Needed Political Reforms Before Ending Poverty in Southwest Virginia
by Lewis Loflin
As one regional economic developer pointed out, it's OK to criticise, but what about some solutions? Good question, here is my response. This is part of a discussion with a regional economic developer and I believe what is best for these Tobacco and other economic development funds.
My goal is to not give people or business money or a welfare check. And another is to assure poverty doesn't become an industry in itself producing career minded people more interested in a paycheck than solving real problems. The other goal is to simply weed out free loaders that really deserve nothing. He said because of political considerations it would never go anywhere for those very reasons, but here it is anyway.
- Halt all government money going to economic development (often corporate welfare), social programs, non-profits, etc. Keep all public funds out of the private sector as much as possible and keep it clear of local politics. Sever government totally from local business interests.
- Setup a general education fund for the region's residents. Pool all the funds going for tourism development, Tobacco grants, etc. into this. Use it as a conditional education grant to send the region's residents to school, redo high school, or community college. The focus must be general education, in particular high school math, science and English before any vocational classes or community college. It's open to anyone in the general public regardless of income as long as the funds last and they are in the workforce or are employable. This is not for art classes for retirees.
- This is voluntary and pays only for books and tuition and continuing funding for the individual depends on completing a class before they go to the next. The student must be held accountable and if they fail to perform they are out. Pay for this through a 2-year degree.
- Use existing high schools, community colleges, perhaps empty shell buildings, etc. There's plenty of volunteers willing to help. These must be public institutions, not another private diploma mill and must not become a another government funded industry. The classes need to be oriented towards general education, jobs or what can be used for a job. If a student wants an art class they pay for it.
- If a student has a job, they can come to improve their skills. This would be plus for an established business that needs a better high school graduate they often use as an excuse for their low pay scales.
This system would weed out those unwilling to put forth an effort and a direct reward for those willing to strive for it. If an employer is willing to really commit to hiring people from college or vocational programs, I'd be willing to give them some sort of compensation or tax break, but only if they actually hire them and pay at least $12 an hour ($5 an hour above minimum wage, not the $2 an hour average now) to start and keep the worker for one year.
The company must agree not to use temp workers or illegal aliens and this must be enforced. They get it at the end, not before. Illegal aliens must be barred from the program and the immigration laws enforced. We can also setup a fund to assist those wishing to relocate for employment reasons to leave the region. This is better than leaving them trapped here on welfare. Either the private sector starts hiring the people they claim they can't get or they can just shut up.
I worked with one local business (they paid for it) to improve their workforce skills in basic electricity. It worked well. Beyond that, the taxpayer owes them nothing. They (resident and business) must stand on their own two feet. Get a job, starve, or relocate. End the corporate welfare and pork-barrel waste.
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