Skip to comments.Vast Stretches Of Impoverished Appalachia Look Like They Have Been Through A War
Posted on 01/16/2014 10:49:09 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
If you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time. Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering. Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty. Most of the people would work if they could. Over the past couple of decades, locals have witnessed businesses and industries leave the region at a steady pace. When another factory or business shuts down, many of the unemployed do not even realize that their jobs have been shipped overseas. Coal mining still produces jobs that pay a decent wage, but Barack Obama is doing his very best to kill off that entire industry. After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war. Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.
In previous articles about areas of the country that are economically depressed, I have typically focused on large cities such as Detroit or Camden, New Jersey. But the economic suffering that is taking place in rural communities in the heartland of America is just as tragic. We just don't hear about it as much.
Most of those that live in the heart of Appalachia are really good "salt of the earth" people that just want to work hard and do what is right for their families. But after decades of increasing poverty, the entire region has been transformed into an economic nightmare that never seems to end. The following is a description of what life is like in Appalachia today that comes from a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson...
Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentuckys Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. and they are getting shorter, womens life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.
In these kinds of conditions, people do whatever they have to do just to survive. With so much poverty around, serving those on food stamps has become an important part of the local economy. In fact, cases of soda purchased with food stamps have become a form of "alternative currency" in the region. In his article, Williamson described how this works...
It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars about $500 for a family of four, on average which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards and all across the Big White Ghetto, We Accept Food Stamps is the new E pluribus unum are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers by pillbillies, as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the OxyContin Express. A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop some dealers will accept either is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.
I would encourage everyone to read the rest of Williamson's excellent article. You can find the entire article right here.
In Appalachia, the abuse of alcohol, meth and other legal and illegal drugs is significantly higher than in the U.S. population as a whole. In a desperate attempt to deal with the pain of their lives, many people living in the region are looking for anything that will allow them to "escape" for a little while. The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Chris Hedges which describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia at this point...
Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as the crazy check -- payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI -- a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.
They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check, the nurse says. They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, I know Im not right. People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.
The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl -- 80 times stronger than morphine -- Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold pharm parties, in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.
Of course this kind of thing is not just happening in the heart of Appalachia. All over the country there are rural communities that are economically depressed. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, economic activity in about half of the counties in the entire nation is still below pre-recession levels...
About half of the nations 3,069 county economies are still short of their prerecession economic output, reflecting the uneven economic recovery, according to a new report from the National Association of Counties.
So what are our "leaders" doing to fix this?
Well, they plan to ship millions more of our good jobs overseas.
Unfortunately, I am not kidding.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are introducing "fast track" trade promotion authority legislation that will pave the way for rapid approval of the secret trade treaty that Barack Obama has been negotiating. The following is how I described this insidious treaty in a previous article...
Did you know that the Obama administration is negotiating a super secret "trade agreement" that is so sensitive that he isn't even allowing members of Congress to see it? The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the "NAFTA of the Pacific" and "NAFTA on steroids", but the truth is that it is so much more than just a trade agreement. This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade. Most Americans don't realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more. It will also merge the United States far more deeply into the emerging one world economic system.
Once again, our politicians are betraying the American people and millions of jobs will be lost as a result.
Not that the economy needs another reason to go downhill. The truth is that our economic foundations have already been rotting away for quite some time.
But now the ongoing economic collapse seems to be picking up steam again. For example, the Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) is collapsing at a rate not seen since the great financial crash of 2008...
Despite 'blaming' the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.
Soon economic conditions will get even worse for Appalachia and for the rest of the country. The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are rapidly catching up with us, and millions upon millions of Americans are going to experience immense economic pain during the years to come.
So what are things like in your area of the country right now? Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below...
Ditto on your “Wow.”
I’ve seen it, not in Kentucky and West Virginia, but in rural Arkansas where I just moved from.
There is one little town in Arkansas that I know of, population in the mid-800s. The town is full of hard drugs. The good kids in the high school are having to drop out just to protect themselves from the drugged out kids. This town is an hour’s drive from the nearest decent-sized city.
In my experience in that particular area, the hopelessness grows as the distance from the city with available jobs grow. The farther out you get, the worse things get.
I haved wondered if this phenomenon is a regional thing peculiar to rural Arkansas. Reading this article I have to wonder if this is nation-wide.
Don’t see much of that here, but we’re one of the few places with a (relatively) good economy and jobs.
I am sure the liberals in New York and just dripping with compassion over these folks....
(that was sarcastic)
Those areas have been like that since they were settled some 200 years ago. I stopped at the first line of the article. The premise that all of America is heading into this deep poverty based on current observations of life in Appalachia is false.
I’ve seen similar in Stirling City, CA - rural, high unemployment, rampant drug use even among children, and so on, although California has vibrant, thriving areas relatively close to the dying ones, so it’s not too hard to escape.
