on the Government for not doing what was best for the Country instead of what was good for their major “contributors”. When is the last time you saw any politician, of either party, do anything to create jobs or to entice companies to increase hiring? I’d give large corporations tax breaks only when they could prove they had created (permanent) jobs.

        • It’s the government’s fault is right, at least in the past 15-20 yrs. Our federal government is owned by corporate interests now to a higher degree than I can ever remember & I’m 62. State government is the same way, & local governments are starting to fall in line. I was born & raised in E. KY & all my relatives made a living in coal as well as my dad. In order to get the right information about the future of coal,the people in the hills need to do some research, instead of listening to politicians. I recently saw a clip of the judge-ex of Pike Co. dedicating a Hatfield McCoy statue & the clearing of a historic cemetery & in his speech he takes the time to blame all the problems of the coal industry on environmentalists. Probably 99% of the people in the crowd believe that! In truth, it’s only a small factor in a big problem. The problem started a long time ago (late1800s), when the first corporations came in and started buying up our resources. By the end of the 19th century, Central Appalachia was on the road to becoming nothing more than a resource colony; timber, coal, & gas.

          • I had to learn my way out of the coal mine. And I’m not hearing much about education here. Democracy depends on informed citizens and we are all responsible for educating ourselves eventually. With just a little education, our ancestors would not have sold out the J.C.C. Buckingham (a teacher himself) and his likes. Our kingdom has not come but gone except for the educated. And by the way why can’t I find the author’s name. Anybody know?

            On point, Dianna !

        • Not everyone is capable of attaining an advanced education; mentally or financially. But every worker in this country deserves a job that will pay a living wage. Matt, I’m glad your ancestors survived the journey out west. Some of mine did too, but many of them didn’t. They simply disappeared off the census. There were no safety nets if their children were hungry back then. Out migration has
          always been a problem in the coal fields, because the business has always been cyclical. When I was growing up many families left for the auto plants in MI & OH but that’s not an option anymore.

    • Well said, John Christopher. Dianna, the problem is definitely that you think the government or a business can save you. The problem is no one knows how to go into business for themselves. 150 years ago, there weren’t any jobs. People owned businesses – farms, they were blacksmiths, they provided a service to others and were paid for it. Now, Appalachia has traded that independence they were born on for security of the “Good jobs” and Government for so long that no one alive can tell you how NOT to be dependent on someone else.

      • Hallelujah! Glad to see that there are others that don’t think the government is responsible for my motivation and employment. You are not “owed” anything. It is not the government’s “job” to provide employment, nor to create businesses. While I do feel they shouldn’t stifle entrepreneurship with costly regulations, and I do feel that they are perpetuating a vicious cycle with the entitlements, government is not the solution.
        If you’re unable to find a job, you move. Our ancestors did. I did.
        “Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have.”~Ezra Taft Benson

    • Dianna,
      It’s not hard to look for a job and most of the people of McDowell probably have family who have moved away to find a job. If someone truly wants to work they will seek a job until they get one. If it’s that impossible why have countless others of us moved away and found work? The author is 100% right and telling it how it really is. Now either you can get angry at his passage or you can help better the community. Negativity is not fixing McDowel County. I do see some potential there lots of potential to be exact. Like for instance a nice amusement park could be built there. The people of the community could forage the beautiful mountains “what’s left of them” and get items to create anything artistic and put them on the Internet for sale to make money. You would be surprised the things people would buy. Oh find coal nuggets and sell them one could make a killing off of them from people who have never seen coal. The ideas are endless, but if you set and cry woah is me then you will never grow and things will never get better.

    • The solution to no jobs in the area isn’t getting on government assistance. I understand what you are saying. This man is right though, my husband crawls back into the mine everyday. His tax dollars are keeping up dead beats that milk the government and set around complain about “no jobs”. When in reality, they are simply uneducated people that live like their sorry parents do. On a check that they have no business getting. They do that because they can. The government hands it out like candy.

    • It might be worth mentioning here that about 50% of people who get food stamps, also work. About 90% of recipients worked the prior year. Also, 25% of recipients are the elderly.

