Thursday, November 20, 2008
The US is in a world of hurt, economically speaking. We’ve learned (at least temporarily) that deregulation isn’t such a great idea for financial institutions. The national unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since 1992 – and that is based solely on claims filed by people for unemployment benefits. Many of the jobless aren’t eligible for employment benefits. In NH, the jobless rate is up to 4.1 percent, and counting. It seems that an economy based on paying some people vast sums of money to shift pieces of paper around, while the rest of us are expected to endlessly buy things isn’t really working out so well for the nation. The service economy isn’t a great economic engine. When the bad financial times hit, the first things people forego are things like vacations, eating out, or buying things they don’t actually need. It’s going to be hard times in this area - the Reagan years revisited.
A recent livable wage study released by the Carsey Institute at UNH finds that 70% of NH jobs don’t pay enough for families with only one working parent. About half of the jobs in our state pay enough for a family with both parents working, provided they only have one child. The livable wage is defined as covering: rent, food, utilities, transportation, phone, clothing, household expenses, child care, health care, and a small allowance for personal expenses. This isn’t the high life. This does not include savings or debt. Carroll County has the lowest percentage of livable wage jobs in the state.
Our state’s population is increasingly older. Our young people don’t come back here after college. Given that NH college grads have the second highest student debt in the country, it’s no wonder. If they do come back to NH, they can’t get good paying jobs or affordable housing. Thanks to our regressive tax system, and over-reliance on property tax, we’ve turned children into the enemy. This isn’t news. On a local level, every time the debate on affordable housing goes public, there are the same old arguments about welfare queens moving in from out of state. Given the attractive climate, the local economy, the many amenities for the poor, and the availability of public transportation, one wonders why we aren’t being inundated already. (Warning – don’t fall into the sarchasm)
In October, the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition screened the documentary “Communities and Consequences,” which takes a look at how housing problems are shaping the population and growth of our state. The film is not political, nor does it offer solutions – it just clarifies some of the problems we face as a state with changing demographics. It should be shown to everyone who participates in local government, on any level.
The economy of our area can’t grow in a positive direction if there aren’t workers here. Expecting low-wage workers to commute long distances isn’t the answer. A strong, vibrant community is only possible when most of the citizenry is invested in building that community – and that can’t happen when the workforce is commuting from out of town.
The film is based on the book by the same name by Peter Francese and Lorraine Stuart Merrill. Both the film and the book can be ordered at the website: www.communitiesandconsequences.org . Both are excellent resources as communities contemplate and plan for the future. It’s especially important for areas like ours, which rely on volunteer fire departments and emergency squads. If we don’t have young people and young families – who will be manning those fire trucks? Who will be answering the emergency calls?
We’re at a turning point, in our state and in our nation. We need to think about the future of education, transportation, agriculture, jobs – everything, really. We’re entering what will probably be a long period of economic hardship, and that hardship should be shaping our plans for the future. Community building is essential to our future, especially if we intend to continue forward with a citizen legislature. All of our problems are fixable, as long as we have the courage and creativity to make the necessary changes.
”Some experts say that the United States has to fall back on more protectionist policies. We can't run a nation on a service economy. We used to insist that if you wanted to sell something here, you had to make it here. That policy was diluted over the years, and then abandoned. The GM-Ford-Chrysler meltdown may remind even our thickest legislators that people need jobs, and capitalist nations need industries. This is so obvious that even the communists have figured it out.” Jeff Danziger, in the Rutland Herald.
This was printed on 11-21-08 in the Conway Daily Sun
Posted by susanthe at 8:27 PM