Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Angry White Lard-Ass Vote

From National Review:

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that.

Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

If you want to live, get out of Garbutt.


Joe Mama said...

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America suggests that lack of affordable housing is a significant issue. Especially when she was looking for a job in white-hot job markets she struggled to find affordable housing within commutable distance of the job.

That is the reason why many folks who collect trash in the metro DC area live in West Virginia and commute 90 miles.

Section 8 housing comes with its own set of issues. The culture is not optimal for raising kids. Getting into Section 8 housing is easier for families who are already plugged into the local "system".

Another thing that Ms Ehrenreich points out is that the necessity of long commutes introduces another fragility: Vehicles that are old enough to vote. These vehicles are the lifeline that connects the (barely) affordable place of residence to the (low) paying job.

The unpredictable reliability of a vehicle with a quarter million miles on the odometer becomes another anchor to the home community. You can probably hitch a ride to work when your beater is in the shop if you are in your "home" community. Your chances of bumming a ride drops to about zero when you are new in town.

Affluent residents could do much to help the issue if they stopped fighting the building of multi-story residential and multi-use buildings. Libertarians point out that many of the communities with the highest housing costs are protected by regulatory capture. The current homeowners using zoning regulations to create an artificial scarcity and jack up housing prices.

"If you want to live, get out of Garbutt." is not particularly helpful advice if you lack skills that can command wages that are the equivalent of, say, a plumber or an electrician.

Additional resources

As always with Marginal Revolution...much excellent discussion in the comments.

PBurns said...

Barbara Ehrenreich is an important writer. She is right about minimum wage, public housing, and public transportation systems. PJ O'Rourke once famously described Section 8 housing as a "girlfriend farm for drug dealers." That was an about perfect description for when he was writing in the late 1980s .

I wrote about street drug markets and Section 8 housing for a few years, and my observations fill a thin book and a few monographs. I understand what you are saying, but "get out of Garbutt" is actually how most people get out of poverty and move up the ladder, both within the US and outside our borders too.

In small towns where the refinery has closed, the pickle packing company is shuttered, and the mines are not hiring, folks 18-25 need to simply leave. There are no jobs of any kind, and none are ever coming back. My father did that, leaving Pineville in Eastern Kentucky at age 14 and without an education. He went into the Air Force eventually, got his GED, and made himself a millionaire working his whole live as a penny-saving government worker (and thanks to a few shrewd real estate investments). His first job was at an orange juice stand.

First jobs are critical. You do not start with skills and experience; you gain them. And it's not all high tech. Most is pretty low-tech. The #1 job in most states is truck driver, and those are not long-distance trucks but short U-Haul sized trucks used to deliver produce and linens to restaurants, lawn and landscape equipment to suburban yards, and short-move stock from warehouse or bakery to store. It's an OK job and there's more need, not less, with PeaPod, Amazon, and an aging affluent nation.

We have about a million illegal aliens / undocumented workers a year coming to this country, and most of them do not speak English and have less than 8 years of education in their own language.

And yet, they get jobs, find housing, and get to work. Why? They have HUSTLE.

When I wrote about illegal immigration, this was the lie of omission I always left out: that the workers coming from other countries are NOT the same kind of people as our "left behind'. The folks who have the "get up and go" to get out of Oaxaca OR Garbutt are the ones who first crawl, then stand, then run, and sometimes fly. Show me someone with HUSTLE and no obvious brain damage, and I will show you someone who can advance to the point they are fully self-supporting. Is it easy? Is it always comfortable? Is it generally scary? Yes, yes, and yes. I have been through that myself. And can they also support 2 kids and a disabled mom on top on 60 hours a week at 10 cents an hours over minimum wage? Maybe not. I get that. But there's no hope in Oaxaca or Garbutt, and the left behind there are self-selected in their own way too. Show up early, stay late, be optimistically cheerful, learn the business, and show interest and attention, and you will ALWAYS move up over time. No. it's not easy or quick, fun or entitled. And a few accidents with alcohol, drugs, injury, or theft can ruin you. But get out of Garbutt (or Oaxaca) is always good advice.