Thirty West Virginia religious and progressive groups have spotlighted a crucial issue: If federal debt-reduction negotiations in Washington cause cuts to America's "safety net," the result will be an increase of poverty -- especially hurting this low-income state.
A remarkable coalition of West Virginia organizations -- from the Catholic diocese and state Council of Churches to the NAACP, Nurses Association, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood and a Quaker humanitarian agency -- teamed up to appeal to Mountain State members of Congress.
"Cuts to programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and hardship," the coalition wrote in a joint letter. " ... The United States already has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western nations."
West Virginia's median household income is $37,423, well below the U.S. average of above $50,000. Nearly one-fourth of Mountain State children live in poverty, compared to one-fifth nationwide. And this state has almost the highest ratio of elderly residents. Therefore, West Virginia especially needs federal aid such as college scholarships, food stamps, Social Security, job-training, Medicare, school lunches, Medicaid and the like.
Washington is locked in a showdown over U.S. deficits. Republicans in Congress refuse to raise the national debt ceiling, to enable further government borrowing, unless they win continued tax giveaways for the wealthy plus drastic cuts in people-helping programs.
Previously, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed a devastating budget strategy to aid the rich while ditching average Americans. Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., voted for it -- but the state's other Republican, Rep. David McKinley, couldn't stomach the plan that would have forced future retirees to pay $6,400 more each per year for Medicare. Luckily, Democrats in the Senate killed this travesty.
West Virginia has few top-bracket folks who profit from tax breaks for millionaires. But it has plenty of people who need the American safety net. That's why the coalition of concerned groups warned Congress members: Don't cause more poverty by removing crucial government aid.In the current struggle to reduce federal spending, we have asked repeatedly why Washington won't consider downsizing the $1 trillion U.S. military. There's no reason for America to spend more for warmaking than the entire rest of the world. Such a step could eliminate the need to cut family-helping programs that prevent poverty.