    • Diannna, You have hit the nail on the right on the head. If our state government really cared about getting people off checks in our state our government should work harder to entice company’s into our areas.The B&O tax in our state has deterred many business to locate to our area for years. Evidently, the state must accumulate much more in taxes from the few company’s we have in our state than stopping the measly welfare handouts. We have plenty of well educated and willing people ready to work in our state. Either way it all boils down to our government not caring for its people. West Virginians do want to work and would prefer to stand on there on two feet. We have plenty of well educated and hard working people ready to fill any positions offered to us.

      • “Any position offered to you” is the key reason for doing without….. You have to go in search of something you truly want, not wait around for it to come knocking on your door. That goes for education AND jobs.

  3. Here in Berkeley Springs, WV two unemployed people with two children get $35k a year in benefits, or the equivalent of having a $50k a year job. There are no $50k a year jobs available in this area. This is not philosophy, this is the reality where i live. It really doesn’t take a Phd, just a basic understanding of human nature, to understand the root issue.

  4. I grew up in Mercer County, just east of McDowell. After graduating from Concord I left home for a good job, primarily in the DC area. I missed home and family, but I did well professionally. The culture was hard to adjust to but I managed. Sometimes we have to do something different and difficult to change our circumstances. We cannot expect different outcomes from doing the same thing. Waiting for the government or someone else
    to create jobs in our community isn’t the answer. Create the local job yourself or move yourself where you must to get good work. Also, consider getting training.

  5. While I agree with a lot you’re saying one thing throws up a red flag: your 70+ hour workweek to barely get by indicates your employer is failing to pay you a living wage. Perhaps if he did you could work the American Dream of a 40 hour week and thus free up an additional 0.75 job for someone else. Four people doing this would produce three additional jobs and so on.

  6. The issue isn’t go get a job. As Someone who lives in Mercer county, I can tell you there are no jobs here. The jobs that are here are minimum wage part time only jobs. Most places wont give more than 15 hours, and refuse to work around another company’s schedule eliminating the possibility of a second job. As far as government handouts being easy to get, I have lived well below the poverty line for years, and still make too much money for a handout here.

    Do some research before claiming you don’t need to do research.

  7. Thank you, Dianna. You should have been the one writing this article, as the author obviously can only see what’s on their side of the fence. I really like how they pointed out how strong their work ethic is while dehumanizing anyone who may not have the same opportunities. If my only options are to barely scrape by working for a fast food company, or live a meek, but slightly more comfortable existence off of government subsidiaries, I’m choosing the latter. This person is clueless to the real plight at hand.

    • Everyone has the same opportunity to get an education and make something of themselves. If your family doesn’t make enough money to pay for your college themselves,there are tons of options to get you there. The writer is right,doesn’t matter if you like it or not.

  8. I agree completely with Dianna. Government is the problem. But it is nearly impossible to dig yourself out of a hole without a shovel.

    • Now that I have re-read my comment it sure sounds weird. But the point is, if there is no job or opportunity to re-educate it is easier said than done.

  9. Dianna, he WAS laying responsibility where it belongs–with the government. You are the one who brought in the victim terminology, which, ironically, is exactly the problem fostered by the government. Appalachians are resilient, creative people if we’re allowed to be. We can create our own work if we’re not regulated out of it. That’s the unspoken side of this. We have thousands of men who could raise cattle, make furniture, and lots of other things if the gubmint would back off, but they take one look at the maize of regs and decide it ain’t worth it, and maybe it ain’t! Others try, and then get into trouble because they can’t afford to hire lawyers to keep them in compliance with whatever agency oversees their industry. Gubmit regulators are the only people who get to wreck other people’s lives and businesses with impunity.

  10. The advice for individuals to have “multiple streams of income’ holds even more true for a community. It’s a shame that community leaders can’t see that. Good article!

  11. One thing was left out, and that is the fact that much of Rural WV is isolated and hard to get to. That lack of infrastructure is a problem also.

