Plain Talk – 3.29.11

Plain Talk – 3.29.11

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 3:25 pm
By: Nicolle Crist, Guest Columnist

Welcome to Weakley County, Congressman Fincher. As you’re settling into your new Martin office I’d like to share some information about our county with you that I hope you keep in mind when you get back to Washington this week to debate the budget.
Our unemployment rate is 11.9 percent, or in real-people terms that means that about 1,776 of our friends and neighbors need jobs.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of families living in poverty in Weakley County is 36 percent higher than the national average.
That’s 6,018 people that I hope you remember when you are discussing food stamps and emergency heating programs, especially considering that 17 percent of them are over the age of 65.
We have just over 5,000 senior-citizens who are living on Social Security and depend on Medicare. The mean Social Security income in Weakley County is about $13,500 per year.
Please keep them in mind as well. The new Health Care Reform law has started to close the Medicare prescription donut hole. Even with the new rebate, an annual income of $13,500 doesn’t go far when prescriptions can cost hundreds of dollars each.
When you and your party are entertaining the idea of a government shut-down, please give the local leaders of Weakley County a call and ask them how their businesses will be affected if 5,000 people are cutoff from the Social Security checks they earned.
Give the local health care professionals a call and ask them what will happen if they stop receiving Medicare reimbursements.
If they stop getting paid, what will the domino effect be on the rest of our businesses?
When you are trying to decide between farm and education subsidies, more people in Weakley County work in “Educational Services, Health Care and Social Assistance” than any other tracked category – a whopping 26.8 percent.
That’s more than six times the number of folks in agriculture which comes in at only 4.1 percent of our workforce.
When issues like affordable child care and after-school programs come to the chopping block remember that right outside your new office, 68 percent of families with children under 17 have both parents working.
That’s about 4,381 real families who would benefit from arts, music or sports programs and more pre-K classrooms. They would benefit even more from a living wage.
We have about 8,500 kids under the age of 19. When you are considering cuts to public education, it’s important to know that less than five percent of our population is able to speak a foreign language.
This is a skill that public schools can no longer afford to forgo in the name of budgets. My generation was able to thread the needle and get by without superior language skills.
The next generation will not. The world has changed and so have the skills required to succeed in it. Our schools are not doing so hot in math and science either.
You might want to consider those students when you have to decide between oil and bio-tech companies, Wall Street fund managers and public education funds.
It’s not all bad news here in Weakley County. The vacancy rate of homes is about on par with the rest of the country so that is pretty good news.
It’s too high across the board nationally, but I guess it’s good that we aren’t worse off than the rest of the country.
A healthy percentage (47.9 percent) of our homeowners are mortgage free, too, which is a good economic foundation to re-build on.
But, 20 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing expenses.
That is not good for the surrounding businesses. We need that money flowing through our economy and it’s your job  to make sure that happens.
So, Mr. Fincher – this is just a little bit about Weakley County that I will be paying attention to during this budget debate. I hope you choose to do the same.
Welcome to Weakley County.
If you have any comments or questions please e-mail me at nicolle.crist@gmail.com. All statistics taken from the US Department of Labor and U.S Census Bureau.

WCP 3.29.11

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