Social Apartheid in Tri-Cities Bristol Virginia-Tennessee 2013
by Lewis Loflin
The above chart shows that Tri-Cities, Bristol Virginia-Tennessee will not only have among the lowest growth in the nation, but the lowest in Tennessee and Virginia. The region already suffers a 20 percent plus real poverty rate and is plagued not so much with unemployment but massive under-employment and severe unemployment disguised in other ways.
To sum up the problems in our region is simply political corruption and a massive income gap due to a low-wage pro-business culture. Both feed on each other. In America today maintaining a large low-wage labor force is seen as vital to economic prosperity, but the cost is very real.
Almost 50 years of liberal social engineering combined with billions spent on economic development have yielded no measurable benefit to those it was intended to help, but has made a small class of politically connected people very rich. The problem and solutions begin with individuals, not government, business, or the wealthy elite.
A look at 12 years of cable ready socialism in our region:
Company Jumps County Line for Government Handouts
Typical of the government stupidity in this region is the recent decision of a company named Steel Fab to shift operations to a neighboring community and collect a fortune in government handouts. We should have been wary when the company was all the sudden advertising all kinds of new positions last year but so oddly never hired anyone. This is a precursor to a change in ownership or relocation, and a new incentive package for the company.
Steel Fab has two locations in Washington County. Now it's being reported on August 20, 2013 they will move across the county line to Russell County to get a I believe free building plus an additional $260,000 in cash. They will locate to the empty Leer building in Lebanon, the product of an earlier corporate welfare fiasco that got the money and went away.
They claim Steel Fab will invest $1.5 million and "retain" 260 employees nobody is allowed to even confirm they actually have and promise to hire 50 new employees over three years. There's no way to confirm this will ever happen because the public is barred from obtaining the information. They claim they will produce pressure tanks and is a division of the Samuel Pressure Vessel Group of Wisconsin.
In the past according to their own statements from economic developers involved in this case they don't follow employment numbers or pay scales after the award of public moneys and this is simply another announcement. Even now they proclaimed the "creation" of another 310 new jobs, which is a bold face lie. This is one example of the political corruption that permeates our local culture.
This scam was hatched by the Russell County Industrial Development Authority. Go to their website (www.russellcountyida.org) and note the following information:
According to the Bristol Herald Courier Dec. 27, 2012 Alcoa Wheel fired its last 76 employees in "January and move(ed) all of the production to the company’s Cleveland, Ohio facility." They have not been any form of major employer for years. Leer Corporation had closed back in 2010 and had been in decline for years before that. How can they still be listed as a "major employer" in 2013? Can we really trust these people to be truthful?
First of all we were promised 700 new high-paying IT jobs and there's no evidence of this eight years later. Northrop Grumman consists of a data backup center and call center paying $9 an hour. Eight year later there's no proof of any broad economic benefit to the general community with this $2 billion state outsourcing contract. See Northrop Grumman and AMS-CGI - real jobs or hype?
Here for example Ron Flanary former head of LENOWISCO who was also on the board of VCEDA. Their job claims can't be verified because they often don't exist. I sent a letter to the Virginia Tobacco Commission, LENOWISCO, and VCEDA on this issue. Here is the VCEDA response that was identical to the other two in April 2005:
Thank you for your inquiry regarding job creation by the Virginia Coalfields Economic Development Authority (VCEDA)...I have included the job creation and expansion numbers announced by VCEDA since its creation in 1988. Not all of these projects are still located in the region, but this will give you an idea of what has located here and the projected employment associated with the projects.
Fact is most of those never existed and much of what they did lure into the area ran away when the grants ran out.
Welcome to the great community of Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee. This is now my 15th year on the web and it's time to start a new year. No doubt our community will suffer another year of political corruption, crony capitalism, and third-world poverty. Just in December 2011 alone we lost another 500 manufacturing jobs within our community of about 50,000.
Public officials here try to sweep the rot under the proverbial rug. The Bristol Herald Courier our local so-called newspaper does report the problems such as the many residents (about 15 percent) have little healthcare access (Southwest Virginians rank poorly in health report April 4, 2013) or that the region suffer among the highest child poverty rates in the state. (January 17, 2012) Yet they will not address why. Only a few black communities and Petersburg are in worse shape.