Holy crap, that and the articles he recommended within are deeply depressing.
This sounds like what happens when welfare displaces charity. Not that “hillbilly” life is particularly easy, but it used to have more dignity.
How’s that “war on coal” working out for ya, Dems?
Granted, things have never been that great in that region. An acquaintance of mine told of teaching in that area back in the 70s; you’d drive up a road, and every mailbox on one side would have one last name, and every box on the other side would have one other last name. Not a lot of education in the hollows there.
But the EPA, the greens, and now President Selfie have made life exponentially worse, because they’ve done all they can to kill the main source of jobs in the region; the coal industry. The topography means there aren’t going to be any more major highways run through the area (check the WV map sometime; damn hard to get from one side of the state to the other), so there’s not a lot of incentive for high-volume business like shipping or manufacturing, and the lack of education means no high-tech (which in turn means even less pressure to add more education).
On the other hand, assuming you can manage to get accepted by your neighbors (a long shot), land is cheap there and the FedGov is rarely welcome.
The joys of Free Trade Communism...
Free Trade does not work. That is fact. Instead of paychecks, you give Americans government checks
Supporters of Free Trade agree with Barack Hussein Obama...Obama is a Free Trader. Free Traders support Obama. Socialists and Communists love Free Trade. That is Fact
Free Trade will end eventually...either thru competitive tariffs, or, executing Free Traders for treason and stupidity. There is not enough Socialism to keep Free Trade going. The EU is already seeing this
There are many areas of the US that are now experiencing similar problems like Appalachia. There are towns all over Florida and the SE like mentioned in the article
Been like this in the Adirondack mountains for years. Blue-state Flu...
I”m from Appalachia, and this article is full of crap. Yeah, like everywhere, there are poor people there, but they’re not the Beverly Hillbillies.
And it goes without saying that the chronic unemployment there is primarily caused by Obama’s war on coal, shutting down coal-fired power plants and closing mines, throwing thousands out of work.
From someone that lives in such an area, I’d say this article is dead-on accurate. Except the more enterprising among us have reverted back to making whiskey and growing pot fields to service those rich folks in the city. I’m sure it’s a great cash supplement to the monthly check from .gov.
There used to be many more jobs here in manufacturing and textiles, but all of those jobs left during the 90s. I remember when I was young, everyone that wanted a job could get one and welfare was heavily frowned upon. Now, you would have a difficult time finding someone that isn’t getting it in one form or another. It has gotten so bad, my wife and I avoid going to stores during the first few days of the month.
These are nothing more than your low information Obama voters. They will vote for anyone just to stay on the government teat. This is the half of the country that don’t realize that they are killing the golden goose.
WV voted in a dem right?. The one with the shotgun right?
You see this is a lot of East European countries.
What you say reminds me of that movie Fargo. I am from near Fargo myself, and the movie made it look like all North Dakotans were a bunch of clueless, idiot, red neck hillbillies, just like Jed and Granny. It is a bunch of crap, of course.
“The premise that all of America is heading into this deep poverty based on current observations of life in Appalachia is false.”
I wouldn’t be so sure; the same forces are at work (high, chronic unemployment, government dependency).
I was born in Huntington, West Virginia. Family left when I was 4.
I still go back to the area whenever I can.
It has been ignorant and dirt poor forever and little has helped .
Just south and east of Huntington is dirt poor coal country and the stupids there have voted democrat forever.
They supported obammy as well as Manchin, Rockafeller and every other lib garbage that has come along.
They Have coal, nothing else and they voted for buttheads that are taking away ANY possibility ffffor gainful employment.
Guess they all can go back to growing marijuana or making moonshine.
Well I can tell ya that in my town pop. 6000 more or less 14 businesses closed their doors in 2013 and no new ones opened.
So far in 2014 we have news one will close by March 1st.
The side of the street our business is located on has nothing but empty buildings for two blocks on either side of us. Those buildings used to be full just two years ago. Its the same all over the tri-county area.
Obamanomics is killing Southern Ohio.
Almost every area in Massachusetts is declining, especially the cities, with Boston being the sole exception. Maintenance is being deferred everywhere. You can’t afford to do that here, unless you can’t afford it.
“Obamanomics is killing Southern Ohio.”
Same here in NJ; Gov. Christie stabilized the property tax disaster that was forcing our businesses and taxpayers to flee, but without real national job growth (except in limited areas) it isn’t doing much. Lots of “For Sale” signs, empty businesses, crumbling infrastructure - and no end in sight. If Republicans could convince voters they’d stimulate job growth they’d win national elections.
“Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line”
Overall, about 87 percent of the entire world is under the poverty line.
Start by drawing a sensible poverty line.
WTF are you talking about, equating capitalism with socialism?
