S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, July 3, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0703.poverty1.htm

COMMENTARY
More affected by poverty than you may realize
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JULY 3, 2005 - - Imagine you had $1,612.50 per month - - just $58 per day - - to spend on your family of four for everything - - housing, child care, transportation, health care, food and clothing?

Could you make it? Consider the following:

  • Housing. The state median on rental housing is $510 per month, according to figures in an April 2005 report on the working poor by the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

  • Child care. Budget about $100 per week for child care costs. While the average was $325 in 1999, costs have risen to as much as $600 per month in some areas, the report said.

  • Transportation. The average monthly cost to have an inexpensive car and pay for insurance, gas and associated expenses is $490 per month.

  • Health care. The average Southern household (2.5 people per family) spends $203 per month on health insurance, medical services, drugs and other supplies, according to a federal consumer survey.

If you spend the average on those four categories, you're left with a whopping $8.50 for food and clothing - - for the whole month!

But for about one in four South Carolinians, the daily struggle with money isn't an intellectual exercise. Some 14 percent of the people in the state - - about 563,000 South Carolinians - - live in families with less money available than the monthly poverty level of $1,612.50 for a family of four. Another 400,000 families are considered "working poor" because they earn less than two times the poverty level, according to the Appleseed Center. (For a family of four, that's less than $38,700 per year.)

"Wages earned by many South Carolinians are simply inadequate to cover these necessities," according to the report, "The Working Poor of South Carolina: Poverty Despite Work."

The challenges that face South Carolina policy makers on poverty issues are daunting, as reflected in these statistics:

  • Hunger. 14.5 percent of children and 7.6 percent of workers in the state live in households considered to be "food insecure," which means they might not avoid hunger without emergency help.

  • Children. Some 421,310 of South Carolina's children live between 100 percent and 200 percent of poverty, according to the 2000 S.C. Kids Count report. That means 46 percent of the state's kids live at near-poverty levels, the Appleseed report says.

  • Racial divide. About 31 percent of the state's working poor families are white, compared to 67 percent that are black, according to federal numbers.

  • Health care. About one in five South Carolinians don't have health insurance, despite public programs for those at the bottom.

Through the years, improvements have been made. People at the bottom are able to get food stamps and free or reduced lunches for kids at school. Children in poverty get medical care through Medicaid. Third-world diseases, such as pellagra, seem to be a thing of the past in pockets of South Carolina.

The conservative Heritage Foundation says half of poor Americans own their households and at least two TVs, three-quarters have air-conditioning and own a car, and the typical poor American has more living space than the poor in Paris, London and other European cities.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Be careful over holiday

FEEDBACK: Good column on rural challenges

KEEPING TRACK: Right on structural deficits

SCORECARD: Thumbs up and down

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But despite those numbers, everything in South Carolina isn't rosy, says Bernie Wright, executive director of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. Most people in South Carolina don't realize there's poverty around them, he says.

"The establishment has to come to grips that there is a problem," Wright says. "The guy who is leaving home at 5:30 in the morning and driving 70 miles to work at Hilton Head Island for $6.00 or $6.50 an hour isn't much better off than his father, who was picking tomatoes years ago."

Concludes the Appleseed report: "South Carolina's impoverished households are challenged despite working. Economics have kept them impoverished - - they are not poor because they are not trying to work and escape poverty. They are not poor due to a lack of trying to not be poor."

NOTE: This is part one of a three-part series on South Carolina poverty. Next week: A more personal look at poverty. Week Three: Policy options.


RECENT COMMENTARY


McLEMORE'S WORLD
7/2: Be careful during holiday

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


LEARN MORE DAILY

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


FEEDBACK
7/1: Rural residents need equal representation

To the editor:

Once again the subject of rural representation has reared its ugly head. (Commentary, 6/26).

How many times does this subject have to be dissected before the public starts asking the same question I've asked time and time again in my letters to the editor both in this newspaper and others?

The rural areas of South Carolina, as well as those in all 50 states, will continue to suffer financially as long as we continue to ignore one basic fact - the election of proper representation in our General Assembly. A quick read of the South Carolina State Constitution clearly states in Section 6 of Article lll, that 'The Senate shall be composed of one member from each county, etc.'

Where we go from here will only be determined by you, the public, if and when you decide to ask some questions. Until then……

-- Gene Deragon, Lamar, S.C.


6/27: Beaufort, Jasper working together

To the editor:

Good column. (Commentary, 6/26). As you may know, Beaufort and Jasper Counties are a model of areas working together. We are attracting high tec jobs in Beaufort with complimentary industry in Jasper County. The Jasper County Port is a concerted effort. (Rep.) Thayer Rivers and I have worked together for three years as have the Town Councils and County Councils.

-- Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, S.C.

KEEPING TRACK
Ahead on structural deficits

This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report with other media reports:

In Statehouse Report:

5/29/05: State has a long way to go on solid budgeting: "A new report says South Carolina is among 11 of the states in the nation that face the highest risk of not having enough money down the road to pay for its current level of programs and services. Because of the way the state's tax system is set up, its shrinking tax bases will grow at a smaller rate than the costs to maintain government programs at current levels."

In The State:

6/28/05: Scoppe: Report warns of dangers without smart reform to taxes. "The report suggests several ways to modernize a tax system to keep up with economic and population changes, among them extending the sales tax to cover more services, reducing or eliminating age-based tax breaks, strengthening the administration of property taxes and reducing property tax exemptions. Along with that, other taxes can be reduced or eliminated."


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

State GOP. The state Republican Party's Howard Dean Scream contest, a creative event organized to make fun of the Democratic National Chairman's planned visit during the week to SC, raised more money ($22,000) than the Democrats expected to raise ($20,000), according to published reports. Too bad Dean had to postpone the visit due to bad weather.

Thumbs down

Mike Campbell. The son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell seems to be running a campaign based almost solely on his dad's good name. This week, a story about possible trademark infringement surfaced on WSPA as the son uses his father's old campaign logo -- a knock-off of Campbell's Soup. The company says it will honor an old agreement and let Campbell use the old logo.

DOT. Highway Department lobbyist Mike Covington shouldn't have been demoted for a parody song criticizing the governor.

Hate groups. SC leads the nation in the number (47) of active hate groups it is home to, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. More: Charleston City Paper.

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