The Big White Ghetto (Life on the dole in Appalachia)

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I was taken with this article. As one who lives in a prosperous town which is tucked up right next to the Blue Ridge Mountains the world Kevin D. Williamson writes about in the National Review is not that far away. It’s still far, the Appalachian Mountains where I live have vineyards, orchards, and prosperous cattle farms on their flanks. One of the world’s great universities is just down the road. But the bleak, welfare dependent rural ghetto isn’t that far. An afternoon’s drive and I’d be in the heart of it.

Mr. Williamson paints a sad picture of the low mountains 50 years after LBJ wandered through the place for a photo op – selling the War on Poverty to a white America which was afraid that all their tax dollars would soon be going to black folks. The country people of Appalachia were a ghetto, too, LBJ told the rest of the country.  And the people there were white.

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And it remains so today. 50 years after Johnson’s visit. A place where meth smoke wafts on the breeze and prostitutes sell themselves for a case of Pepsi.

Pepsi it seems is the currency of choice here. Not dollars. Not gold. Not silver. Certainly not Bitcoin. But Pepsi.

(From The National Review)

In effect, welfare has made Appalachia into a big and sparsely populated housing project — too backward to thrive, but just comfortable enough to keep the underclass in place. There is no cure for poverty, because there is no cause of poverty — poverty is the natural condition of the human animal. It is not as though labor and enterprise are unknown here: Digging coal is hard work, farming is hard work, timbering is hard work — so hard that the best and brightest long ago packed up for Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or Memphis or Houston. There is to this day an Appalachian bar in Detroit and ex-Appalachian enclaves around the country. The lesson of the Big White Ghetto is the same as the lessons we learned about the urban housing projects in the late 20th century: The best public-policy treatment we have for poverty is dilution. But like the old project towers, the Appalachian draw culture produces concentration, a socio­economic Salton Sea that becomes more toxic every year.

Click here for the article.