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A Reason writer returns to Appalachia to ask: Why don't people who live in places with no opportunity just leave?

I last visited McDowell County, West Virginia, over 40 years ago. Even then, I was already an outsider, a visitor to my family's past.

Sometime around 1950, my grandparents and all six of their grown children pulled up stakes and left McDowell behind. My grandfather bought a dairy farm 100 miles away in Clinchburg, Virginia, and my father joined him after he left the Air Force in the mid-1950s. The house I grew up in didn't have a bathroom until I was 5. My sisters and I bathed in a zinc washtub using water warmed on the chunk burner in our kitchen. Since our house was heated entirely by two wood-burning stoves, I spent a good portion of my summers chopping and stacking cordwood. My upstairs bedroom was unheated, so I slept in a cast-iron bed beneath three heavy unzipped U.S. Army canvas sleeping bags to stay warm. We got a telephone when I was 13 years old; it was a five-party line.

But it was the folks in McDowell—including many of my relatives—whom I thought of as poor. To my eyes, a huge number of the houses we drove past in hamlets like Squire, Cucumber, English, Bradshaw, Beartown, and Iaeger on our way to visit my father's hometown of Panther were little more than shacks. Many were covered with tarpaper. Indoor bathrooms and running water were luxuries. The houses that did have bathrooms more often than not simply ran a pipe from their sinks, tubs, and commodes directly to the nearest stream. My grandparent's old home was a nice and pretty spacious white clapboard house, but they got water from an outside hand pump and resorted to a first-class outhouse to answer nature's call. The water tasted distinctly of iron and sulfur. Except deep inside Panther State Forest, where the Bailey family held our annual Labor Day reunion, coal dust coated most buildings and automobiles.

I do not long for the chilly, dusty, impoverished life I remember—my experience of the past is whatever the opposite of nostalgia is—but in retrospect, I was witnessing the tail end of McDowell's golden era. Mechanization, especially the development of continuous mining machines, enabled coal companies to mine much more coal with many fewer workers. Out of a population of nearly 100,000 in 1950, 15,812 worked as miners. By 1960 that number was just 7,118. Today there are only about 1,000 employees working for coal companies in the county, out of a population of less than 20,000. The county's dwindling economic prospects were further devastated by massive floods in 2001 and 2002 that destroyed hundreds of houses and businesses and killed four people.

In recent years, McDowell has attracted attention for the worst possible reasons. It consistently shows up at the bottom of rankings, with the lowest levels of employment and the worst level of overall health in West Virginia, and the shortest male life expectancy in the nation. But it sits very near the top of lists of counties with the most drug overdoses, obesity, and suicides.

The rather unsentimental question I set out to answer as I made my way back this autumn: Why don't people just leave?

Bad News

One sign things are not going well in your county is when the kids in the social service programs know to do pre-emptive damage control with the press.

"Don't you focus just on the negative," warned Destiny Robertson, a spunky African-American senior at Mount View High School and a participant in the Broader Horizons program for at-risk kids devised by the Reconnecting McDowell task force. But it's hard not to focus on the negative when it can seem like that's all there is. Asked about their hometown, the kids shout out the usual list of woes with a world-weary attitude: bad schools, no jobs, drug addiction.

McDowell Street in Welch, West Virginia, on the afternoon of August 24, 1946. // Russell Lee, National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Solid Fuels Administration for War.McDowell Street in Welch, West Virginia, on the afternoon of August 24, 1946. // Russell Lee, National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Solid Fuels Administration for War.They're right to worry: McDowell County has been the iconic symbol of poverty in America ever since the 1960 presidential campaign, during which then–Sen. John F. Kennedy visited the county four times. In his May 3, 1960, speech in the town of Welch, Kennedy cited the collapse of employment in the coal industry and declared that had President Eisenhower "come to McDowell County, he would have seen a once prosperous people—the people of the largest and most important coal-mining county in the world—who were now the victims of poverty, want, and hunger."

Ever since, the unrelenting awfulness of McDowell's problems has drawn the eye of storytellers and researchers alike. In March 2014, The New York Times ran a story comparing affluent Fairfax County, Virginia, with McDowell. Besides noting the fact that average per capita incomes are five times higher in Fairfax, the article reported that average life expectancy in McDowell County was the lowest for males in the United States, at about 64 years. "Poverty is a thief," the Times quoted University of Maryland professor Michael Reich as saying. "Poverty not only diminishes a person's life chances, it steals years from one's life."

