West Virginia has a problem. We have the lowest labor participation rate in the country, as well as troubling numbers of families in crisis - teen births, high divorce rates, rising child poverty rates.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail blamed this crisis of "family disintegration" on the War on Poverty's social programs, which often reduce a woman's benefits, effectively punishing her for being married or for working.
There is no doubt that family disintegration is a cruel bedfellow to rising poverty rates. Only 38 percent of poor kids have married parents, compared to 80 percent of kids above the poverty line.
But we must look deeper than the War on Poverty to find the solutions to help us strengthen families and raise kids out of poverty.
The main reason why families are poor and struggling is that the middle class is eroding.
It used to be that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could earn enough money to cover the basics: food, housing, health care, child care and so on.
But over the last generation, real wages have fallen precipitously, while real costs have risen - especially for health care and housing.
Americans are working harder, and more productively, than ever before - but they are no longer getting paid enough to take care of their families. At the end of the month, the household budget just doesn't add up.
But that's not the only thing that's changed.
The experience of poverty is very different, and much tougher, than it was a generation ago - because not only has our pay been cut, but our informal support systems have eroded.
We used to have a church, a union, an extended family, and a stable group of co-workers to rely on when the going got tough.
No longer. Our lives and our connections are more transitory.
Church participation has fallen. The union rate in West Virginia is 13 percent; down from 38 percent a generation ago. Families are more scattered than ever.
And while the average American worker used to hold two or three jobs in her lifetime; estimates predict that my year-old son is expected to have 30 different jobs in his career.