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Kentucky editorial roundup

September 20, 2018

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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Sept. 17

The Independent of Ashland on the poverty rate in Kentucky:

The persistence of poverty in Kentucky continues.

... CNHI Kentucky’s Ronnie Ellis reports the strong economy has helped lower the poverty rate in Kentucky. Still, Kentucky has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. In Kentucky 17.2 percent of Kentuckians lived in poverty in 2017. That figure is better than the 18.5 percent state poverty rate in 2016. Ellis also reports that the number of children living in poverty in Kentucky has decreased.

The improvement is most certainly good news. We suspect this has a lot to do with the strong economies to be found in the state and nation. Also, you cannot forget about all of the people on the front lines of this fight — the nonprofits, the social workers, the educators, the churches, etc. — who work every day to help people remove themselves from the devastating plight of being poor.

We also think it is important to keep the proper perspective when it comes to poverty. These statistics represent how the poorest of the poor are doing. The federal poverty line is defined as a family of four with a family income of $24,850 or less. We, however, believe we state the obvious when we say people making more than that are still very poor. They are most often what we call the working poor — working full-time jobs, sometimes two, but their salaries aren’t enough to really make ends meet, yet they find a way to make the rent, the utilities, feed their kids.

So what is the answer to all these problems? Of course the most immediate response is jobs. Very true. Continuing to grow the economy is very, very important. The commonwealth of Kentucky and the nation need to continue with pro-growth economic policy that is helping the state and country flourish. But in addition to jobs, there are a lot of causes of poverty that go beyond whether a job is available or not.

At the top of our list is education. It is very difficult to rise out of poverty and get a good paying job without some form of education. Kentucky, meanwhile, has been cutting education funding year after year. This is not wise public policy if one is truly committed to fighting poverty.

Another issue we believe is very important — but which is almost never talked about — is health. Poverty will beat you down. Hopelessness comes with the territory. Drug abuse, alcoholism and tobacco are often intertwined with poverty. This is of course not always the case, but it is, undeniably, a part of the equation. Our society needs to be re-evaluating its approach to health and wellness specifically when it comes to raising our children with the awareness that one’s health is critically important. We don’t believe our society, nationwide, is doing enough on this front.

To us, the most important part of the equation is empowerment. People in poverty need to believe their situation is not hopeless. In almost all cases it takes one on one work with people to show them the pathway forward. About planning for the future, about working to get a trade skill or education, about getting a bank account and keeping it.

Today we give thanks for some slight improvement on this critically important issue, but we also keep in perspective the fact that there is a long, long ways to go.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/

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Sept. 14

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky’s foreign-born population:

Every corner of Kentucky has gained population from international migration.

All we can say is, “Welcome. We need you.”

Block the flow of people from other countries, and Kentucky would be a net loser in migration because, as a new analysis for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce reveals, more Kentuckians are moving to other states than people from other states are moving here.

The state’s almost 4.5 million residents include 169,085 people or 3.8 percent who were born in another country, according to 2017 data released by the U.S. Census. That’s lower than the nation’s 13.7 percent foreign-born population but still enough to be Kentucky’s third largest city.

Kentucky’s immigrants are raising the state’s education level. Among Kentucky residents who are 25 or older, 31.9 percent of the foreign-born population have a bachelor’s or graduate degree compared with 22.3 percent of Kentuckians who were born in this country and have a bachelor’s or graduate degree, according to Census estimates for the years 2012 through 2016.

Those numbers refute President Donald Trump’s portrayal of immigrants as backward criminals.

Kentucky’s 20 percent increase in foreign-born residents since 2010 also is good for the economy at a time when unemployment is low and Kentucky employers say they need more workers.

It’s disturbing, then, to realize that some of our hardworking neighbors will fall victim to Trump’s unleashing of harassment and detention based on ethnicity and decades-old visa technicalities. Not even U.S. citizenship and military service are a shield from Trump’s purge. The Washington Post recently reported that along the U.S.-Mexico border, the administration is jailing and trying to deport increasing numbers of U.S. citizens, including veterans, when they apply for a passport on suspicion that their birth certificates were fraudulent. Citizens have had their passports revoked when they were trying to re-enter the U.S. from abroad.

Congress seems incapable of reeling in Trump or modernizing immigration laws, which are long overdue for an update. Just ask a tobacco or horse farmer.

According to the new Census data, about a third of Kentucky’s foreign-born population came from Asia and a little more than a third from the Americas. Thirteen percent came from Africa and 15 percent from Europe.

In Kentucky, births are still outnumbering deaths, according to “A Citizen’s Guide to Kentucky’s Economy,” an analysis for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce by Louisville economist Paul Coomes. From 2010 to 2017, Kentucky recorded 402,569 births and 320,325 deaths for a net gain of 82,244 people.

When it comes to population change from migration, Kentucky’s 46,000 new residents from outside the U.S. more than offset Kentucky’s lost population to other states for a net gain of 33,000.

You can argue the pros and cons of population growth, especially when stalled in Lexington’s rush hour traffic. The areas on the far ends of Kentucky would gladly trade the pressures of growth for the problems associated with their population declines. Population determines a wide range of federal funding and grants and how many representatives a state has in Congress.

Kentucky is gaining population more slowly than the U.S. overall but faster than four of our seven surrounding states. And, even in places where native Kentuckians are leaving in droves, immigrants are finding opportunities to be productive and contribute.

Online: http://www.kentucky.com/

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Sept. 15

The Independent of Ashland on a report that says Kentucky has the eighth highest obesity rate in the nation:

A new report on the health of Kentuckians brings bleak news.

The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, is produced by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It says Kentucky has the eighth highest obesity rate in the nation. It also has the 14th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17.

Kentucky’s adult obesity rate is currently 34.3 percent, up from 21.7 percent in 2000 and from 12.7 percent in 1990. That is a staggering increase in a little less than three decades. Nationwide, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in seven states, 30 percent in 29 states and 25 percent in 48 states.

We’ve written about this before and we revisit it again today. Why? It is important. There are lots of reasons why. We know individual health is a personal, private issue, and we do not bring it up to preach or judge. Instead we do so in the hopes of seeking solutions aimed at improving our communities and our citizenry’s quality of life. Better health means better lives, and this is in the interest of all residents of the Commonwealth.

The most obvious reason why we care is obesity is a prolific killer. It is a cause of lives cut short, of profound misery from diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The human suffering caused from these afflictions cannot be overstated. Another reason it is important is quality of life. Severe obesity, over time, often prevents one from doing everything they would want to do in life in their later years. Also, obesity impacts the well-being of our children.

So what is going on? Why is the problem getting worse? The following facts are offered by Publichealth.org:

— Larger portion sizes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American ate almost 20 percent more calories in the year 2000 than they did in 1983. We suspect that number has gone up even further over the last 18 years.

— Sugar now seems to be added into almost everything. This is a particularly profound culprit.

— Inactivity is the new normal. “It’s been decades since most Americans worked in fields and on factory floors, a far greater majority of us are sitting throughout our workday. This means less exercise.”

Another problem we see day in and day out is that the most convenient, cheapest foods are usually the worst choice possible. But it is possible to eat cheap and also eat healthy. It almost always involves preparing one’s own meals.

It is time, we believe, for a national discussion on our health. Getting healthier is not easy. It is, always, hard work. It will not happen, though, if we don’t start talking about it. As the latest statistics indicate, the time to confront this issue as a nation, and as a state, is now.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/

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