McDowell Street in Welch, West Virginia, on the afternoon of September 21, 2016. // Ronald BaileyMcDowell Street in Welch, West Virginia, on the afternoon of September 21, 2016. // Ronald BaileyRight around when the New York Times writers rediscovered McDowell, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton were uncovering an alarming new national trend: The mortality rates of middle-aged white Americans were increasing. In contrast, U.S. mortality rates have been steadily declining and average life expectancy increasing for well over a century. So what is going on with poor white people between the ages of 45 and 54? Case and Deaton reported in a September 2015 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that nearly two-thirds of the increase in the white midlife death rate is the result of drug overdoses. Most of the rest is attributed to increases in suicide and chronic liver diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis.

McDowell fits that pattern: According to 2014 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it has the highest suicide rate in West Virginia at 22 per 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 13 per 100,000. The rate of liver disease in the county, which is the highest in West Virginia, is twice as high as the national rate, at 21 per 100,000 compared to 10 per 100,000. The number of murders per capita—again the highest in the state—is three times the national average.

Debra Elmore, who oversees Destiny's after-school program, backs her kids' generalizations with hard numbers that are hard to hear as well. "Ninety percent of kids in McDowell County schools are below the poverty threshold for free and reduced-price lunches," she says. "Forty-seven percent do not live with their biological parents, often because of incarceration and drug addiction, and 77 percent live in households in which no one has a job." And these bleak stats almost certainly understate the problem. Poverty numbers from the state, for instance, do not include children under 5 years of age.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reports that McDowell County has the highest prevalence of fair/poor health among adults in the state (25.3 percent), along with the second highest prevalence of obesity, with 44.8 percent of adults reporting a body mass index of 30 or above. The percent of residents over age 25 who are high school graduates is 64.5 percent; nationally, it's 86.3. Only 5.8 of residents have a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national rate of 29.3 percent.

In his incisive book, Hillbilly Elegy (Harper), self-described hillbilly and Yale Law graduate J.D. Vance notes, "Growing up around a lot of single moms and dads and living in a place where most of your neighbors are poor really narrows the realm of possibilities." He adds, "It means that you don't have people to show you by example what happens when you work hard and get an education."

Double Exposure

My grandfather and my Bailey aunts and uncles left McDowell County just as it was peaking economically and demographically. The county seat, Welch—a town of over 6,600 in 1950, located at the scenic confluence of Elkhorn Creek and Tug Fork River—was referred to affectionately by the locals as "Little New York." McDowell was then the leading coal producing county in the nation, until that honor passed to neighboring Logan County in 1955. Friday night traffic would be backed up two miles as coal miners and their families came to town for entertainment. In fact, traffic was so bad that Welch built the first municipal parking garage ever in the United States. A famous 1947 photo shows the main drag, McDowell Street, clotted with cars and crowds of stylishly dressed people eager to visit one of downtown's three famous movie palaces.

Coal is still being mined in McDowell County. This coal preparation plant is located outside War, West Virginia. // Ronald BaileyCoal is still being mined in McDowell County. This coal preparation plant is located outside War, West Virginia. // Ronald BaileyToday, the cineplexes are long gone (the Pocahontas burned down in the 1980s, perhaps due to arson) and the remaining buildings along McDowell Street are mostly empty.

On the first afternoon of my visit, the only traffic was a lone pickup truck. Big, fine-looking brick houses built on the hillsides overlooking downtown and lining Stewart Street are relics from the prosperous past when King Coal reigned in these mountains. But the median home value in McDowell County is now $38,000, compared to $160,000 nationally.

I took a snapshot from the same spot as that mid-century photo 60 years later. It was a ghost town. The only commercial establishments still operating were a bank, two tiny drugstores, a gas station, and a three-plex movie theater. That parking garage still stands, but it's almost entirely empty. Most of the dilapidated buildings were abandoned or now house the extensive network of social services agencies that are meant to address and alleviate McDowell's many communal dysfunctions. Fewer than 2,000 people call Welch home.

Coal

Missy Hairston is a local girl who has made good. She grew up and went to school in McDowell County. As a teen-ager she participated in the African American Arts Heritage Academy summer program at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown. She later majored in theater at WVU. "I Only one place in America is named War. The town's population peaked at 3,992 in 1950; today, fewer than 800 people live there. // Ronald BaileyOnly one place in America is named War. The town's population peaked at 3,992 in 1950; today, fewer than 800 people live there. // Ronald Baileygraduated in 2002 and I didn't even wait to get my diploma; I just took off for New York to look for jobs," she says when I bump into her in the office of state Delegate Clif Moore (D–McDowell). Hairston was in town from Los Angeles visiting her parents for a couple of weeks. "I am proud to be a coal miner's daughter," she says. "I came back because there is so much good here." She had stopped by to talk with Delegate Moore about how she might support arts education in the county's public schools.

A few minutes later her father, Mike Hairston, walked in. As we sat around the office, Moore prompted the elder Hairston to reminisce a bit. A proud member of the United Mine Workers union, he had worked 35 years on his knees underground mining 37-inch coal. He says that he'd never been hurt, never lost time due to an accident, and never been written up. He retired in 2003. Still, he acknowledged, mining is dangerous work. "You put your clothes on in the morning," he observes, "but you don't know who'll take them off of you in the evening."

Both Hairston and Moore muse about the bygone era of coal-fueled prosperity. "There used to be 10 car dealerships downtown in Welch," claims Mike. "Welch had three hospitals and three dry cleaners. The IGA, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly grocery stores are all gone. We used to have a train station and bus station. On Friday and Saturday you couldn't find parking in town."

"These coal companies put it to McDowell County. They made their money and then left us behind," he says, echoing a sentiment I heard many times on my visit. More than 93 percent of the land in McDowell County is owned by out-of-state companies, according to the Blueprint Communities report published by a community development nonprofit. (Disclosure: I am a partner in a family limited liability company that owns over 2,000 acres of land in McDowell.)

Both Hairston and Moore are convinced that the EPA is in fact waging a war on coal. Their complaints range from the agency's Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to its decision to review 79 surface mines' permits to see if they violate the agency's increasingly stringent regulations on how mining companies can dispose of waste rock. But they steadfastly refuse to blame President Barack Obama for what has happened to the industry.

Exports of U.S. coal have also fallen steeply, from a peak of 126 million tons in 2012 to just 28 million tons so far in 2016. Since 2011, the price of coal has dropped from nearly $150 per ton to around $45 per ton today. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the coal mining industry in January 2012 stood at 89,800. As of May 2016, it has declined by more than a third to the current level of 56,600 jobs. The shale gas revolution made possible by fracking also played a big role. As power generators switched to cheaper and cleaner natural gas, coal consumption in the U.S. fell by 23 percent between 2008 and 2015.

All of which adds up to a dying industry with little chance of rallying in a town with no other industry.

Welfare

"The provision of subsidies to induce people to stay in…place delays the inevitable. At worst, such subsidies effectively retain the kinds of people who are the least able to adjust, ultimately, to market forces," write Iowa State University economists David Kraybill and Maureen Kilkenny in a 2003 working paper evaluating the rationales for and against place-based economic development policies. "It does no good to retain (or attract) people in places that are too costly for most businesses, which cannot sustain economic activity. That turns the place into a poverty trap."

McDowell is, in many ways, the perfect case study for this thesis. Chloe and Alderson Muncy of McDowell County became the country's first recipients of food stamps on May 29, 1961. The unemployed coal miner and his wife had 13 children at home. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman handed over $95 in food stamps to the family, whose first purchase was a can of pork and beans from Henderson's Supermarket in downtown Welch.

Today, nearly 47 percent of all personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), and other federal programs, according to a 2015 report compiled by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Of the county's 19,800 residents, nearly 8,500 receive SNAP benefits, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

What McDowell County has is a surfeit of social services agencies and programs. So many, in fact, that Kathie Whitt, who is the executive director of Families, Agencies, Children Enhancing Services (FACES) is one of the leading figures in town. FACES does not provide any services, but it is the information clearinghouse for the more than 30 agencies and organizations that work on capacity building, economic development, child abuse prevention, drug prevention, pregnancy prevention, health initiatives, and organizational development. Whitt has been working with FACES for 16 years and is retiring this year. If all of the social services agencies in McDowell have a central planning commission, it's FACES. Whitt is the chief commissar, and I mean that in the best possible way. She's compassionately clear-eyed about the problems in the county.

"So many folks in McDowell have an entitlement mentality. Everybody owes them a living, housing, clothing, and food. They are the first ones who line up at every giveaway," she says. "Unfortunately that group is expanding."

Whitt worries about what will happen when the Baby Boomers step down from their leadership roles. "We have really seen some dark days," she says. "I do not feel that we have a good future based on where we are now. I think that McDowell County will continue to deteriorate."

Drugs

The state reported 79 drug poisoning deaths in 2015 in McDowell, and, owing to the prevalence of injection drug use, the number of HIV infections is the highest in the state. As background, the West Virginia Health Statistics Center reports that drug overdose deaths in the state increased from 212 in 2001 to 726 in 2015, while opiate-related deaths rose from 147 to 628 over that period. Whitt says that the Welch Community Hospital asks four questions of everyone being admitted to determine how at-risk they are for drug abuse. She claims that "80 percent of those coming through the hospital are positive for risk factors."

Based on her experience with social services, Whitt reckons that a high percentage of McDowell County residents between the ages of 18 and 40 are drug users and require a lot of assistance. "So many younger people in their 20s and 30s are strung out and walking around like zombies," she says. "They don't work and they don't raise their kids."

"It seems like parenting is a thing that people don't know how to do anymore," she continues. "Our parents taught us, but somehow the next generation didn't learn to be mothers and fathers." Again, the evidence is that about half the kids in the county are not living with a biological parent.

The faith-based Community Crossings agency tries to repair this deficit. Counselors offer in-home guidance to parents of young kids and throw "community baby showers." The goal is to reach people before they turn to the Department of Health and Human Resources, which funds and administers West Virginia's extensive welfare services. "A lot of the younger people don't have the mind-set to keep up with themselves," Whitt explains. "You see it in their houses, their cars, and their kids." According to a 2014 FACES report, McDowell County is 55th in West Virginia for child and family well-being, out of 55 counties.

"We don't see homelessness here like in D.C.," Whitt observes. "Instead, people sleep on someone's back porch kept warm by a kerosene heater or live in a camper van." She says she knows "five teens who are living out of backpacks moving from friends to friends right now." Whitt herself took in for several months a teen boy, a friend of her son's, whose father was abusive and mother suffered from schizophrenia. She eventually persuaded his uncle to take charge of him. The young man took a popular route out of the county by joining the military at 17.

"We have really seen some dark days," says Kathie Whitt. "I do not feel that we have a good future based on where we are now. I think that McDowell County will continue to deteriorate."

Donald Reed works nights at the Welch Hospital as a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment drug abuse counselor. From that position he sees just how bad McDowell's drug, and especially prescription opiate, problem is. "McDowell has the second highest overdose rate in the nation," he says. I ask him if he's seen any cases in which addiction treatment worked. He sighs. "After 30 to 90 days at a treatment center, they bring you back to exactly where you were. People are so tied to their families," he explains. "When you come back to where you are comfortable, back to the same habits, and back to the same people, it's no wonder treatment hardly ever works." He adds, "There is no support here. The best thing you can do is leave here and never come back."

Drug addiction has also affected his family. Reed tears up when he shows me a photograph of his cousin Charlie, who died of an opiate overdose at age 20 while a student at Bluefield State College just 30 miles away.

Work

Even though the number of jobs in the mining industry has been declining for decades, it's still where McDowell residents turn when they think about employment. "This generation that is now coming along—they've got to go to school. A company that pays $9 million for a long wall mining machine is not going to put it in the hands of no one with no education," Mike Hairston says. Echoing a theme I heard from others, he adds that "most of the current generation is not qualified to do anything." Moore chimes in: "The unskilled, the unmarketable can't go anywhere."

According to the latest figures from the Census Bureau, 25 percent of McDowell County residents under age 65 are disabled, compared to 8.5 percent nationally. In addition, only 32 percent of residents over age 16 are in the civilian labor force, compared to the national rate of 63.5 percent. The median household income in McDowell is $23,607, compared to a national figure of $53,482; per capita income is $14,813 vs. $28,555. The Census Bureau reports that more than a third of residents are in poverty. Nationally it's 13.5 percent.

In January, Walmart closed its store at nearby Big Four, West Virginia, taking 140 jobs with it. "I never thought I'd ever say that I hate to see a Walmart close," Debra Elmore, the Reconnecting McDowell staff member, tells me. "But I do."

Various attempts have been made to jumpstart economic development in the county. One of the more notable was the creation, on an old strip mine, of the 5,900-acre Indian Ridge Industrial Park just north of Welch. So far the only "business" that has opened in the park is a federal prison, which started housing inmates in 2010. Indian Ridge is supposed to be strategically located along the route of the Coalfields Expressway, a long-delayed four-lane highway that would link McDowell to the Interstate highways. The hope is that the expressway will encourage business development by allowing drivers to bypass winding country roads.

One of the big problems confronted by McDowell County's schools is attracting and retaining teachers. Many commute from the more prosperous Mercer County next door. In fact, Whitt tells me 70 percent of the professionals, lawyers, doctors, and teachers working in McDowell do not live in the county. Interestingly, that includes Elmore. So the Reconnecting McDowell task force has cobbled together grants to build housing for teachers in downtown Welch on the site of an old furniture store. Right now the building site is a hole in the ground, but eventually it will have 28 to 32 apartments, communal spaces, and a coffee shop.

The vast majority of good jobs in McDowell are in government or nonprofit social services. According to the Blueprint Communities report, the public sector accounts for 33 percent of employment in McDowell County. The largest employer is the school board, and teacher salaries average just over $40,000 per year. Entry-level federal correctional officers earn $39,000 annually. That's considerably more than the median household income of $23,607.

Sorry

Beverly Slagle is a 73-year-old woman who is rearing two of her great-grandchildren, an adopted little girl, and a little boy of whom she has obtained custody. These legal arrangements are important because it means that Slagle, rather than her wayward granddaughter, receives the various social welfare payments to take care of the kids.

Slagle grew up in McDowell County but followed employment opportunities to other states. Her husband worked as a cement trucker in Ohio for 25 years and then took a job at a steel mill for three years in Michigan. After he became disabled, when a tank fell on him at the factory, they moved back home in 1982.

Asked why she takes care of her great-grandchildren, Slagle replies, "If we don't, who is going to take care of them? If we don't do it, social services will send them out of state." She says her granddaughter, now a 22-year-old home health care aide "on pain pills," has had three children by three different boyfriends. The newest baby lives with his father. The oldest was born when Slagle's granddaughter was 15 years old. "She's like so many young people today," Slagle says. "They are so sorry; they just don't want to do right. They stay on their phones and gadgets all day while their babies are doing God knows what.…Young people are not like when we grew up. Kids had chores then; now they only have gadgets to play with."

I ask FACES' Whitt why so many young unmarried women in the county become pregnant. She sighs and notes that birth control is freely available at school. Most of the girls and women are "on medical cards" (that is, enrolled in Medicaid) that would pay for contraception as well. It doesn't matter. "There are no consequences to pregnancy—they get immediate access to a medical card, food stamps, a check, WIC, and home visits," she explains. "They have all the welfare benefits as long as their kids are not adopted, plus there's no babysitting, since the grandparents will look after the kids."

FACES organizes a Second Time Around support group for folks who are raising their grandkids or great-grandkids. It meets once per month. Slagle notes that her friend and her friend's husband are raising two of their grandkids despite health problems. "Neither one of them is able to do it," Slagle says. "You know, if I weren't rooted here, I would take the kids and go."

Cold Turkey

So why don't people just leave? That question is actually surprisingly easy to answer: They did. After all, 80 percent of McDowell's population, including my grandparents, cleared out of the county to seek opportunities elsewhere during the last half-century.

But as the mines mechanized and closed down, why didn't the rest go, too? Reed, Whitt, and Slagle all more or less agree that many folks in McDowell are being bribed by government handouts to stay put and to stay poor. Drug use is the result of the demoralization that follows.

In a Fall 2014 National Affairs article called "Moving to Work," R Street Institute analysts Eli Lehrer and Lori Sanders asked, "What is keeping the poor from moving their families to new places to take advantage of better opportunities?" They argue that "the answer lies primarily in the structure of poverty-relief programs." In other words, the government is paying people to be poor.

Many of the 80 or so means-tested federal welfare programs that provide food aid, housing assistance, medical assistance, child care assistance, and other services for low-income individuals and families are administered by state agencies that each have differing requirements and standards. "For an individual or family faced with the stressful prospect of uprooting a household and leaving behind established community support systems, even a temporary loss of welfare benefits can be daunting," they argue. They conclude that "America's decentralized welfare state, in short, presents a major barrier to mobility itself."

Wouldn't the best option, then, be for Washington and Charleston to cut off the supply of public funds that generate so much heartache? Going "cold turkey" has its attractions, but it would leave a lot of human wreckage in its wake.

So is there another, less ruthless possible public policy response to the social pathologies afflicting places like McDowell? The R Street analysts' proposed solution to the mobility freeze is to streamline public benefits and provide some kind of subsidy to encourage people to move to areas with better job prospects. Perhaps by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is now only available to people with some income.

Stay

When asked about their future plans, the kids in Destiny's Broader Horizons group all say they hope to get more schooling. Most mention local institutions such as Bluefield State and Concord College, with the most distant being West Virginia University. The Reconnecting McDowell program, created by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), aims to intervene in the lives of promising kids. One of the goals is to introduce students to the world outside of McDowell.

The group I talk with at Mount View High School are super-excited about the field trip to the Democratic National Convention they took. Because of the AFT connections, they received VIP tickets and got to watch Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton speak. "Just breathing the same air as President Obama was exciting," says senior Selena Collins. The group has also worked on a mural and attended a Lady Gaga concert. They make it plain that they were not at all intimidated by the size and hubbub of Philadelphia.

But when I ask if they plan to come back to McDowell County after they finish their educations, most say that they do.

Why? Mostly because of family.

Donald Reed, the hospital drug counselor, is someone who came back. "We can't sit here and wait for the government to save us," the 35-year-old says. "We can't sit here and wait for coal to come back." Reed's day job is as the West Virginia University Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development. He works in the County Commission Building on Wyoming Street. The windows on the third floor of the municipal headquarters are boarded up with plywood, and signs on the way up direct visitors to the drug-testing facilities. Yet Reed has been quite successful, signing up nearly 800 kids for 4-H programs this year.

I ask him why people stay in McDowell. "People love it here," he says. "They love the safety of the mountains, the safety of small communities." As an example, he says that if his car broke down, it wouldn't be long before one of his neighbors driving by would stop to help him fix it or get him to where he needed to go. I suggest that it might take a bit longer for someone to stop and help me, an outsider. He smiles and allows that that might be the case.

But why did he stay? "I know there is very little opportunity here," Reed says. "But I wanted to come back because I need someone to remind me of what life is about. I know these people, prayed with them. They carried me when no else would. We value people, memories, and experiences."

I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the sentimental case for staying. At night, in my inn, I could hear the trains huffing up a grade so steep that the cars loaded with coal, grain, or manufactured goods from the Midwest are not only pulled by locomotives in the front but also pushed by locomotives in the back. The clatter in the dark reminded me of the trains that used to pass on the spur line from Saltville a couple of hundred feet behind the house I grew up in. It was an oddly comforting sound.

On my last day in McDowell, I drove to visit the site of past Bailey family reunions in the Panther State Forest, and to search for my grandparents' old home place in the town of Panther. As a kid, I hadn't really appreciated the awesomeness of the steep forested mountains flanking the narrow valleys through which Route 52, a.k.a. the Coal Heritage Highway, twists. Upon arrival, I spent a quiet moment swinging on the swings at the George's Fork picnic area. My attempt to find the old home place was not successful; the ragged road along the Tug Fork River is now lined with sagging trailers and tumble-down houses menaced by a luxuriant wilderness of kudzu vines.

But the broken beauty of McDowell isn't a good enough reason to stay when it comes down to it. It wasn't enough to hold my grandparents 60 years ago.

"If you get public assistance to supply your needs without any effort from you, you've got no incentive to better yourself or your situation," explains Reed. He reminds me that many of the people who remain in McDowell are there to help the people they see as family: "The only thing I ask of you when you walk away is to remember that not everybody here has lost hope. There is a group of people who are working to make things better." But in the end, he admits, "a lot of those who stay here stay here because they feel stuck."

Photo Credit: Travis Dewitz

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  • ||

    Appalachia's problems existed long before Appalachian culture made its way across the ocean, and they're not going away anytime soon. Problem #1 is self-pity, problem #2 is believing that book learnin is for faggots, and most of the rest of the problems are corollaries of those two.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    Still, it's great to hear they have avoided the stifling regulation and bureaucratic oversight that ruins economies on the macro and micro level, currently plaguing the rest of America. So as soon as they get over problem #1 and problem #2, the sky's the limit.

  • ||

    Oh they've been fucked plenty, don't get me wrong. But that's not why they're doing worse than other people in other places, I don't think.

  • Hamster of Doom||

    I dunno. Are they really? Like JB pointed out downthread, crippling generational poverty in an immobile population is not just for the rurals. Poverty also is not eradicated by urban mobility/opportunity. The metros have their shitholes buried within them. Growing homeless populations. Oakland has people building illegal shacks in industrial warehouses, and gladly paying $300-600 monthly for the privilege. Seattle has shantytowns.

    Slab City.

    Government instituted minimum wage laws. Inner city young men trafficked drugs and decried institutionalized lack of opportunity. Nixon blah blah Drug War, the US became the highest prison population in the world and welfare was suddenly popular. And now here we are, with black people almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, despite similar usage rates. Yet the take-away from all that is supposed to be that black people are just inherently -- culturally or congenitally - criminal lazy degenerates, bless their hearts.

    I have a doubt.

    Poverty will always be with us, we agree there. Humans are so diverse, there's going to be the perverse buggers whose part in the natural order of things is to serve as the bad example. There will be those who weren't quite quick enough to adapt. Our nature means there will always be a spread.

    Contn'd, bugger all character limits....

  • Hamster of Doom||

    On the other hand, humanity's brief and highly productive moments of liberty generally correlated with healthy middle class populations. Huge, even.

    There's at least a good argument that much poverty culture comes from external sources, rather than being inherent.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    That's a pretty simplistic word salad that doesn't explain much at all. I realize this article is full of anecdotes, but it seems clear enough that a lot of people are hooked on welfare and can't afford to move because of the disruption in benefits, having to establish a new presence and re-apply for everything. Cutting benefits cold turkey might be a good long term solution, but it won't fly in the short term, and whether that's fair to taxpayers or not, or whether it's libertarian or not, it's the practical reality.

    I have experience with small poor towns, and know the attitudes you mention, self-pity and sneering at books and education. I've worked with people who managed to lift themselves out of those situations in spite of contempt from their friends and family. But sneering in turn at those people, or sneering at the people who can't quite divorce themselves form the family, friends, and community, isn't going to solve any problems in the real world.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    One very famous story along those lines is "October Skies."

  • Raven Nation||

    Man, that's a great movie/

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I hear the book it was based on was good too.

  • Robert||

    It is. And I've had some exchanges w Homer Hickam on Usenet group rec.pyrotechnics.

  • ||

    That was such a good movie.

  • ||

    That is, I loved the cadence and spirt of those kids.

  • DblEagle||

    Don't forget the implied liberty across the society when they made their rockets. If some energetic kids tried backyard rocketry today the reaction would be "Oh Nooooz! Terrorists, Nazis, jihadist!" from one side and "You'll poke your eye out." from the other. The few freedom minded parents would receive CPS orders and/or SWAT visits.

    We have so fucked ourselves. Once the current generation of aerospace engineers retire the US will be regarded like Portugal. "Hey thanks for getting the age of exploration going. Why don't you sit over there so you don't get in the way of the big kids."

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Perhaps you missed the appearance of a nearby Sheriff's department in that movie.

  • DblEagle||

    I remember them. They were skeptical, especially about the fire, but there was no SWAT and no charging the boys. The sheriff department was much more reasonable than today.

  • theGhostPony||

    "If some energetic kids tried backyard rocketry today the reaction would be "Oh Nooooz! Terrorists, Nazis, jihadist!" from one side and "You'll poke your eye out." from the other."

    Sorry, but as a model rocketry enthusiast I have to say, that is not true. Model Rocketry is alive and well. Heck, Estes kits are sold at Hobby Lobby.

    Signed,
    a fan of Homer Hickam, Coalwood, NASA and rockets

  • Fodder||

    Homer Hickam was from Coalwood, just down the road for Welch. Ron B. is talking about that same world.

  • Fodder||

    Homer Hickam was from Coalwood, just down the road for Welch. Ron B. is talking about that same world.

