News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


State needs TVA-type project in Black Belt

U.S. Census statistics on poverty don't paint Alabama as a progressive state where a lot of good things are happening. The report lists only Mississippi, Louisiana and the District of Columbia with higher percentages of poor people.

But there many be a ray of optimism in the historical statistics because they show the percentage of poor Alabamians shrinking.

The statistics for last year put the percentage of poor at 16.7. Twenty-five years ago, that figure was 21.2 percent. Except for a couple years, the percentage of poor shows a steady decline.

Still, the bad news is that Alabama is one of the nation's poorest states, with some 750,000 people living below the poverty level. Also, the percentage isn't falling fast enough to make an immediate impact.

Much of the poverty is in Black Belt counties where quality of life doesn't get better generation after generation.

The twin answer to leaving poverty behind is good education and living wage jobs. Again, the Black Belt counties come up short in these categories. Some of the state's worst school systems are in the Black Belt and jobs don't exist.

Gov. Bob Riley created the Black Belt Action Commission two years ago as a start to breaking the poverty cycle in 12 counties that make up the region in Alabama. Poverty is so bad in the designated counties that they need a program like the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Hopefully, the commission will evolve into a program of vigorous government and self help. Without it, the state isn't going to accomplish much in shaking the label of being one of the nation's poorest.

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