Who is hurt by federal cuts?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 7, 2012

Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but they can certainly tell an interesting one.

That is the case with a recent study commissioned by the Athens County Job and Family Services that focused on how federal tax dollars were spent in 2011 in the counties that makeup Ohio’s 6th and 15th Congressional Districts. This includes Lawrence County.

“Most counties in our region receive far more back in federal tax dollars than we pay,” Athens County JFS Director Jack Frech said in a prepared statement. “Tax cuts have minimal benefits and program cuts cause a disproportionate impact on local economies and families.”

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The complete report is available at jfs.athenscountygovernment.com but the data seems to support his contention.

Twenty percent of Lawrence County’s 62,510 people are living in poverty. The number jumps to 29 percent when you look at the number of children living in poverty.

Thirty percent of the population received food assistance that totalled $22 million. So almost one third of the population needed help just putting food on the table.

The unemployment rate of 8 percent was the lowest in the 6th District but Ohio’s way of measuring this statistic has always been flawed. The number is likely much higher and this does nothing to determine how many people are “underemployed,” meaning they have low-paying jobs that don’t allow them to make ends meet without some other forms of assistance.

Twenty four percent of the population received Social Security. That should send a message to politicians and local government officials that raising taxes or fees for services must be done very carefully because about one in four citizens have little ability to impact their income.

Much debate has been made over “Obamacare” and whether or not this pushes our country toward socialism. There are certainly flaws with the legislation because it is so far reaching, but the primary argument that the government should stay out of the health care business is out of touch with reality.

As it stands, 33,568 people — 54 percent of Lawrence Countians — receive some form of government health care. This doesn’t even include veterans, public retirees, or people who work for non-profit organizations that receive government funding.

When you take into account the undetermined percentage of people who currently have private health care through their employers, the number of those who would be added to government health care really isn’t that large.

What does all this add up to? That is up to each citizen to decide but it certainly shows that, right or wrong, making massive cuts to long-standing social programs would have a significant impact right here in Lawrence County.

Throughout history many leaders — from Mahatma Gandhi to Pope John Paul II to conservative author William Federer — have made similar statements about society’s role in taking care of those in need.

Former vice president Hubert H. Humphrey may have to summed it up best in his last speech.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.