Fox News commentator Chris Stirewalt went on Tucker Carlson’s program this week and said something that really got my attention. Check out this video and see if you catch what I’m talking about.
He’s dead on about the people of West Virginia and how the media treats them. I was born in Ohio and have spent time in West Virginia and I can tell you it’s one of the most pristine and relaxing places in the world filled with the most amazing people. But, a lot of Americans view The Mountain State as some white trash heroin addicted wasteland where residents are either coal miners or unemployed. You’ve no doubt seen the countless documentaries with babies drinking Mountain Dew from the bottle and high school drop outs walking 20 miles to and from their job at the gas station each day. That’s real. But, it’s not the whole story.
There are a lot of impoverished areas in the state and Appalachia has it’s own unique vibe no question. However, there are some incredible things going on in West Virginia economically. Here is more about what Stirewalt was talking about. The author makes a strong case that West Virginia is far from the dump that the coastal elites dismiss it as, in fact, it’s an economic miracle in many regards.
THE PER CAPITA INCOME OF WEST VIRGINIA IS ABOUT $37,000 A YEAR, WHICH MAKES IT ONE OF THE POOREST STATES IN THE UNION. STILL, AT ABOUT THREE-QUARTERS OF THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, THAT’S HIGHER THAN MANY PEOPLE EXPECT. AND BECAUSE IT IS CHEAPER TO LIVE IN WEST VIRGINIA THAN WHERE MOST AMERICANS LIVE, THE PER CAPITA INCOME IS HIGHER WHEN ADJUSTED FOR PURCHASING POWER PARITY.
IN CONTRAST, PER CAPITA INCOME IN FRANCE OR JAPAN, BY PURCHASING POWER PARITY MEASURES, IS IN THE RANGE OF $40,000 TO $41,000. IN OTHER WORDS, IF WE CONSIDER THAT LIVING IN WEST VIRGINIA IS ESPECIALLY CHEAP, ITS PEOPLE MAY HAVE REAL INCOMES ROUGHLY EQUAL TO THE FRENCH OR JAPANESE.
Life in West Virginia is comparable to life in France and Japan which are two countries that many Americans would likely consider living in right now. Tucker said he’d choose West Virginia over Japan, France, or New York City. I’m with him there. Here’s more from the Bloomberg piece.
I HAVE FOUND THAT EVEN RAISING SUCH A COMPARISON PROVOKES OUTRAGE. AFTER ALL, WE ARE TOLD, FRANCE AND JAPAN HAVE HIGHER-QUALITY PUBLIC GOODS, AND WEST VIRGINIA HAS AN OPIOID EPIDEMIC, ONE OF THE LOWEST RATES OF LABOR-FORCE PARTICIPATION IN THE U.S., AND ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATES OF UPTAKE ON DISABILITY INSURANCE.
BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN BY THE WEST VIRGINIA PRODUCTIVITY MIRACLE. THE MORE BURDENED SOME OF THE STATE’S RESIDENTS ARE, THE HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY MUST BE FOR THOSE WHO ARE HARD AT WORK. THE STATE HAS A BRIGHTER FUTURE THAN MANY OBSERVERS ARE EXPECTING. THERE ARE NUMEROUS METRICS FOR SUCCESS, NOT ALL OF THEM POSITIVE FOR WEST VIRGINIA, BUT OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS, THE COMPOUNDED RATE OF GROWTH FOR NET EARNINGS HAS BEEN ESTIMATED BY THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS AT 2.1 PERCENT — NOT EXACTLY A TRAIN WRECK. AND, IF YOU’RE WONDERING, THE TOP 1 PERCENT IN WEST VIRGINIA CAPTURES A BELOW-AVERAGE SHARE OF THE INCOME IN THAT STATE.
Not bad for little ol’ West Virginia huh? The author points out that the state only has 2 million people and the largest city, Charleston, has just over 50,000 residents. That makes those numbers even more impressive. Make sure you read the whole Bloomberg piece because Tyler Cowen makes the case better than I ever could but Stirewalt’s point that the media should start taking the hardworking people of West Virginia more seriously is a good one.