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Sat Jun 28, 2014, 12:21 AM

What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?

There are any number of DU groups to which this article could have been posted but because the conditions outlined in this article could apply to many areas of Appalachia, I decided to post it here. If you feel this article would be appropriate for another group please cross post because this is a discussion that needs a wider audience.

The New York Times Magazine
What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky?
JUNE 26, 2014

(excerpt)
There are many tough places in this country: the ghost cities of Detroit, Camden and Gary, the sunbaked misery of inland California and the isolated reservations where Native American communities were left to struggle. But in its persistent poverty, Eastern Kentucky — land of storybook hills and drawls ­ — just might be the hardest place to live in the United States. Statistically speaking...

...Despite this, rural poverty is largely shunted aside in the conversation about inequality, much in the way rural areas have been left behind by broader shifts in the economy. The sheer intractability of rural poverty raises uncomfortable questions about how to fix it, or to what extent it is even fixable.

The desperation in coal country is hard to square with the beauty of the place — the densely flocked hills peppered with tiny towns. It’s magical. But it is also poor, even if economic growth and the federal safety-net programs have drastically improved what that poverty looks like.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared his “war on poverty” from a doorstep in the tiny Kentucky town of Inez, and since then, Washington has directed trillions of dollars to such communities in the form of cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid and tax incentives for development. (In some places, these transfer payments make up half of all income.) Still, after adjusting for inflation, median income was higher in Clay County in 1979 than it is now, even though the American economy has more than doubled in size....

MORE at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/magazine/whats-the-matter-with-eastern-kentucky.html?_r=0

21 replies, 5884 views

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply What’s the Matter With Eastern Kentucky? (Original post)
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 OP
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #1
dballance Jun 2014 #2
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #5
dballance Jun 2014 #17
A Little Weird Jun 2014 #13
dballance Jun 2014 #16
JDPriestly Jun 2014 #3
Skittles Jun 2014 #4
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #6
JEB Jun 2014 #7
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #8
JEB Jun 2014 #9
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #10
JEB Jun 2014 #18
A Little Weird Jun 2014 #11
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #12
A Little Weird Jun 2014 #14
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #15
JEB Jun 2014 #19
carolinayellowdog Jun 2014 #20
theHandpuppet Jun 2014 #21

Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 12:27 AM

1. Related article: Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html
The New York Times
Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?
JUNE 26, 2014

Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live.

The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.

(We tried to include other factors, including income mobility and measures of environmental quality, but we were not able to find data sets covering all counties in the United States.)

The 10 lowest counties in the country, by this ranking, include a cluster of six in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin), along with four others in various parts of the rural South: Humphreys County, Miss.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Jefferson County, Ga.; and Lee County, Ark....

MORE at link provided above.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 02:18 AM

2. Strangely enough My Nephew, the Doctor just moved there to be a help to people.

 

It is really nice to see the same article my nephew posted on FaceBook here in DU.

My nephew got his MD last June and worked in the labs trying to identify the relation of HIV to normal human activity.

This month he moved from Louisville, KY which is a pretty metropolitan place to to Eastern KY, Hazard. He's now a doctor at one of their understaffed, underfunded health care centers.

God love him!

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Response to dballance (Reply #2)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 11:17 AM

5. Thank you for sharing

America can use more heroes like your nephew!

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #5)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 02:39 PM

17. Yep, my sister and BIL did a great job parenting! /nt

 

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Response to dballance (Reply #2)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:46 PM

13. He sounds like a great guy!

If he's an outdoorsy type, he might like to check out the trails at Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve (in Harlan County).
http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/blanton.aspx

Or Bad Branch SNP in Letcher County.
http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/naturepreserves/Pages/badbranch.aspx

Kudos to him for working in an underserved area!

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Response to A Little Weird (Reply #13)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 02:38 PM

16. He is a really great person

 

And yes, he is really "outdoorsy." He was the nephew who brought the Skeet Shooting device to our family Thanksgiving celebration one year. I have to say my niece, his sister Hannah outgunned all of us that year. She knocked off the clay pigeons better than anyone else.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 03:48 AM

3. Yes. Rural poverty is ignored.

But first, there is a tie between rural and urban poverty. The rural poor move to the city to try to get jobs. When they get jobs, very often they get low-level, low-pay jobs. Sometimes, they can't find work at all and are stuck in the city. Rural poverty moves into the urban statistics. But it is just displaced rural poverty.

In California, the farm workers, seasonal workers are sometimes among the poorest in our society. No doubt that is true in other areas in which seasonal workers are used and then dismissed.

