Thursday, November 11, 2010

Serious Challenges Facing Carroll County

The state of the economy and the recent mid-term elections got me thinking about the Reagan years, and what life was like for the average Josephine in Carroll County around 1989. There were few jobs available. Few employers provided health insurance. Housing costs were high, though toward the end of the Reagan years they decreased, and became more realistic. Looking at the help wanted ads provoked a revelation – the wage scale in this area hasn’t changed since then.

According to Census data, 7% of the families, and 9% of the individuals in Carroll County fall below the federal poverty guidelines. There are 450 families in this county earning less than $10,000 a year. Thirty-five percent of them are households led by female single parents.

As for housing, some 349 housing units lack complete plumbing. There are at least 311 housing units that lack kitchen facilities. Almost half (49.4) of the available housing in Carroll County is vacant. The average cost of a rental is between $750 and $1,000. According to a 2008 study by Universal Living Wage, in order to afford a 1 bedroom apartment in Carroll County, a worker needed to be earning $13.13 an hour. To afford a studio, they needed to be earning$12.44. Nearly half (44.7%) of the households in this county earn less than $50,000 a year. According to the 2008 Livable Wage Study done by the Carsey Institute, Carroll County has the fewest livable wage jobs in the state. We have the lowest average wages in the state. My non-scientific observation that the wage scale here hasn’t changed in over 20 years seems to be correct.

A story run the Conway Daily Sun in August informed us that Carroll County has the highest number of homeless families in the state. We have no homeless shelters at all. The number of homeless in the county has doubled since 2005. According to Families USA: In 2008, 24% of NH residents lacked health insurance. Of that group, 85% were members of working families. Carroll County has the highest number of uninsured residents in the state, at 17%.

The statewide unemployment rate is 5.5%. In Carroll County, the official number is 4.7%. These numbers are not correct, any more than the national unemployment number of 9.7 percent is correct. The only people who are counted are folks who have filed unemployment claims. The people who were never eligible, who have run out of benefits, and the people who are underemployed are not counted. Doubling these numbers is likely to provide an accurate measure. That would mean that the real state and county numbers would be more like 10%, and nationally the number would be more like 20%. That’s a lot more realistic than the artificially low numbers that are intended to lower the economic fear factor. During the last quarter of 2009, an estimated 12.5% of residents of the county were underemployed, discouraged workers. People who can only find part time jobs, who need to be working full time.

According to a study done by the Annie E. Casey foundation, NH children rank the healthiest in the nation, once again. The study also found that childhood poverty is on the rise. Some 9% of NH children are living in poverty. The number of families receiving food stamps in NH increased 61% during the last two years.

To summarize, in Carroll County, we have the lowest average wages in the state, the fewest number of livable wage jobs, the highest number of uninsured residents, and the highest number of homeless families. This should be of great concern to us all, especially our newly elected legislators, swept in on an especially toxic red tide.

This newly elected GOP majority ran on the same platform they’ve had since the Stone Age: Cut Spending, No New Taxes. They claim to be terribly concerned about families and jobs. That may even be mostly true up here, but in the southern part of the state a number of gibbering lunatics were elected, and their first priority is actually destroying the families created by the NH marriage equality law. We can count on the fact that the Carroll County delegation will fall right into lockstep with them. Al Baldasaro accused the state of selling babies to gay couples for $10,000, at a hearing I attended last year. Despite being obviously deranged, Baldasaro was overwhelmingly re-elected, and this bit of news went unreported by the far right biased media in our state.

They’re all wound up about gay folks getting married, and women having abortions, neither of which have any negative impact on our state’s economy. In fact, gay folks getting married have had a positive impact on a lot of small businesses: inns, hotels, florists, bakers, caterers, etc. Have gays and lesbians getting married caused you to lose your job? Your housing? Have gays and lesbians getting married caused your health insurance costs to increase dramatically? Have gays and lesbians getting married caused the price of gas, or home heating oil to go up? Have gays and lesbians marrying caused food prices to rise? I didn’t think so. Yet that’s the priority of the Teabaglican lunatics who now comprise the majority of the Republican Party. The old-school moderate, reasonable, Republicans have been pushed out by the rabid right.

Newly minted State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley wants to change NH’s death penalty statute to make more cases eligible for the death penalty, which is estimated to add upwards of $5 million in costs to our annual state budget. This is hardly fiscally, or morally responsible. It would seem that while our new majority (both statewide and nationwide) love to talk about cutting spending and deficits, it’s just that. It’s all talk. These budget peacocks love to preen as they mouth slogans. Whether there’s anything behind the preening remains to be seen. Carroll County families are in increasingly dire straits thanks to this economy. Let’s hope our local legislators stay focused on that, as opposed to getting caught up in the goals of the faux-liberty nanny state politics of the far Teabaglican right.

© sbruce 2010

published as an op-ed in the November 12, 2010 edition of the Conway Daily Sun


DissedBelief said...

Outstanding piece again Susan,and 100% on point! My gripes have been similar over the years. Since Reagan's dementia'd presidency, I've not seen $10 an hour increase for most workers, in fact, locally, I've seen this number decrease now to $9 an hr for new hirees! Yesterday, I read the rantings of another author in the Conway Sun, constantly complaining of the liberal agenda and this time in Maine. Maine has happier numbers than do we regarding all aspects of society, be it education, poverty, health care and employment. There is another pink elephant in the room that no one is ever willing to address; population. A country cannot "enjoy" small government when population broadens far beyond the horizon of its reach. This happened to us a long time ago. Large population has to equal large government in order to assist and offer services. Unless and until all individuals begin to understand the impact of burgeoning population in our country, we will never reach understanding of how this is indeed the ultimate decision maker in politics and society. I doubt Mr. Mcl remained childless as did I. Many individuals continue to have large families. How do they expect to drive their vehicles, get educated, get jobs when the competition in exploding population continues to boom? The rule used to be just two children - one to replace each parent. I regularly see parent/s dragging three or more offspring around. It speaks to our uncaring attitude toward one another and the planet. All issues eventually come down to over population and Republicans won't ever address it because it won't get them elected. They are a disgrace.

Daver NH said...

Thank you Susan for putting these perspectives on our life in the North Country. Bare essentials only, even those who make over 50,000 a year. Pay off you debt... And don't look back.

Now to add insult to injury-
Airport Bag checkers and other store workers, had better hire a lobbyist because their days are numbered. With the addition of "self bag checking". These computers we know and love will replace more and more of us every year.
It will prove hard to re-train folks to be a smarter than the thing that replaced them...

That's for sure.

Daver NH