How Capitalism Underdeveloped Rural America

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    • #258241
      • Total Posts: 5,553

      In the wake of the 2016 US presidential election, the liberal intelligentsia belatedly realized that rural and small-town America was in crisis. One sector of liberal opinion insisted that the key to Donald Trump’s victory lay in racism rather than economic distress (partly because of its own complicity with the neoliberal, free-market project). Another sector, blind to the central importance of racial inequality for US capitalism, preferred to stress narrowly economic explanations for Trump’s rise.

      Both schools of thought failed to grasp the different ways in which economic suffering, racism, and community decline have interacted to prepare the ground for authoritarian populism. They also grossly underestimated the human toll of the catastrophe engulfing rural areas and small towns, overlooking the “social pathologies of collapse” that have become ever more glaring.

      Since the turn to more cutthroat free-market policies in the 1980s, American capitalism has systematically underdeveloped rural and small-town regions of the United States. The 2008 crash poured gasoline on the fire. Mutual savings banks and credit unions, cooperatives, mom-and-pop businesses, local industries and newspapers, health and elder care facilities, schools, and libraries have all fallen victim to relentless austerity policies or private-equity raiders.

      As people could no longer share in the wealth they had produced, while community tax bases and social institutions withered away, “rural resentment” and economic anxiety boosted fear of cultural and demographic changes and heightened receptivity to authoritarian appeals and conspiracy theories. Aggrieved masculinity and a loss of white privilege were certainly vital ingredients in this toxic brew, along with the question of gun rights. But such “cultural issues” were also bound up with economic decline and social fragmentation: white men who have experienced economic setbacks “are the group of owners most attached to their guns,” and the ones most likely to view the home as a bunker requiring defense against threatening outsiders.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

    • #258254
      • Total Posts: 500

      By 2018, 40 million Americans lived in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million “in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.” By 2011, 1.5 million households — half of them white — were surviving on incomes of less than $2 per person per day. Those households included 3 million children. Nine million Americans have zero cash income. By 2016, 63 percent of Americans lacked $500 in savings to cover an emergency, and 34 percent had no savings at all. That same year, the official poverty rate was 12.7 percent.

      A 2017 study of fifteen states, which accounted for 39 percent of all US households, found that so-called ALICE households (“asset-limited, income-constrained, employed”) — those who were above the poverty line but earned less than the “bare-minimum survival budget” — made up two-fifths of the total. Between 2007 and 2016, median household wealth fell by 31 percent.

      Many of the poor and near-poor are employed, often in multiple low-wage jobs, and have to rely on food stamps to eat — in effect a public subsidy for their employers, which include some of the world’s largest and most profitable corporations. In 2017, 78 percent of US workers reported that they were living from paycheck to paycheck. Nearly 40 percent of working-age adults indicated that they had trouble meeting at least one basic need — food, health care, housing, or utilities — in 2017.

      A rapidly growing number of the poor sell their blood plasma twice weekly in order to survive. Blood collections doubled between 2008 and 2016. While plasma exports are booming, frequent donors often suffer negative health consequences.

      Low-income Americans spend a huge part of their income on gasoline and the cars that are essential for commuting to work, especially in rural areas that lack systems of public transport. Evangelical Christian and right-wing talk shows dominate the airwaves on these unavoidable long-distance journeys. A hospital visit or car repair can trigger a downward spiral that culminates in job loss and homelessness. US households are deeply indebted from mortgages, automobiles, credit cards, medical bills, and student loans. Business indebtedness, which has long played an important role in the demise of farms and other small enterprises, is an additional source of stress for many.

    • #258355
      • Total Posts: 1,865

      As someone once said,there are two Americas,rich and poor.

      Rich America,city America,has no idea what’s going on in what they call flyover country—and what’s worse,they could  not possibly care less.They have no empathy at all for people who didn’t go to school for as long as they did.

    • #258391
      • Total Posts: 1,982

      Thanks for posting. Tired of hearing how great capitalism is.

    • #258394
      • Total Posts: 229

      Rural areas are now losing access to hospitals. For profit establishments can no longer make enough $$ to justify staying open. Nonprofits seem to no longer exist as they have been cleared to make a profit(??).

      Physicians(good ones) are also becoming rare in these areas and many people cannot even find a doctor willing to accept new patients.

      Good jobs are only for white-collar workers as labor pay is usually much less than in urban areas, because they can.

      "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Asimov; "If you push something hard enough, it will fall over." - Fud's First Law of Opposition

      • #258474
        • Total Posts: 1,865

        There’s a regional hospital closing down in eastern Kentucky,not far from my husband’s hometown.

        Just to illustrate what happens,this place is owned by a chain and it actually was making money.But it wasn’t turning enough of a profit to suit its assigned target,so the chain announced they’re closing in September.A thousand people out of work now.

        Several local hospitals have stepped up to the plate and are trying to hire as many of the hospital workers as they can.But it’s typical of what happens in these regions.

    • #258536
      • Total Posts: 71

      Rural is the definition of “underdeveloped.”  They don’t want to be developed.  They want to live in the country.

      Rural communities had modern infrastructure because the Federal government was footing the bill.  Reagan ended all of that.  Republicans still worship him.  While Third Way Democrats believe copying Reagan is the only way to electoral success.

      This wasn’t Reagan’s goal.   His goal was to bankrupt the cities.  What was the point of White Flight if all those rich, White, Republican suburbanites still had to fund the cities?  The long, slow dissolution of rural infrastructure probably wasn’t anticipated.  Even if it was, back then rural America was largely part of the Democratic coalition, so that would have been just fine with them.

      It worked for a time.  Big cities like New  York went bankrupt.  While the suburbs flourished.

      But suburbanites didn’t just hate city folk.  In large part they didn’t like any outsiders.  When I got my first job as a newly minted college graduate, I did not at first move to the city.  I moved to a suburb instead.  And I encountered a lot of hostility.  My being a White man did not stop that.  So I moved to the city.  And I met a lot of other young college grads who had the same experience.

      That was 30+ years ago.  A lot of those young college grads then are Chief Officers and other senior management today.  All of us were told we would become Conservatives and move to the suburbs as we aged.  Most of us did not.  We stayed in the city, kept our money in the city, and still vote Democratic.  While some of the formerly wealthy suburbs are starting to feel an economic pinch because they did not welcome us when we were starting out.

      Reaganomics back-fired in the longer run.  But its adherents can’t see that.

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