Where I live was in the NY Times

Here’s the Sept. 22 article. You have to have a username (takes a matter of seconds to register) to read it.

Greenwood, S.C., had steepest economic decline in the U.S.

Possibly the most revealing part of this piece is not in the article itself, but the comments. As stated, citing the U.S. Census Bureau, “(Greenwood County’s) poverty rate more than doubled to 24 percent from 2007 to 2010, the largest increase for any county in the nation.”

Some of the comments from Greenwood residents are as follows:

” … if there is an economic problem in Greenwood, you would not believe it if you drove through town. They just finished a new public library, street improvments and beautification projects are continuing.”

“There is a brand new library, there are several new major retail stores opening up and the uptown is thriving – it includes a very active arts community. The local university has expanded and built a large sports complex. My spouse took a job at a large company that emplys close to a thousand people. I seriously don’t recognize the Greenwood you described in this article.”

“This article paints a skewed vision of this town. … 3 new national stores, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and TJMaxx … (and this is a right to work state) … the incessant hatred OF Red States is nauseating.”

“Aesthetically, the county looks prosperous (for the most part), but that facade can’t last forever. There is a deep division between the middle and upper classes in this county … .”

” … people here continue to vote Republican and tea party issues, guns and religion. The Republicans have convinced them that they are the only Christians and Democrats are infidels. Rush is a god here. Gays and abortion are the major issues, not the economy or jobs. So sad.”

“Our problems can only be blamed on the person looking back at you in the mirror. As a Country, we have become greedy, lazy, spoiled, and apathetic – Even in good times, we do nothing but complain – Oh, woe is me! Yep, times are hard for everyone! Get off the ground, strap up your own boots, grab your own shovel, and start digging yourself out of your own hole – If you’ll do that, although the digging may be slow and the wait may be long, sooner or later, you will be rewarded! Those that are not helping themselves will never be helped!”

Not to be outdone, the local newspaper led off its Friday edition with an article on the Times article. It served two purposes: 1.) let folks in Greenwood know the NY Times exists, and 2.) give local officials – the same people who are always in the local paper for pointless reasons – a chance to, yet again, say how wonderful Greenwood is.  

The second of these purposes goes-hand-in-hand with some of the Times’ website comments, particularly those touting all of the shiny things Greenwood has to offer.

Kudos to the Times for printing this article. I don’t think it did much in terms of showing Greenwood to the world, but it certainly did wonders for county residents. It’s the first time these indisputable statistics – including  news median household income in Greenwood declined by $12,000 (or 28 percent) annually over the same time period – have been brought to their attention through the media.

What they’ll do with the information is the next question. Some have been blinded by the lights, citing the recent construction of the local college’s massive (and beautiful) athletic complex roughly the size of a city block, addition of department stores, new public library, street beautification projects, bustling arts community … the list goes on.

But $12,000 less in the average household’s collective pocket each year. Twice the rate of folks living below the poverty line ($22,975 annually). Are these new buildings and department stores a sign of progress or representative of a cover-up? Do poor people even shop at Hobby Lobby, attend artist receptions or play tennis at the Jeff May Athletic Complex? Do rich people have any advice besides “strap up your boots?”  

At some point, public officials – local and state guys and gals – are going to have to address this problem by sending money to the one place that can help: public education. Instead of tying the box together with a shiny ribbon immediately (making Greenwood LOOK good), they need to cement it together – slowly but surely – once and for all by investing in its youngest residents, who need quality teachers with the resources to lead, challenge and inspire.

Current state and local officials have tried the other ways, and that poverty rate is what they got. Perhaps they should try a new approach – or SC voters should try new officials.

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