The recent coal industry ‘leak’ poisoned the drinking water for over 300,000 people. West Virginia did not even have regulations in place that would cover such a leak. According to the The Journal of the American Medical Association, WV has had a 550 percent increase in overdoses this decade— the highest in the U.S.
If West Virginia were a country it would be the 64th richest in the world – so why are the people of West Virginia among the poorest in the US? The national poverty rate is 15.9%. West Virginia’s is 17.8%. In terms of media household income, West Virginia ranked 49th among the 50 states in 2012, at $38,482. Only Mississippi is poorer.
Alaska, on the other hand, is the largest state in the U.S. with the smallest population. Just as in West Virginia, the wealth of Alaska has come from its natural resources.
Yet Alaska figured out a way to share the wealth of it’s natural resources with all its citizens. When Alaska started making lots of money in the 1970s oil boom, they came up with the idea of investing the profit from the oil. The result was the Alaska Permanent Fund – this Fund became a yearly, single, unconditional cash payment to every state resident.
Why can’t the same be done for West Virginia? As of yet, no other state has followed Alaska in distributing money from the extraction and profit of natural resources.
West Virginia should be next. The Alaska Permanent Fund is a a Living Income – an actual, working dividend that is helping the state of Alaska take control of its own economic future within a model of shared ownership of the natural resources. This is what West Virginia deserves.
“The current system is concerned with the well-being of the political connected corporatist instead of the common good – Appalachian communities. This system exists because legal privilege is granted to industry. The development of this socio-economic order is indeed political, as opposed to free and participatory. The current authority in the coalfields, the corporate state, is illegitimate – it is far past time we transition to society free of it.”
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