Those that lack access to healthcare excludes the welfare class and retirees that are covered by government. The problem is the low wage business climate. Many employers offer few or no benefits so many can't afford either healthcare nor dental care, which isn't covered by Virginia Medicaid or TennCare anyway. Obamacare and so far the refusal of Virginia to expand Medicaid won't help. Lack of dental care is a severe problem.
For the record Tri-Cities Bristol Virginia-Tennessee includes the counties/cities in upper East Tennessee (Tennessee 1st. District) and far Southwest Virginia. (Virginia 9th. District.) Politically the region is overwhelmingly Republican.
DailyFinance.com notes Tri-Cities is number 5 in America's 10 Poorest Cities. To quote,
I've met Mr. Casteel and he has his hands full with a county government (I'm a Washington County resident) hell bent on showering its friends and business associates with ten of millions of public dollars while begrudging social services pennies. Republicans seem to believe poverty is a social construct of Democrats to increase government power.
They note the Median household income is $34,741 (Virginia is $65,000), but that is only part of the story. The wealth is highly concentrated among government workers, the large numbers of move-in retirees, and business owners. In Washington County Virginia where I live (just outside Bristol, Virginia) the County seat in Abingdon is swimming in wealth driving up housing and other costs.
Kingsport (18 miles from Bristol) the home of the mighty Eastman Chemical that has enjoyed millions in tax breaks while firing hundreds of workers is a case in point for the Tri-Cities VA-TN region. Almost one-third of its residents lived below the poverty line in 2009 ten percent higher than the State of Tennessee already among the poorest states in the Union. The Census in 2010 says 17.4 percent. By race over 9000 whites and about 400 blacks live in poverty just in Kingsport. (www.city-data.com)
Note the following as far as poor families go:
Married-couple family (21.7%)
Breakdown of poor residents in Kingsport not in families by work experience:
Did not work (74%)
The poor across the region are mostly single parents and many are disabled to some degree or so they say so. My experience has been many get on disability because they can't find suitable work or are simply lazy. I hate to say that but a lot of people in their late 40s or older have been fired due to plant closings (or downsized from companies such as Eastman Chemical) over the last 15 years and simply can't work a restaurant job. Health problems are also rampant in this population including smoking (over 25 percent), obesity, diabetes, etc.
Religion and History
$213,000 Federal Grant Wasted on Bristol Strawberry Farm
This is a typical example of why the Bristol region is the mess it is and why the nation is bankrupt. While the politicians fight over the Federal budget the waste continues and nowhere is this more so than a $213,000 grant to a pick your own strawberry farm in Bristol Virginia.
The lucky winner of the pork-barrel jackpot is called Glenmary Gardens a hobby started four years ago by a Michael Richard when he retired. He has something he calls strawberry butter which is nothing new being a variation of apple butter or pear butter he is supposed to have sold at our taxpayer subsidized farmers markets.
This grant is touted as new job creation and is hailed as wonderful by the Bristol Herald Courier (April 25, 2012) our local newspaper. I'll just bet those fine folks invested their own retirement funds in strawberry butter. One local resident Scott Anderson had this to say:
Can I see a list of those jobs? This is just why poverty and political corruption are job 1 in Bristol. By the way I can get strawberrys for less than he charges for pick your own from Wal-Mart. I too will be watching this little farm.
Disability the Hidden Unemployment Program
Chana Joffe-Walt of NPR's Planet Money wrote Unfit to Work has noted the same trends I've documented in this region for years. I've disputed the official unemployment figures here for years because so many simply drop out of the workforce and give up. A plant closes firing hundreds of people while the tax payers buy-subsidize a handful of say call center jobs (sometimes costing as much as $250,000 per job) leaving one wondering what happened to all the workers? They go on disability.
The number of people getting on disability like all welfare programs is directly related the economy and available jobs. With no prospect for jobs and state welfare uncertain SSI and SSDI are the path many choose. According to www.ssa.gov applications for disability surged from 2.1 million in 2006 to over 2.9 million by 2010 with over 2 million people approved in 2010-11 alone peaking from a steady march upward in 2010 and hovering at 2.8 million.
The 10.8 million on disability (8.7 million are disabled workers) is costing taxpayers $10.7 billion a month ($128 billion annually) and the average disabled worker gets $1,129.51 or $13,500 a year. Now try minimum wage at $7.25 an hour even if one got a full 40 hours a week (not likely) is only around $1169 per month or $13,920 a year. In addition those on disability also get Medicaid plus other free stuff.
