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Since the 1970s, the Republican strategy in the South has urged white voters to defect from the “civil-rights-supporting Democratic Party.”
This continued through the years, with attacks on busing and affirmative action, then immigration and welfare. Newt Gingrich recently labeled President Barack Obama “the food stamp president.”
Although false (under Obama, the program has so far grown by more than a half million fewer recipients during his time in office than during former President George W. Bush’s), this misleading name-calling incites resentment of the poor, while distracting attention from the Republican’s defense of the rich.
Democrats seem reluctant to point out that income gains of the top 1 percent have far outstripped those of everyone else for well over a decade.
The median income in the United States has actually declined since the turn of the new century, while that of the top 1 percent reached new heights.
Sadly, Lancaster County has a high rate of poverty. Based on 2010 census data, the median household income here is $38,959, more than one-third lower than the national median income of $51,914. The national median home value is $212,300, while the median home value in Lancaster County is $122,300.
The best cost-efficient, long-term solution to raise income levels and promote equal opportunities for all is education.
In Lancaster County, 77.8 percent of students attain a high school diploma, while only 15.4 percent attain a college degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median salary for young adults, ages 25-34 in 2009, was $45,000, while the median salary for young adults with only a high school diploma was $30,000.
On Feb. 25, in Michigan, former Republican candidate Rick Santorum called President Obama a “snob” for promoting education for everyone.
In South Carolina, State School Superintendant Mick Zais, with Gov. Nikki Haley’s approval, refused to take $144 million in federal aid for education from the Education Jobs Fund last year, making it the only state in the union to turn back its citizens’ tax dollars to the federal government. Our tax dollars were distributed among the other 49 states.
In September 2010, the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked South Carolina 51st in student performance, compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Anyone who wants to improve education, to improve household income and to improve economic opportunities in Lancaster County and South Carolina must support Democratic candidates for local, state and federal positions.
The Democrats understand and support our working-class families and will strive to improve educational opportunities for all citizens.
The most important legacy we can provide for future generations is education.
Melanie Aves is an Indian Land resident.