  12. Everyone has an opinion on things and that is fine. You mentioned four decades so that puts me ahead of you there. I watched my dad work mine the mines and died at the great old age of 57, sarcasm intended. I have watched as out of county people and for the fact of the matter out of state and out of COUNTRY come in here and take jobs these people in McDowell county could be doing. Go to the mines that are working here and you see Virginia plates, Kentucky plates, etc. Coal companies not even putting an office in McDowell county. In the late 70’s early 80’s you couldn’t beat the people out of here. Now most move from here and still work in this county. Is there poverty here? YES Is a lot of people on government benefits? YES I think there needs to be other industries here besides coal, that is for sure, but to talk about people from around here like they are druggies, thieves, and basically dogs, you are wrong. Am I saying no druggies here? NO I am not there are. Thieves? Yes we have them. Who doesn’t? Name for me ONE just ONE county in the USA that doesn’t have a thief or druggie. Are politicians to blame? Absolutely !! There has been two new coal tipples I know of built here. I see coal trains about every single day going out of here. It sure isn’t digging itself out of the ground. The out of staters out of county people out of country people needs to go. The EDA needs to help some of these people who have been trying to run a mines here that lives here with GOVERNMENT money to open them and keep the running. YOU don’t think the government don’t help the out of staters and out of country people open them here? Most definitely they do? Look at all the banks the government has bailed out. Are you saying the government is wrong for helping people here with food stamps but it’s ok for them to pay billions of dollars to bail a bank out???

  13. Blaming people for being on welfare a paragraph after saying there’s no work because the area was centered around one industry is the saddest and most ridiculous argument I’ve seen as of yet. What are people supposed to do when there are no jobs and they have no skills?

    • I would say he’s referring to those to chose to make welfare their life long means instead of temporary assistance. Getting out of work and needing help for a short time is one thing but you can’t deny the that prob more than half the people on checks and government assistance are simply to sorry to work and government rewards them for it. Getting out of work doesn’t give you a free pass to give up and live off someone else’s dime for the rest of your life. You get educated or trained or move or whatever you have to do.

  14. “Uncle Sam’s free goodie bag of stuff has in turn removed any incentives for the common people to diversify their local economies from the coal industry……”. Pray tell, how are the “common people” of these, basically ghost towns, going to “diversify their local economies”?

  15. History lesson time. What was in McDowell County before coal mining? Nothing. It was a rural farming community. With the coal mine boom of the last century thousands of families moved from all over the world to come and work. Everything that was built was paid for with coal mining proffits. Now 70 years later the world has changed and mining Isn’t as profitable any more. The easy money is gone and with that so are the taxes that paid for roads and schools. No industry means no education. Lack of education makes communities impoverished. The people of McDowell county are smart and hard working. They deserve the chance to rebuild their community on their own terms. They’ve earned it with a hundred years of sacrifice in those mines. The Government shoud stop handing out pills and start building schools. They shoud create a smart dedicated workforce, then build better roads to support industry. Once thats done, LOWER TAXES AND GET RID OF REGULATIONS so business will come. You have the smartest, most hard people in the world just waiting for an opportunity.
    GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO SUCCEED!

  16. Here’s an Idea, Lets stop handing out pills and start building schools. lets stop building prisons and start building roads. Lets lower taxes and get rid of Government regulations so business will actually WANT to move to the area. There are thousands of honest, smart, hardworking people in the county. Lets build them up and create a work force that is the envy of every state in America. Hey local politicians! Build some roads, plumbing and power so companies can can set up shop HERE instead of China and South America. We need to make West Virginia THE STATE that business WANT to come to. We need to hold our representatives accountable and stop blaming the BIG Government. While you’re complaining about Uncle Sam, the local politicians are ROBBING YOU BLIND! Call for audits! Hold their feet to the fire and start making them DO THEIR JOBS!

  17. Before mining, we were largely self-sufficient farming landowners, hardly destitute. The gubmint needed coal to build war machines so they painted a picture of Appalachians as a starving population to ease the guilt of the populace over taking land for mining, just for starters. The gubmint created the one-dimensional economy through its cronies at the time in the coal industry. Now the gubmint is trying to kill coal off and replace it with handouts. Believe that.

  18. Local and state elected officials have failed Appalachia. Electing the same politicians to do absolutely nothing is the problem. Proud people want to work and not become addicted to a “hand up”…btw it is government and people who create jobs. Government builds the infrastrucure that supports business and education so that individuals can create the opportunities. Your politicians should be ashamed of what they have allowed in the name of coal. If what the writer says is true, where is the pride in choosing not to work to receive government benefits…that’s not governments fault. If living off others seems like a good option, there’s something else wrong and it’s not government. Government doesn’t teach good work ethic and a sense of pride. Family teaches this…a “hand up” is sometimes needed. Taking advantage of the “hand up” is another matter all together. I won’t judge those that need the “hand up”…The economy can be fixed if elected leaders have the courage to put the people first.