That cost is over three times the cost of housing assistance at $40 billion and state/local corporate welfare at $81 billion. Other charts show for example the average monthly benefit in $681 in 1994 to 1,110 in 2011. Yet the value of labor for the unskilled and uneducated has plummeted in real terms for years.
A government study in 2012 noted three reason for the massive growth of disability payments:
1. Changes in Demographics and Growth of the Labor Force Part of the growth in the DI program reflects the aging of the large baby-boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964). Older people suffer from debilitating conditions; moreover, the program's qualification standards for older workers are less strict than those for younger workers because older people are assumed to be less able to adapt to new types of work. The growth of women in the workforce has led to an even more rapid growth in disability payments than men.
We do have a large older population due to the steady out-migration of young people fleeing the poverty wage economy of this region. That is particularly true for those with education and skills, thus a surplus of the uneducated.
2. Changes in policy that favor say back pain and that to quote, "legislation allowed applicants to qualify for benefits on the basis of the combined effect of multiple medical conditions, each of which taken alone might not have met the criteria."
This here is the biggie for this region in my view. To quote,
So looking at the poor education levels and the poverty wage scales paid in this region is why we have a flood of disability claims. Ay one time pride kept many off the welfare roles, but today it's socially accepted.
Looking at the data two figures stand out is that most of the poor families did not work even if married. An interesting statistic is "native born" as opposed to "foreign born" I assume means grew up here versus moved here which is mostly far more affluent retirees. 24.1 percent of those that grew up here are in poverty versus only 6.6 percent of move-ins, much of that 6.6 percent is likely immigrants and many illegal aliens.
Referring back to Unfit to Work NPR noted in 1961 only 8.1 percent of disability was for back pain and 9.6 percent mental; today it's 33.8 percent back pain and 19.2 mental and developmental disorders. My brother-in-law in his mid fifties got it for diabetes and being illiterate, his son for drug use and a car accident, while an associates 25-year-old daughter got it for "nerves" another common ailment in this area.
Southwest Virginia is sandwiched between three of the seven highest disability states with number one West Virginia at 9 percent of its workforce disabled, Kentucky at 8.1 percent, and Tennessee at 6.5 percent. Demographics wise Southwest Virginia is little different than the rest of Appalachia.
We also have a meth and prescription drug epidemic that makes many people unemployable assuming they even want a job. Because of so many being disabled with back pain and similar ailments prescription drug abuse is a massive problem because so many drugs are prescribed. Many simply can't pass a drug test which gets them slammed by Medicaid, so they hunt for illegal sources or sell their prescriptions for cash.
Single Parent Problem
Single parents are a huge problem across society. Southwest Virginia has among the highest teen pregnancy rates in Virginia according to the Virginia Dept. of Social Services. I believe the problem is single parents period whatever the reason teenager or otherwise. The job structure is such that even a single person with no heavy debts (student loans, car payment, etc.) can barely make it here. An intact real two-parent family would need three typical jobs here between them just to survive even with government help such as Medicaid for their children.
Voices for Virginia’s Children (http://vakids.org/) notes of Virginia's 9th. District (Southwest Virginia):
"There are an estimated 126,334 children under age 18 living in Virginia's Congressional District 9. Of these, nearly 24 percent live in poverty." We rank second only to Congressional District 3 (estimated 163,326 children) at 30.1 percent.
An interesting side note on District 3 from Wikipedia:
So they invented a majority poverty district and the poverty is black people, but District 9 is 90 percent plus white. The Virginia Dept. of social service notes the typical poor resident in Virginia is white and 75 percent of the state's poor are non-black.
I bring this up not to belittle or ignore the devastation of our corrupt political and economic system has had on blacks, but to note they are not the primary losers - by shear numbers poor working class whites are. We simply lack the levels of violent crime blacks engage in.
Per capita money income (2011 dollars), 2007-2011 Bristol $19,273 while VA $33,040
The real killer - median household income is half that of Virginia in general - 2007-2011 Bristol $32,122 while VA $63,302.
Persons below poverty level is double the Virginia average 2007-2011 22.4 percent and VA 10.7 percent.
In Bristol, Virginia, 23.4% of the population is living below the poverty level plus one-third of the children in Bristol live below the poverty line. In Washington County VA it's around 20 percent and in other parts of Southwest VA is even worse some as high as 40 percent or more.
