HICKS COLUMN: Forgetting South Carolina
So much for all that blather about it being a great day in South Carolina.
If you saw the first installment of Doug Pardue's powerful “Forgotten South Carolina” series in Sunday's Post and Courier, you know that most days are pretty abysmal in parts of the state.
In 11 of our 46 counties, 20 percent to 40 percent of folks live in poverty; 22 counties have between 10 percent and 18 percent unemployment. And almost 20 percent of people in this state have no health insurance, which is too bad since we're one of the unhealthiest states in the union.
The fact is, South Carolina has some pretty bad problems. But don't hold your breath waiting for anything to be done about this. Because, frankly, the vast majority of this state's elected officials don't give a whit.
Avoid the hard stuff
The Statehouse crowd likes to crow that economic development is our silver bullet, the cure to all that ails us.
But apparently these people have no idea that an educated, healthy workforce is one of the primary ingredients to a strong economy. Some counties in the Corridor of Shame don't have the tax base to even run a decent school system.
Now, some of these people — our education superintendent among them — will say that you can't fix a problem by throwing money at it. That's only true to a point. Mainly it's just convenient. Try that one on your mechanic.
These same people say the state can't afford to insure all its poor residents, and then turn around and decline federal money that would do just that. They don't want strings attached, which is another convenient lie. They like federal money just fine when it's propping up three-quarters of the state budget.
Instead of focusing on these real problems, our state leaders debate invented issues to pander to low-information voters. See, education, health care and poverty would take some real work. But you can win votes by tackling nonexistent problems like voter ID and gay marriage.
Basically, the real corridor of shame in this state runs through the middle of the Statehouse.
Poor leading the poor?
One of the more shameful scenes in Pardue's series is Gov. Nikki Haley at a job and health fair in Marion County, where 31 percent of people live in poverty and more than 17 percent of the workforce is unemployed.
Haley says the idea is to get neighbors helping neighbors, and not rely on the government. So how does that work when your neighbors are poor, too?
Luckily, not all state officials are so callous. State Rep. David Mack pointed out on the House floor recently that folks like the government just fine when it's building the Ravenel Bridge or fixing their homes after Hurricane Hugo. The point of government is to do the things we can't do as individuals, he says. That's dead-on.
Mack says the only way to fix these ills is for the people to demand that elected officials do something about it. He's right.
Of course, it would help if we didn't elect people who think it's good policy to just turn a blind eye and claim it's a great day in South Carolina.