  19. The jobs left these communities and the only thing keeping people in those communities are their memories and government handouts. Without the handouts, many of these communities would’ve just disappeared as the people realized they couldn’t sustain a life there anymore and moved on. But the government didn’t CREATE poverty in those areas; the lack of jobs and income did. The government is, however, prolonging the likely inevitable death of these communities though, like life support to a vegetative patient.

  20. Yeah folks, wait around for government to solve the problem. Here’s a news flash for you. YOU ARE the government !!!
    You as individuals, are the answer to your problems. The original article argued that the government is your biggest problem and, you, with your comments, are proving him right.

  21. Amerika is dotted with ghost towns that were soley built upon commodities like gold, silver, oil, or whatever. People choose to stay for various reasons least of which they cannot afford to leave. Many towns resort to conjouring up some historical event to get outsiders to fund their unfunded liabilities. Then there are the arts and crafts crowd and let us not forget the flea market and antique ideas.
    Going back to basic survival skills and self-reliance is a must. However, .gov does not like that way of life and is trying to snuff out that independence for they loose control with that.
    Agenda 21 outlines the plans of the masterminds to move Appalachian and others out of rural areas into major urban centers to keep the control. Think I am blowing smoke? Read Agenda 21 for the 21st Century. You may be surprised what the NWO elites have planned for Ameican society.

  22. The government doesn’t make job’s and is restricted constitutionally from doing so unless they are government job’s, i.e. military, postal, social services. These jobs either require hard work and dedication or an education which also requires hard work and dedication. People want talent-less and unskilled/uneducated work that pays the same as a professional career and that is neither realistic economically, nor does it provide a competitive necessity that is in keeping up with the rest of the modern world. It’s also not fair to those who have worked hard to improve their “birthright” beyond it’s impoverishment.

    With the exception of the physically and mentally disabled, people make the decision to live off handouts perpetually themselves because they are too lazy to do otherwise. Apathy is self imposed and they continue to elect the same government they want to blame for their issues. If you have no jobs in your area, make one or move. Don’t give me the excuse you can’t afford to move either, my Great great grandfather moved across this country too Appalachia across the mountains in a wagon with his wife, parents, and 2 children, through the elements because he was driven to a better opportunity. People just don’t want to do something if it’s hard and inconvenient. Lazy is the optimal word.

    What we ignore, or forget, is that in any situation more than one party can be equally at fault in any given situation, but either party can take 100% responsibility at any time and begin to make a change. Pride, however, overcomes humility, and stupidity overcomes right-mindedness, leading to a continued cycle of blame and acedia.

  23. The people of West Virginia have to realize that Coal is no longer King except to the politicians who are bought and owned by the big coal companies. We have to wake up and see the handwriting on the wall, If we want to prosper we have to diversify and not just rely on coal which is a finite resource. We could invest in alternative energy as a means of transitioning from our coal based economy, We need to invest in education, and. rebuild our infra-structure. We need to provide better paying for our people. I just read that by 2016 , 1% of the population will own 50% of the world’s wealth, the gap between the have and the have-nots is growing. Take Wal-Mart for example. the Walton family is worth billions, yet they are unwilling to pay their employees a living wage. People who work at Wal-Mart are instructed on how to get food stamps and other help from the government. In other words the government subsidizes the largest retailer in the country, as well as subsidizing big oil companies. We will bailout big banks but Congress will not pass a jobs bill which would build much needed infra-structure in the country, They would rather build the Keystone Pipeline for a Chinese owned oil company to ship dirty tar sands oil to the Gulf to be exported to Asia. I agree we probably have too many government regulations but that is because industry cannot be relied upon to monitor itself in regard to health and safety issues. The EPA is characterized as a villain, but when there is a crisis as in the chemical spill in the Kanawha River, the people are screaming that the EPA didn’t do their job .when they were not required by law to inspect the tanks that ultimately leaked! We cannot rely on trickle-down economics to solve our problems. The stock market is doing better than ever,.Congress gutted the bill that would protect us from the banks that too BIG too fail,. Very few workers are protected by unions today. Huge corporations like Exon Mobile and GE pay no taxes. CEO salaries have sky-rocketed while workers salaries have not kept up with inflation. West Virginia has great potential – great people. great scenery , great resources . We need to wake up and realize that what we have done in the past is not working now. We need to be pro-actrive, about our future, not reactionary.