And I can go on all day how much this region lags Virginia and Tennessee in every important social demographic, so why the lower crime rates? If we subtract non-violent drug offences it plummets even further. The answer is guns.
Poverty Doesn't Lead to Crime while Guns Deter Crime
While Bristol Virginia-Tennessee and the surrounding Tri-Cities regions have the lowest crime rates of any urban region of either state regardless the highest poverty rates, it begs to question why? Why do poor whites engage in much smaller amounts of violent crime than poor blacks if poverty is the driving factor behind crime as the social engineers claim?
And no surprise the crime rates actually went down as poverty went up since 2007 so what gives? Yes the job losses proportionably hit blacks harder as Hispanics continue to push them out of the labor force, but by large numbers whites have lost their jobs. Whites are simply not as criminal prone as low-achieving non-Asian minorities.
There are several reasons. Yes minorities even here engage in a disproportionate amount of crime, but overall there's not enough of them to turn the whole region into another urban war zone. Yes public housing here like elsewhere are crime-ridden and concentrate the crime in a small area. Tri-Cities is partially urban.
While some stats say there's 88 guns for every 100 Americans here it's more more like 150 guns per 100 residents. We have a lot of veterans and they know how to use guns. Being semi-rural we have guns for hunting, etc. Everyone of my neighbors including myself own multiple guns and none of us hunt.
Unlike minority communities we still have enough church and family structure left to mitigate some of the social problems infecting the lower class, but that is reaching a breaking point. In the next few years may tell the difference.
Most important or bad depending on how one sees it is poor whites are not seen as victims nor is these self-destructive behaviors tolerated. At the same this blinds the public to some legitimate social ills that need addressing.
The large out-migration of young people and a large welfare system defuses many explosive social problems. A lot of welfare is often aimed at the elderly.
In minority dominated third-world cultures in our urban areas most of their young people seldom leave or can be educated by the liberal education system so the the pressure cooker blows off steam with rampant street violence and sometimes full scale riots. Law enforcement refuses to intervene or can function in most cases fearful of being called racists while here the few destructive whites we have are dealt with swiftly.
Because we haven't had to deal yet with the full ramifications of mass poverty doesn't mean we won't deal with it in the future. Many already know how to survive on a low income, but with inflation and continuing economic decline, and unknown levels of future government handouts, it's a matter of time.
The growth of the welfare culture is robbing the younger generation of many skills that have kept some of the more self-relent poor above water. Not only are they functional illiterates they can't even use a checkbook or cook a pot of beans or can tomatoes. The rapid loss of so many home skills is worrisome.
The continuing breakdown of morality, family, and social structure exacerbates all of these economic problems. Poor people can't afford stupid mistakes be it out of wedlock births, divorce, alcohol-drug abuse, etc.
Because of the interlocking cultural and political problems the region is predicted to have among the slowest growth in the nation in coming years. This is something that companies that locate here have to realize that cheap labor isn't everything. We have lots of people looking for jobs, but most are essentially unskilled or have the wrong skill sets, assuming they can even pass a drug test, which many can't. The Christian science Monitor notes the following,
The problem in this region, and I daresay much of the country, is our education system is utterly determined to keep those entering skilled vocational trades from receiving a better academic background in science, math, etc. As a vocational instructor myself I have fought this problem for years only to be stonewalled time after time by the so-called education professionals.
Sorry Exide Saga Continues
Exide Dumps Bristol Workers after Receiving $34 million in Stimulus Funds is another sorry case of a local company that was showered with millions in taxpayer funding only to watch them fire their workers. They fired 567 in 2009 and an additional 233 in 2011.
Now they have announced another layoff on May 30, 2013 dumping another 68 workers. These are permanent layoffs. Now it has been revealed that Exide has filed for Chapter 11 Protection. According to the Wall Street Journal June 10, 2013 this is the second Chapter 11 filing for the company which restructured in 2004. Why was a company like this given $34 million in Federal stimulus funds?
This filing only effects US operations and not its operations in 80 other countries. They claim stiff competition, high production costs, and " Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s decision to designate Johnson Controls as its sole supplier of transportation batteries resulted in a loss of about $160 million in annual revenue." Exide has assets of about $1.9 billion and debts of $1.1 billion.
In addition the WS Journal reports the company suspended operations at a California lead processing facility due to environmental problems.