I must say though that urban living, including rent, food, etc. tends to be more expensive than rural living. In that sense, in a rural setting the individual may have a better, healthier lifestyle with less money. So when rural poor move to a city, they may have a worse lifestyle. This hard on families especially children.

I have been shocked on my visits back to and through the rural Middle West at the deterioration of the economy. The empty storefronts, shops converted into bars, the small businesses that have disappeared or turned into "antique" shops strike my eye. Sometimes I drive miles and miles on side roads off the freeways before I find a place to stop and have a glass of water or juice. This has become worse I think over the past 10-15 years.

Rural poverty is a problem. But usually a family in rural America can somehow find land on which to put in a garden -- or can find inexpensive food and rent. That is not as true in urban America although community gardens in cities like Los Angeles are beginning to be popular.

Finding good, affordable health care is a huge problem in rural America. Much easier in the cities. Homeless shelters, to the extent we have them, are more likely to be found in cities than in rural America. So the desperately poor tend to move to a city.

My father worked for churches and nonprofits serving the poor in both urban and rural areas, and as an adult, I worked for some years in fund raising for a homeless project Because of that background I notice poverty and have observed the movement of poverty to the cities. In the 1950s we spoke of slums. Now, we take what we used to call slums for granted. We have become calloused toward poverty.

I'm sure that experts study poverty but their voices are not heard. Poverty is a troubling topic. That's probably because with our current employment law and our nearly nonexistent social safety net, most of us would rather think that poverty is a problem other people have. We could never become homeless or hungry. That's a fool's paradise. Any one of us could find ourselves out on the street with no place to go and no one to go to for help. I am reminded of a "homeless" man I met years ago. His wife had died, and he had suffered other similar events in his life. He just fell apart, started drinking and ended up on Skid Row in a big city. He was exceptional. He actually owned a house, and his former boss wanted him to come back to work. But in his emotional state, he could have easily lost his link to the decent lifestyle he had lost. Remember. It was grief that drove him into poverty.

Very often homeless people are where they are because of some trauma in their life. The loss of a job or a home, a divorce. The death of a loved one. Those are traumatic experiences. Mental illness is traumatic. The adult child of wealthy, caring parents may be assisted in getting treatment. But the adult child of a parent who is herself mentally ill or simply poor may not be so lucky. An adult child whose parent lives in tiny, subsidized housing may be forced out on the street by the terms of the parent's housing contract. That can apply in rural or urban America and would be easy to change.

Today in America it is very difficult for the children of the poor to escape the poverty trap. We often read of self-made men, self-made billionaires. But many of them started with something -- a family business, a good education, a skill they learned at home or in their community, a relationship with someone or some business or some school that boosted them, that encouraged them to excel. Steve Jobs comes to mind. His family was not wealthy, but he just happened to be in an area of the country in which an opportunity that fit his talents opened up to him. In rural America, how likely is that to happen. And Steve Job's experience is rare. It is not likely for most truly poor people, whether they live in the country or in a city. Their very poverty puts the great human relationships and experiences that can boost a person from poverty into at least the middle class may be out of reach.

All of us who enjoy even a modest degree of economic security should thank our parents and ancestors to whom we owe much of what we enjoy. It may just be a grandfather who lived a sober, well disciplined life or a mother who sacrificed to make sure we did well in school. But nobody, nobody, nobody makes it without owing someone at least a debt of gratitude. Sometimes our inheritance is not financial. Rather it can be spiritual strength or simply social expectations, or psychological resiliency or the fact that our parents talked to us a lot when we were infants. We must really remember with humility to judge not the poor that we be not judged for our arrogance and pride.

After posting this, I thought of one more important issue I want to raise: Race. While more white people may be poor than are people of other races. racial discrimination is a major factor in poverty. Most of the homeless people we served when I worked in the field many years ago were black males. I suspect there are many more older women, aged 50 + in the ranks of the very poor today. Poor mothers at least get some help although it is not much, but frankly, the homelessness among black males is what is most painful in our society. What a wast of talent and lives. And of course there is a link between poverty and the excessive imprisonment in our society especially of people of color.

I am just mentioning some of the factors that I think should be further considered in comparing pr studying rural and urban poverty.

Sorry for the rant and for the multiple edits and maybe grammatical and spelling mistakes. This is an emotional issue for me. I wish it were an emotional issue for every American. It certainly should be for every Democrat.

