Plain Talk

Plain Talk

Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Nicolle Gallagher, Guest Columnist

Last I checked there were 35,000 people living in Weakley County and a lot more if you count the surrounding counties. I don’t know how many of them read this column, but I know a few do and that’s a great feeling. I genuinely appreciate the good fortune I’ve had in my life that allows me to continue this effort each week. 

Occasionally, I get a random mean-spirited email. In the past year fellow citizens have chosen to try to “out” me as a paid  political activist or question my patriotism because I haven’t visited a specific cemetery. One opinion columnist in Obion County went so far as to make up a name for me, “Little Miss Liberal”. 

Since I have not been “little” or  “miss” in several years, I’ll take both as a compliment. But hey, it could be worse, right? I’ve read that the discourse in the past has been much worse in fact, down right horrific, so a little written jab here and there is to be expected. And for the record, I am an unpaid volunteer. 

The truth is, that kind of negative reaction is few and far between. The majority of feedback I get is positive even when folks don’t agree with every detail. They are at a minimum polite, ask productive questions and respect my right to participate in the political process. 

 

This week though, I’m going to refrain from ideological fights and instead focus on specifics – real questions and even one  real idea because I’m in it for the long haul. I want to contribute to what Northwest Tennessee looks like 50 years from now. 

So, what do you think? Will a new industry save the day and come in to replace Goodyear? If so, what will it be and will it pay a living wage? Will the employees be able to purchase their own homes, eat out, go to movies and send their kids to college? 

How many of the newly unemployed with stay in the area? If there is a migration, what will that do to property values? How many parents will tolerate failing grades for the public schools? Will the school system be able to turn itself around in time and if not, what then? And what about the kids who are graduating now? What opportunities do they have if they stay? 

What about the sewer systems in the county – they are outdated and many need to be updated – how is that going to be paid for? What about the water? How much is it going to cost to make sure that it is clean and drinkable? What about electricity? How much revenue is collected from the Low Income Energy Program throughout the state and what effect will the cuts to it have on energy prices?  Tennessee has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. How will those people keep themselves warm?

Will Northwest Tennessee go the way so many other areas of the country did before it? 

Will we go through what Bethlehem, Pa. went through when the steel industry collapsed? Is there anything that can be done to prevent that from happening here? We let an entire city like Detroit fall into such disrepair that they are now closing half of the schools and letting parts of the city revert back to nature. That was Detroit. What hope do we have here if we let that happen to what was once considered the jewel of the midwest?

The list of questions goes on and on and no matter how much we disagree – they have to be answered, eventually. I don’t know the answers.  In fact, I don’t know the answers to even a fraction of these questions and  I have far more questions than space to ask them. 

Calling each other names is not going to get us answers. Hoping, wishing and praying that everyone just adopt the same ideology isn’t going to happen either – it has never happened and never will – that’s what makes us America in the first place. 

So, having gotten all of that out of my system I have an idea. Several actually, but I’ll just throw one out there for now. Please, rip my idea apart, poke holes in it with actual data, come up with alternatives, ignore it entirely and put your own ideas out there. Ideas are only the first step to solutions.

Idea # 1 – reduce the number of people in the labor force. Since 2007 we’ve been wringing our hands about creating jobs but perhaps instead of just solely focusing on creating new jobs, we should also be looking and reducing the number of people in the labor force. Social Security and Medicare are economic tools just as much as they are moral social programs. How many people are sticking with their job for the health insurance only?  How many people would resign and open up jobs to other people if only they had access to health insurance? We have far more people going on Medicare than we ever had before. Why not allow people to pay into it? 

Wouldn’t that generate revenue for the program and open up jobs? It could be done through a one-time lottery, or it could be based on age or years in the work-force; there are hundreds if not thousands of different ways to do it, but we aren’t even talking about it as an option. 

Why? Social Security reduces the number of people in the work-force. Is there a valid reason to believe that a Medicare Buy-in program wouldn’t do the same thing? 

So, it’s your choice. Come up with another nickname or come up with an idea of your own. I’m one of 35,000. 

There’s got to be a few good ideas out there. 

Send me your comments by email to nicolle.crist@gmail.com.

wcp 3/1/11

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