CityMac Another Taxpayer Fiasco
CityMac is an Apple Computer store that opened with "great fanfare" in June 2013. It shut down with a whimper in June 2013 and with it went a $570,000 taxpayer handout. They were paid to locate in Bristol instead of Johnson City and the money is long gone. This is just the latest example of local communities trying to outbid each other for retail development which either fails or simply pays a business to jump the state line for corporate welfare. Rarely do we ever get new or good jobs and in this case another 15 workers lost their jobs.
Why in the world would anyone even open an Apple Computer store in Bristol which has no customer base? I'm heavily involved in tech in this community and I don't know anyone that owns an Apple Computer here. To quote the press release, their reasoning was "that it would attract shoppers from a wide ara to the downtown..." This operation also included the CityMug Coffee Shop.
This simply makes no sense other than it opened only at taxpayer expense. The younger people that would use these products simply have no money in this low-wage service-retirement community and seniors who have most of the money wouldn't buy such products. I hate to say it, but I predicted this a year ago when it opened.
There has been an increasing problem in hyping downtown Bristol and a lot of taxpayer money is being wasted. That included $6 million in state-local grants to refurbish the Old Bristol Train Station which still sits idled and empty today. They are spending another $11 million in taxpayer money on a country music museum which failed at the Bristol Mall, has no business plan that makes any sense at least to me, and yet they still get the money. It will fail too in that it will never be self-supporting.
When I contacted the Weldon-Cooper Center in Wise Virginia I was told they rushed the "study" through simply to allow the Birthplace of Country Music organization to get state grants. They claimed to have done an updated study.
The owner of CityMac Jim Neu says he is "disappointed" attempts by the Bristol Herald Courier to get a statement from Mr. Neu and the store manager are "unsuccessful." Neu was supposed to spend $300,000 to fix the old building and the City of Bristol now gets the old building. So they pay someone $570,000 for perhaps $300,000 in improvements to a useless building that assistant city manager Andrew Trivette praises as "a tremendous job of protecting the interests of the City."
Sure Andy, tell us all about it.
Layoffs and more Corporatism at Eastman Chemical
A few years ago my boss at a local community college had exiting news to tell me. "They're going to be hiring 2000 new workers at Eastman Chemical over the next 10 years." I was skeptical to say the least and my contacts at Eastman were saying more layoffs. Sullivan County and Kingsport had also handed out about $60 million in tax breaks on similar unfulfilled promises around 2001. I was proven right, in 2009 Eastman fired an additional 300 workers most of them in Kingsport. See Fun and Games at Eastman Chemical.
The Kingsport Times-News now announces Eastman investing $1.6 billion, adding 300 jobs in Kingsport through Project Inspire May 29, 2013. What the heck is Project Inspire and how are they adding 300 new jobs when they just fired them in 2009? Let's take a closer look.
According to the Times-News they will invest $1.6 billion and rehire the 300 they fired in 2009. But now we find out what is really going on:
In other words the Tennessee taxpayers will give them over $25 million to hopefully rehire those 300 laid off workers over the next seven years. What happened to those 2000 new jobs over ten years we were promised around 2007? The idiot Tennessee Gov. Haslam says,
"This is a really big deal for the state. ... We know we're going to be married (to Eastman) for a very, very long time." Sounds more like prostitution than married. A giddy Eastman CEO Rogers says he will get a "pretty nice office building" out of the deal and called corrupt Tennessee political Johns "friends of Eastman."
The other political Johns included Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were on the stage, as were Reps. Phil Roe of Northeast Tennessee's First Congressional District and Morgan Griffith of Southwest Virginia's Fightin' Ninth Congressional District.
What the hell is my congressman doing being involved in this? Says Griffith, "When other companies are in retreat, you all (at Eastman) are advancing." Really Morgan? Let me understand this. With this they get outright $85 million in corporate welfare and instead of the 2000 jobs promised they might rehire the last 300 they laid off over the next seven years?
In other words at the same time these slimy Republicans are demanding balanced budgets and cutting government they work behind the scenes to promote a corporatist state dominated by crony capitalism. To quote CEO Rogers,
It's called corporatism and it's not private enterprise. They have already picked out a design for their new taxpayer funded offices and to quote,
What about those recent layoffs governor? Gov. Haslam says, "We never felt like Eastman was holding a gun to our head. They are not that kind of partner." Oh, so they didn't expand in China like they threatened to a few years ago before they fired those 300 workers? Why is Mr. Haslam making such a statement? Could it be the hint of corporate blackmail that cost state-local governments $81 billion in 2012 alone?