Middle and upper class people tend to live in communities of people in their financial bracket. They only rarely are confronted by the poverty around them. They are removed from it. Until the upper and middle classes see the poverty, whether rural or urban, that surrounds them, we will have no change. Most of us who have computers cannot imagine what it is to be poor in America.

I go every once in a while to a law library in my city. The computers are kept busy by people who are very low income, some maybe many possibly homeless. Usually, these library patrons are trying to deal on their own, with only the help of a librarian, with legal problems. That is just disastrous. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people in small towns who are very poor and need legal help. There is most likely no law library and no law librarian to help them out. Issues like child support, insurance fraud, employment discrimination (and other discrimination), product liability, landlord-tenant problems, etc. are likely to exacerbate poverty. How sad that we cannot insure that the poor have the same access to good lawyers as do our corporations.

I recall visiting a small town in Iowa during the 2008 campaign. My job was to go door to door in the local "trailer park." The overcrowding, disrepair and poverty attacked every one of my sense. There was the sight, the smell and the sound of poverty. Very troubling. I agree with the OP. Rural poverty does not get the attention it needs. Republicans in particular deny its existence. But it is very real. It is there. If you live in rural America, go where it is. witness it, and then speak out in your community about it.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 03:53 AM

4. worthy of its own thread

excellent

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #3)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 11:31 AM

6. What a wonderful post

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. I wish we could sustain more discussions about rural poverty on DU but I think you will find a number of threads here in Appalachian Group regarding rural poverty, lack of medical services, substandard education, etc. Your voice on these issues is most welcome!

Untangling the weave of misery in rural Appalachia is no simple task, to be sure. What to address first? The isolation and crumbling infrastructure, the substandard education, the contaminated environment, lack of medical services et al? Unless these issues are addressed simultaneously I don't foresee any long-term solutions. Neither the public nor the federal government has displayed the political will necessary to truly lift the Appalachian poor from the pit of generational misery. Out of sight, out of mind, it seems.

Thanks again!

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 12:20 PM

7. Obscene decadence of a few is the foundation for poverty of the many.

 

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Response to JEB (Reply #7)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:07 PM

8. In the process, we've created the American ghettos

Whether its in urban areas like Detroit or entire regions like Appalachia, the inequity of our economic system -- fueled by the greed of the few -- has so isolated and undermined a poor underclass that I truly wonder if we can fight our way out of this morass. Money controls the power and when that money is in the hands of but 1% of the people, what's the solution?

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #8)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:16 PM

9. 90% tax rate over 1 million dollars.

 

Not only would it add $$ to US treasury and slow the growth of already obscenely rich, but would create incentives for putting that money to work, hiring people and building value rather than just hoarding more MONEY. Talk about hoarders with a mental problem.

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Response to JEB (Reply #9)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:27 PM

10. But could that ever get passed?

That to me is the problem. The moneyed control the power and there's no way they're going to let a 90% tax rate happen.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #10)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 04:46 PM

18. Yeah, it'll pass about as soon as Ike getting re-elected.

 

The have most of the money, most of the media, most of the power. I guess us serfs are left to pretend anything we do can make any difference.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:32 PM

11. I really think a basic income for all citizens is needed

The article seems to say that there is no solution and people should move away. But that doesn't seem like a very good answer. If people can meet their basic needs then they can begin to find ways to improve their situation. I have no doubt that some would choose to just live with the minimum and not improve, but I think in time, people would find new opportunities.

The reasons that these areas have developed the way they have is complicated and I don't think there will be a simple solution.

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Response to A Little Weird (Reply #11)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:43 PM

12. A livable basic income for all Americans would be infinitely cheaper...

... than the consequences of poverty. Maybe if we didn't spend untold billions (trillions?) on military spending we could redistribute that money to our citizens.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #12)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:49 PM

14. Yes

But apparently the powers that be feel that some rich guy's military contracts are much more important than the welfare of everyone else.

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Response to A Little Weird (Reply #14)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 01:59 PM

15. Just think about how much it costs the entire country...

... to keep the 1% filthy rich. They are the ultimate welfare recipients, not the poor.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #15)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 04:51 PM

19. Hey, you can always enlist and serve for the glory of the empire,

 

beats fighting it out in the ghetto. Besides somebody has to protect the oil.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 11:53 PM

20. threads like this restore my shattered, battered, bruised, and bleeding

faith in DU

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Response to carolinayellowdog (Reply #20)

Sun Jun 29, 2014, 01:32 AM

21. Hey, we're hanging in there with you

I appreciate the quality of the discussions here on Appalachian Group from contributors such as yourself. There's so much we need to address and discuss, let's all determine to keep this group going strong.

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