Regions develop, flourish, fade and stagnate. Can’t restore prosperity by willing it so in an area which lacks the relevant resources. Best thing to do is give people luggage and a bus ticket.
I remember documentaries on poverty in Appalachia in the 70s. Nothing new here. Sad, but not new.
Rural Vermont is riddled with drugs. The governor just used his State of the state to address this problem in the total fascist way, more money thrown at clinics and therapy not jobs . When people have nothing to do they turn to drugs. Once drugs have taken over their minds it is hard to get them back to work.
Drive around Vermont sometime and do the back road thing and you’ll see the hidden poverty that is Vermont.
To a great extent they brought this on themselves, because they sue the coal companies at the drop of a hat, for any reason whatsoever.
Coal used to be the biggest industry in Eastern Kentucky, with litigation a close second. Now, the positions have changed, and litigation is the biggest “employer” in Eastern Kentucky.
Torrential rainfall? Sue the coal companies. Develop a bad cold? Sue a coal company. Slip on an icy street? Sue a coal company. A jury of your peers will ALWAYS find in your favor and award you money.
They literally are suing their economic lifeblood out of existence.
Stupid is as stupid does.
What resources does Appalachia not have?
What resources does Communist China have that Appalachia doesn’t?
Free Trade Stupidity, along with other Liberal stupidity, kills Appalachia. If you can ship a factory to Communist China...you can ship it to Appalachia
You think the EU, UN, Al Gore, and Barack Obama are Capitalists?
They all support Free Trade
Free Trade is a liberal idea...and most liberals support it.
With legalization taking a domino effect, I see where the future hemp farms will be. Mountain grown.
I see it first-hand. The author’s descriptions are right on target.
It’s a mixed bag though - for as many deadbeats who’d rather suckle on the taxpayer teat, there’s just as many who are tough as nails and hard working. I see a lot of these guys who’ve been laid off from the coal mines...desperate for work, any kind of work. But that desperation has a short shelf-life, and once they get into the net of drugs and dependency, it’s damn near impossible for them to get out. And if there are finally some new jobs, or if they’re called back to work, they can’t pass a drug test by that point, so they don’t get hired on.
The sad part is, their kids see it, and don’t get a chance to develop a work ethic, so they wind up just like their parents...waking up at noon and coming up with a plan for the daily scam.
True story: a friend of mine teaches 5th grade. He was asking his students what they wanted to be when they got older. One boy said, “I’m gonna stay home and draw, like my dad!” My friend said, “Oh, that’s good, is your dad an artist or cartoonist?”. The kid replied, “No...draw a check.”
And thus the cycle repeats.
Poverty exists in places in all states, but I just can't allow you all to think that all of Appalachia is the stereotypical Hill Billy. For the most part the people in the cities I names above and in countless others I failed to name, are salt-of-the-earth. Transplants to these areas tend to love the local culture and thrive on it.
You know what I think? I have a suspicion that because this is the heart of the Bible Belt, many in the government would love to see these towns fail and the people either be hushed (deemed inbred stupid hill billies) or dispersed in order to break up the strong Christian culture that is there now.
Take a vacation to Asheville (for example) and I guarantee that you will fall in love with the mountains and the people. www.exploreasheville.com
Does that mean they can't have guns? That would make them easier to control than they had been in the past, no?
bttt for later reading.
What a sad situation.
You have a point. Another goal is to herd them all into the metropolitan areas where they can be more easily controlled, divested of their firearms, and access even more government services that hook them on dependency.
With generational poverty, it's hard to discern what is the chicken and what is the egg.
In the Native American areas in the west (I'm most familiar with the Cherokee in OK), there are generations of drug and alcohol dependency, broken families, illiteracy/lack of education, and domestic abuse.)
Naturally, these folks are very poor. Smart high school kids are heavily courted and fought over by colleges and universities. They'd have a free ride to about any institution of higher learning they would choose. But only a few are able to break the ties that bind them to that area, even though the opportunities for upward mobility are there.
They have been through a war - Obama’s war on coal.
This pile of crap article was posted a week ago and taken apart then. The author apparently believes that the problem with Appalachia is not enough Walmarts and Applebees (seriously).
That sentence makes zero sense. Free trade is not "liberal". Appalachia did get more manufacturing that China did not get, but China has a billion more poor people willing to take $2 a day in wages that Appalachia does not have.
Asheville is moonbat central, but for the most part the moonbats are harmless.
Having moved to Appalachia I am glad for the opportunities for downward mobility that it gives me. For example, I can go sit on my friends porch in town, drink a beer and talk about things that matter.
Southern Iowa was once a coal mining center but when the RRs switched to diesel and most homes went to propane, the mines closed.
Most of the sons and daughters moved away for better jobs and opportunities, leaving behind many who had no interest in bettering themselves.
Then find out why those factories are not being shipped to Appalachia. There is a reason! Fix the problem already.
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