Read the full press release at the Kingsport Times-News.
Gov. Haslam Steals from Children to Fund Corporate Welfare
No doubt part of that state pork for Eastman is from children. The Associated Press reported April 3, 2013 Gov. Haslam added an amendment to the appropriations bill for a $45 million increase in "the amount of cash grants available to companies looking to invest in Tennessee." The article didn't name the source of this corporate welfare slush fund, now we do according to AP and WCYB.com June 21, 2013:
Wonder where they will get the other $5 million?
More Political Corruption
Speaking of Tennessee being one of the most corrupt states in the union here is the latest installment from Gov. Haslam. This proves once again we must sever business from government. To quote:
$1 million in consulting fees alone on office space?
Healthcare Workers losing their jobs
The poverty-ridden communities of Wise County, the City of Norton, and Lee County got their first installment of Obamacare. 50 positions will be eliminated to include eliminating intensive care services in Pennington Gap by Wellmont.
The Bristol Herald Courier (6-6-2013) claims this is due to healthcare reform, reduced Medicare reimbursements, and lack of Medicaid expansion. In my view the largest danger is to Medicare and the fact Obamacare won't help the 15 percent of the population already uninsured. In fact one local hospital chain I won't name is cutting the hours of most of its hourly staff to 30 hours a week to evade providing healthcare coverage to its underpaid workers.
Let's look closer at this problem the press has ignored. That almost 15 percent uninsured in Southwest Virginia are not the welfare class or retirees, but mostly low-wage workers which in general get no benefits anyway. Many companies are threatening to reduce the hours of these already underpaid workers to even less hours then they are now. I predict the uninsured in the Tri-Cities region will only grow under Obamacare.
While the region already suffers from and is predicted to have the slowest economic growth in the coming years, medical services and leisure-hospitality industries are predicted to be the big growth areas. That is also a possible looming disaster itself to the region's working poor. Home healthcare is seen as the main part of medical related jobs predicted to see growth, but is already low-paying and has no benefits either. That is a service heavily dependant on Medicare and Medicaid and will get cut.
Virginia Medicaid has a bad habit of refusing to pay its bills or simply refusing to cover many services. Much of the healthcare in this region is government and cuts in government will spell big problems. Obamacare shifts money away from seniors (Medicare) and with the substantial senior population in the region that is just more problems.
This comes on the heels of the closing of two local nursing homes due to reimbursement and other problems. The Continium Care facility in Weber City (Scott County) closed January 2010 costing 60 people their jobs. To quote,
Indian Path Pavilion serving mental and substance abuse services slammed the doors in December 2009 costing another 114 jobs. To quote,
That closure too was related to state funding cuts.
Now another nursing home this time in Bristol is getting the axe. Bristol Nursing Home was fined $3000 May 10, 2013:
Read the full story Probe results in fine for Bristol Nursing Home, block on new admissions at the Bristol Herald Courier.
Now the Bristol Health and Rehabilitation Center (Fomerly Bristol Nursing Home) has had to relocate its last 70 patients due to that pending shutdown costing about 50 workers their jobs. To quote:
This is according to www.wcyb.com May 9, 2013 and as of June 17 the last 70 government paid for patients have left.
What does all of he above have in common? The massive over-reliance on government funding for medical services of all kinds in this region. They are often cutting reimbursements forcing some to cut corners to stay afloat.
Cost of Wise Inn Fiasco Soares to $12 Million
The derelict and empty Wise Inn has stood rotting for decades on main street in Wise Virginia. Wise County and the Town of Wise stands in the middle of the most impoverished region in Virginia. Every year the spectacle of Remote Area Medical serving the needs of several thousand local citizens desperate for basic services such as dental care and jobs makes national headlines. In 2013 that number was 3000 mostly seeking dental care.
Local and state agencies waste millions in questionable deals often done in back rooms in the name of economic development. Everything from phony energy research (between $10-$20 million), a new $30 million convocation center for a local college, etc. have produced nothing and all of these projects has had no measurable benefit to anyone except a small political elite and consultants, contractors, and their friends.
The Wise Inn is the latest fiasco to beset Wise. They claimed the project to renovate the structure would cost only $8 million in government grants to fix up even if it has no business plan and nobody wants to use it. That was about 6 years ago and today the cost has ballooned to as much as $12 million as of December 2012.
