The commonwealth's data center estimates that Tazewell's depopulation trend, if all factors remain as they are today, will continue for at least the next twenty years.
The average weekly wage in Tazewell County in 2005 was $523. (link) That's 40% lower than the rest of Virginia.
The median household income there was $27,304 when the last census was taken. The state average was $46,677.
The median value of an owner-occupied housing unit in Tazewell was 50% lower than the state median. (link)
15.3% of the people live below the poverty line.
22% of the people are on Medicaid. (link)
Richlands, population 4200 (+ or -), is located in the heart of Tazewell County.
The median household income there ($23,712) is even lower than is that of the county.
So how does the local press react to this dismal set of circumstances?
The Richlands News-Press is concerned about the state maintaining its tax revenue surplus.
I could not believe my eyes when I read this:
EDITORIAL: Budget deadlock like baby-danglingHow detached. How completely devoid of understanding. How arrogant.
Richland [sic] News Press
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
A good number of Americans are familiar with Michael Jackson’s attempt at showing his love for his children by dangling his infant son over a balcony a year or two ago.
And with last week’s ending of the regular General Assembly session without a budget, it feels like Virginians are getting another good dangling themselves by a certain segment of the House of Delegates.
... it’s amazing and pretty galling that Speaker of the House William Howell and much of that chamber’s Republican wing are crowing about close combat with Senate Republicans and how they are showing fiscal discipline and responsiveness to the people by throwing away a $1.4 billion surplus into a one-time hole of transportation spending.
No real plan for sustaining those surpluses.
No admission that programmed spending increases from prior years still have to be funded out of that surplus.
No coherent plan for sustaining those surpluses or preparing for another fiscal ‘rainy day.’ (link)
Families that have called Tazewell home for generations have in recent years been forced to pack their worldly belongings on trucks, leaving loved ones behind, and have moved north looking for jobs to replace those lost when the mining industry in the area crumbled.
Experts predict that this exodus will continue for decades.
And the Richlands News-Press is fretting over the state government's ability to maintain a surplus. Over its plan to sequester piles of money for its rainy day fund.
Are you people nuts?
Do you have any understanding as to where that surplus - a horde of cash that our politicians have taken in but simply cannot spend fast enough - comes from?
It comes in part from the few remaining taxpayers in Tazewell County.
It comes in greater part from those employers in Richlands who are struggling mightily to not follow all the others in the area who have moved jobs overseas or who've shut down the line and simply closed their doors - forever.
Make an argument for the government to do more for the (rapidly aging) population of Raven and Bluefield and Pocahontas (!), but don't argue that the government needs to take more income from area residents so that it can sit on it.
Better yet - make an argument for full employment in the area. For growing the population. For expanding the number of employers. For economic prosperity.
Or else go back to doing what you do best. And let Tazewell County die in peace.