Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

ALICE in Poverty Land in Southwest Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

Posted Dec. 26, 2019.

The United Way published a study known as ALICE. To quote

ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget.

For far too many families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. These households struggle to manage even their most basic needs - housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and necessary technology.

When funds run short, cash-strapped households are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, filling a prescription or fixing the car. These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for ALICE families, but for all of us.

This describes much of the regional workforce in Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee.

In Southwest Virginia over half of the working population can't earn a living. This drives a whole host of social problems from family breakup to welfare dependency to drug-alcohol abuse. Regional jails are filled with drug/alcohol abusers and dealers.

A low paying job often has few or no benefits. In Tennessee alone over 1 million working households can't earn a living. Vast swaths of Southwest and Southside Virginia are even worse off.

Yet millions of low-income working Americans are called racists for opposing bringing in more illegal aliens, immigrants, and guest workers. This policy combined with economic policies favoring business led to this problem. This is how vast areas of the nation are near destitution.

ALICE measures how much money is needed for basic living expenses. This "survival budget" leaves no room for car repairs, savings, loan payments, eating out, pets, cable service, vacations, or toys for children.

Millions in corporate welfare to businesses like American Merchant does nothing to address this problem. Business is lured into the region on promises of cheap labor. Be it blue collar workers or IT workers the American government in league with Wall Street, Silicon Valley, etc. are determined to drive down wages for workers.

Like many brought into the area in the past this seems another unstable company dependant on public handouts.

Regional economic planners are hostile to addressing this problem. Republicans are strongly anti-labor. Democrats are obsessed with racist' identity politics and climate change. Democrats revile lower income white workers as somehow deserving of what they get - along with being racists.

ALICE notes student loans are killing people while we import millions of foreign college graduates to replace American workers. The American IT student straddled with thousands in debt won't even get a job offer. It will go to a foreign student in the next row that will work for far less.

Yet both our local Republican Congressman voted to make it impossible for American IT workers to get a job. More on that shortly.

Sullivan County has 39% of its working households "were either in poverty or making less than the basic cost of living."

Southwest Virginia is even worse of as 59% of working households are in poverty or can't afford the basics. Low unemployment rates never take these factors into account. The Tri-Cities labor force has collapsed by almost 20,000 since about 2008.

Most new jobs often pay less and have few benefits. Consider the fact minimum wage in 1970 is almost $11 today after being adjusted for inflation. I call this adjusted minimum wage.

Virginia Democrats claim they want to raise minimum wage to $15 and hour. It might help some. But if they still refuse to enforce immigration laws (thus labor laws) this provides business with more illegal replacement workers.

The working poverty levels for Southwest Virginia are as follows:

Abingdon 52%; Bristol VA 47%; Buchanan County 60%; Dickenson County 62%; Marion VA 56%; Richlands 62%; Russell County 52%; Norton VA 55%; Richlands VA 61%; Scott County 52%; Smyth County 49%; Tazewell County 51%; Washington County VA 45%; and Wise County 52%.

In East Tennessee:

Blountville 30%; Bluff City 48%; Bristol TN 45%; Carter County 49%; Johnson City 53%; Kingsport 43%; Sullivan County 39%; Washington County TN 45%; and Green County 50%.

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