  24. So, Mr. Insightful, what would your answer be to helping Appalachian residents climb out of poverty then?
    Oh, by the way, thanks for perpetuating the misconception that it’s laziness and apathy and acceptance of government handouts that’s the problem.
    As one who works tirelessly to help the poor residents of Appalachia, it is you who are the problem, my misguided friend. YOU.
    So, I’ll repeat the question. What’s brilliant your solution?

  25. People say that there are no jobs. I am aware that jobs are difficult to find, esp jobs that don’t require a college or high school/GED education. We talk about the drug problem (which if you are from the area, you should know is rampant). Why not get a job that might help fix that? Get educated or trained to be a nurse, counselor, police officer, etc. I’ve held a job since I was 16, up until I went back to college. Then I quit my job and get some assistance from the state and take out student loans. My worker was shocked when I declined assistance that I didn’t truly need (like clothing vouchers for myself). See about opening and running a youth center (I’m sure grants would be available to run one non-profit) to help kids get off the street and not see the drug deals. There are options. You just have to look for them. Nobody said it would be easy. And if you’re willing to settle for an undesirable lifestyle and not seek help or help yourself, you have no one to blame but you. We need some responsibility and accountability around here.

  26. I honestly don’t know what the answer is. Everyone blames the federal government for everything, when the real problem lies in the coal companies gripping control over local government. Personally, I’ve given up. I didn’t grow up here, so I guess I’m an ‘outsider.’ But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. My goal is to just get out, which is similar to most people I know. It’s a depressing situation.

  27. I grew up in southwestern Virginia, as did my husband. I no longer live there, mostly because I did not want my children growing up around people with this mentality. I totally agree with the article. What I find incredibly disturbing about the arguments against it is that people think that education is reserved for those who are better off financially. That is just ridiculous. There are so many programs at community colleges and elsewhere to educate our citizens. I went to college, and you better believe that I worked my butt off to get through it and support my two kids at the same time…waiting tables, making coffee, you name it, I did it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the problem with Appalachia is that so many don’t have the will to do anything that doesn’t come with a quick fix. It’s not the government’s role to give you some drive…it’s all on you.

    • I agree MORGAN, on the education part of your statement, but the original article is not original at all, repeating cliches. It does not mention education, as far I can see. John C.C. Mayo and his millionaire partner, Buckingham, who were educated men (Mayo, a teacher) swindled our ancestors out of their useable land. They manipulated their innocence, not to say ignorance, and set us on a self-destructive path that continues for over a century. Visit the Mayo Mansion in Paintsville. I can’t without puking. Most can agree, it is part of a nations role to educate citizens. Otherwise democracy fails and plutocracy of the rich takes over and kills the middle and lower class..

  28. In regards to #2, government handouts: Would you consider town/county/leading non-profits that have become proficient at having their hands out for grant monies to be a negative thing as well? Our small town and its leaders seem to think it is ok to sign their names to any grant that brings money into the community. On one hand we need anything and everything here, yet on the other hand, it just doesn’t settle in me right. I worry, in the long run, we may be giving up more than we are getting. Do you believe there is any validity to my feelings?

  29. I believe the biggest reason Unlce Sam has created the poverty in Appalachia is the issue of control. From the earliest times, before the wars (Rev & Civil), the people of the region were greatly independant as was necessary to survive. The government’s attempt to tax citizens here failed to a large degree. Hauling corn to market was so difficult in the region, however by distilling it, it made a crop that could be transported easily and converted for cash or traded. By creating the dependencies that your article describes, government is finally being able to exert some control over the population which they have never had before. I pray for the Government to go find some other place to offer its help and leave the area to the people who call it home.