Wise County IDA Executive Director Carl Snodgrass says, "It became increasingly obvious that if the project was to succeed, the (IDA) must deal with the reality of accepting a design that would create a viable and sustainable project."
Really Mr. Snodgrass? And how much private sector funding went into this? When did you hold any public hearings on this project or discussed anything in public at all? So they plan to spend the money anyway (if they haven't already) even though the project isn't "viable and sustainable" and has no business plan?
To quote the press,
Officials hope the inn can become a hub for day trips to other attractions around the region, including the Ralph Stanley Museum, the Carter Fold, the Jefferson National Forest's High Knob area, the Southwest Virginia Museum, the Trail of the Lonesome Pine State Outdoor Drama and the Wilderness Road and Natural Tunnel state parks.
The only problem is most of these places have been there for decades and have produced nothing in the way of real jobs or opportunity for the working poor. They simply serve as an excuse to get government grants to enrich a few people. They gave the Carter Family about $2 million to fix the family barn as a tourist attraction that has produced nothing I know of in the way of jobs or development. (It's a few miles from my house.) The Ralph Stanley House-Museum has already failed and defaulted on its loans. The Wise Inn no doubt won't be far behind if ever finished. Ref. BHC 12/19/2012
Mass Immigration Killing the Working Poor Here Too
Immigration reform will cause even more misery for the working poor as an additional 22 million more guest workers over the next decade will further displace native born low-wage workers and already have in East Tennessee and Tri-Cities. Low-wage black workers have been driven out of the labor force across the nation by immigration and the same thing is happening to poor whites in our region as employers hunt for more cheap-exploitable labor.
In fact this has been recommended to business as a way to lower labor costs in the tourist-retirement related industries this region is promoting. Simply put they want to bring in even cheaper labor to displace the working poor that already dominates our private sector labor market. The working poor are ignored and marginalized already and so the system of social apartheid will continue to flourish.
Oh by the way Little Italy Pizza has just opened in downtown Bristol. Now we have New York-style pizza in the local third-world economic system. Wonder if this company got a cash gift from the City and if their workers will get employer healthcare? The public hearing for their beer license is set for Wednesday, June 19, at 5 p.m. at the Bristol Tennessee Municipal Annex at 104 8th St. Read the full celebration at Bristol Herald Courier.
The official unemployment figure for are deceptive in that they don't reflect under-employment and depressed wage scales.
Added June 7, 2013:
Gun sales set records in region, state: The real reason we buy guns
Quoting the Bristol Herald Courier on January 5,
Both Saturday morning handgun safety and carry permit classes were full. A case containing handguns was nearly empty, and a lone rifle for sale rested on the wall. A sign near the front of the (local gun) store proclaimed the absence of certain types of ammunition.
Of the top ten most wanted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation January 28, 2013 three are black, three are white, and four are Hispanic. Hispanics will be eclipsing blacks on crime as their numbers grow. Tennessee is 76 percent white. See Crime by Race in Tennessee.
Blacks and Muslims (I would add Hispanics) who face the insults of being profiled might direct their anger toward those who've made blacks and crime synonymous and terrorism and Muslims synonymous...For most blacks to own up to the high crime rate among blacks is a source of considerable discomfort. Beyond that, it creates suspicions and resentment, which are destructive of good race relations, and it's devastating to the black community, which is its primary victim...
Prof. Walter E. Williams
Crime Reports from Johnson City Area January - February 2012
Pork Alert - Solar-powered lights for hiking trail
Big Stone Gap, an impoverished and dying mining town in Wise County Virginia will be getting solar-powered lights and distance markers. A gift from the Virginia Department of Health this latest example of pork-barrel waste will soon be installed on the town's Greenbelt trail. The idea is to get those that can't afford health insurance and over weight to walk away the pounds.
To quote one silly official, "The Lenowisco Health District promotes physical activity through a variety of programs, and we are very excited to work with Big Stone Gap and VDH's Healthy Communities Program to provide solar lights and distance markers for the trail." So says health district director Eleanor Sue Cantrell. Further, "This will make the trail easier to use for a longer period of time each day.' She says according to press reports, "trails and greenways connect parks and neighborhoods and help make physical activity part of people's daily lives."
Funny, the area abounds in wilderness and already has plenty of choices during daylight hours. The lights will be install this spring just in time for the longer daylight hours that occurs anyway. Post March10, 2013.
Professor Larry Sabato: