While known for its high spirits and beautiful Lowcountry, South Carolina also holds ranks in many undesirable categories.
High unemployment, low wages. High in uninsured, low in education funding. High in voter restriction, low in number of challenged incumbents.
And the low level of attention from its government on these issues stinks to high heaven, many activists say, resulting in a large demonstration planned for the first day of the state legislature’s new session.
A “Truthful Tuesday” rally is scheduled for 12 noon on Tuesday, Jan. 14 in front of the State House building (1100 Gervais St.). Over 1,000 progressive activists are expected to attend the event, which will feature speakers on the subjects of healthcare, education, voting rights and other relevant topics.
South Carolina Progressive Network is aided in organization of Truthful Tuesday by state chapters of the National Assoc. of Social Workers, Christian Action Council, NAACP and National Education Association.
“One of our goals is to put a face on what is too often just an ideological debate,” says Brett Bursey, executive director of the Network.
Referring to the number in the state who could die from lack of healthcare coverage this year, Bursey says “We need 1,300 people to stand together on the State House grounds to symbolize the human cost of playing politics with people’s lives.”
With an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, some might think it could never get bleaker in South Carolina, but even those who work in the Palmetto State aren’t doing much better. Over one-fourth of the jobs in the state (28.6 percent) pay poverty-level wages, leaving one of out every six South Carolinians in poverty.
And when Medicaid expansion was proposed under the Affordable Care Act, a Republican-led state legislature refused it, even for a temporary three-year period that posed no cost upon the state. Approximately 198,000 would have qualified, but were left without any type of coverage.
Making it harder for its youth to rise above this poor quality of life, South Carolina has consistently stripped public school funding from its budget. “In 2013, K-through-12th funding was nearly $500 million below what is required by state law,” says Jackie Hicks of South Carolina’s Education Association. Funding for higher education has consistently declined, too, Hicks says, dropping 40 percent in the last decade, leading to tuition increases that make South Carolina’s state colleges among the most expensive in the country.
South Carolinians could simply elect new state representatives, but its legislature has thrown multiple wrenches in that principal right, as well. A complex voter ID law took effect in 2013, affecting about 200,000 registered voters without current state-issued identification cards. In 2012, over 250 non-incumbents were removed from the ballots due to errors in a new candidate filing system.
“The rally is a continuation of the work for sound public policies and a moral budget that we have been doing for years,” Network director Bursey says.
In March 2011, a Progressive Network-led “stop the cuts” protest brought over 3,000 demonstrators to the state capitol.
This year’s event “is the launch of the next phase of our ongoing efforts,” says Bursey.