  30. There are no investors interested in trying to improve Appalachia. It is an area devoid of jobs, yes, but also devoid of basic health care, decent educational opportunities, and an entire morass of other things that if they were part and parcel of urban America….well….every government agency would be throwing money at it like there was no tomorrow. Instead, we flounder. Are we not important enough to the voting bloc to be given the perks? Are we not important enough for the Gates foundation to invest educational dollars? Are we not important enough for healthcare reform? At this point, I feel like I am living in a throw away society…..Appalachian citizens are disposable and not worth anyone’s investment. Yes, there is a culture of “handouts” not “hand ups” and that is sad, but for me……that is NOT the problem. Lack of investment is the PROBLEM……handouts and the drug culture are the symptoms of an uncaring nation. Just my 2 cents.

  31. I can’t help but think that if our state government would lower taxes for business.and give some incentives for business to relocate to WV that life would get better. We tax businesses to death in this state. We do not have a business friendly climate. No business, no jobs leads to poverty. My children and many of the children of my friends graduated from college and left the state for good paying jobs. We’re losing the best we have to offer and those who can’t afford to leave are stuck in low paying jobs if they have jobs at all.

  32. The government doesn’t create jobs; people create jobs. The wealthy people are the ones providing the jobs, and if taxes are raised on them, there will be fewer jobs. I also think it is somewhat of a generational issue. I grew up in the 60s, and the only work to be had for a young man was the coal mine. My husband found work in the DC area. If there are no jobs, you look elsewhere, anywhere in order to make a living and provide for your family. With each generation that comes along it seems they are more and more inclined to think they are owed something and therefore don’t necessarily need to work for it — lazier than the previous generation.

  33. Excellent article and comments. It’s sad WV has become the land of, “I got my disability!” (one of my relatives). Who is to blame? Who cares. Move on WV. Sad to say that if you can’t make your own opportunity, and you want opportunity and are willing to work for it, you will have to leave the state. There are other mountains where people and governments are optimistic, and welcoming. I know, I left in 1979 for the Cascade mountains of Oregon, and found that there is life after West Virginia, a good life. The circle of blame has come full circle in my life, from the government not doing enough, to the government doing too much. Blame gets one nowhere. Hard work and creativity will out, but unfortunately the underlying “Mountain Mama” culture doesn’t encourage that, and leaving is a sin. Keep up the conversation. It’s a start. A good start.

  34. I agree gov handouts have contributed and relying on a single industry to support economic growth is never a good idea. However, this article put much emphasis on the handouts! The industry is my opinion is the problem and continues to be so. The coal industry or any other resource extraction industry has never bought into our local communities. They extract the resource and leave but nothing is left because the only thing they provide temporarily are jobs. They are not stewards of the land, they do not support the communities they take from. And Gov well yes the hanouts are a problem but not a single politician in WV were looking out for the communities. If they were they would have forced industry to pay higher bonds, made them do the RIGHT think for the people. That didn’t happen and continues to happen today. So I agree that Gov is a problem just not for the same reasons. But I also think industry bears a much of the responsibility. BTW I also grew up in southern WV.

  35. Diannna, You have hit the nail on the head. If our state government really cared about getting people off checks in our state our government should work harder to entice company’s into our areas.The B&O tax in our state has deterred many business to locate to our area for years. Evidently, the state must accumulate much more in taxes from the few company’s we have in our state than stopping the measly welfare handouts. We have plenty of well educated and willing people ready to work in our state. Either way it all boils down to our government not caring for its people. West Virginians do want to work and would prefer to stand on there on two feet. We have plenty of well educated and hard working people ready to fill any positions offered to us.

    – See more at: http://appalachianmagazine.com/2015/01/19/government-creating-poverty-in-appalachia/#respond

  36. First off, West Virginia is a closed shop state. If you don’t know what that means, or even better, didn’t know such a thing existed, then you should educate yourself prior to commenting. Secondly, most people that live in West Virginia pay a price to live there, most drive an hour to work, work at a job that pays less than other places, and pay very high state taxes, and expensive auto insurance.

    Most people that have an education simply move out of the state, most move for jobs, cheaper housing, and better schools. What you are left with is a majority of people with some education, but not enough, or little work experience.

    So it’s simple, if you live there, be prepared to make less money, or go a year or two between jobs. If you don’t want to do that, then move. Sorry it’s not the “govment” fault, it’s just the way it is. If you feel that a steelworker with no college should make more than a educated school teacher, or you feel that every company that comes to the state should be threatned with a union, then you are right at home, enjoy. Like most people I moved and never looked back, and once every two years visit and go right back home without a single regret.

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