  • Fodder||

    AAAAAnnnnnd hat is why you don't use preview...
    Thanx Squirrels!

  • Robert||

    And notice in that same world Baileysville & Bailey Lake.

  • ||

    I'm not really sneering at these poor idiots. They didn't invent the attitudes that are keeping them poor and stupid, and it's not their fault that they're not strong enough to overcome the cultural inertia, because it's an unnatural and difficult thing to do. And as HoD mentions, it's not their fault that the government is doing all it can to keep them poor and stupid.

    But things aren't going to change for that culture until the whole culture changes. And it hasn't for hundreds of years, so...

  • The Hyperbole||

    Sneer away, shame is a woefully under-implemented motivator these days.

  • BigT||

    Actually there is a lot of shaming going on,but for political reasons, not character flaws.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Indeed. The SNAP debit cards are just one more step in the ongoing attempt to eliminate the shame of food stamps and taking government cheese handouts.

  • reformed libertarian||

    As a former libertarian, I now ask how you justify your condescension at those who take government handouts. Have you BEEN to McDowell County?? I'm sure that you would seemlessly transition into self-reliance, especially without education, four lane highways, parks, and surrounded by the ruination of flooding, coal, and shuttered businesses.

  • reformed libertarian||

    As a former libertarian, I now ask how you justify your condescension at those who take government handouts. Have you BEEN to McDowell County?? I'm sure that you would seemlessly transition into self-reliance, especially without education, four lane highways, parks, and surrounded by the ruination of flooding, coal, and shuttered businesses.

  • Tejicano||

    I was pretty lucky to be a transplanted guedito (white kid) in a Hispanic neighborhood in that while I have an affinity for the Mexican culture of my home town I don't have a blood connection to it. So while me, my siblings, and our peers grew up and put ourselves through school mainly it was only myself and my siblings who made opportunities elsewhere. All of my peers (those who have lived to middle age) have found themselves back - at least in location - where we grew up.

  • GILMORE™||

    book learnin is for faggots

    So you're saying there are communities of highly-educated homosexuals living in the mountains of West Virginia?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Where do you think that international boy kidnapping cult operates, right under the nose of the FBI?

  • ||

    What do you think WVU is? Have you seen their mascot?

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Drop thy contemptuous drawers and squeal in the manner of a swine, thou lusty city dwelling fellow!

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    A different take, maybe the progs want its quaint ways preserved? There is a whole island south of Florida that they are bitching about getting too modern right now.

  • ||

    Mmmm.... I dunno. The left has too much contempt for hillbillies for that, I think. They're not cuddly and oppressed like black people, they try to pray the gay away, they're racist, etc.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I never thought of those being their reasons why they want it preserved, but that works too.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I think keeping Cuba intact is more their style. WV already has McDonalds and stuff, but there's still hope of keeping Cuba poor^Wpure I meant.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    problem #2 is believing that book learnin is for faggots

    I don't think this is quite the truth. It is close though.

    To put a finer focus on it: send your kids off to college and they may not come back at all or if they do, they come back completely changed. You raise them with conservative values and they come back with liberal values.

    There has always been a deep mistrust among the rural and left-behind dwellers of small towns towards government, and for good reason. Urban areas value different things and peer pressure will force you to become someone you don't want to be. Even if there's work there, you maintain your pride in your way of life and would rather stay impoverished than be what they want you to be.

    I have family at various stages of this all over, and like Bailey, all my grandparents and great grandparents going back have been impoverished people. Lots of military men, because that was one consistent way to get away from it all (provided that you survived) and make a steady paycheck. Unlike most city dwellers (by choice), I talked to those people growing up and some of my family has returned to those ways after tiring of city life. I don't consider them to all be backwards yokels at all. They just have values city folk can't understand and don't want to. A college graduate myself, I completely understand their intense dislike for the sneering academic type.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I knew a Brit who came to the US when his company was bought up. He said one reason to leave the UK was his mates looked down on him for going to night school, sneered that he thought he was too good to hang out getting drunk. Said there was an old widder lady who hung potted plants on her porch which the local youts would regularly break because she was putting on airs.

    I have known such people. It's so much easier to stay poor and on welfare like your family and friends, rather than take risks. There's an entitled "it was good enough for my parents, it's good enough for me" air, their father worked the mines, they should too.

    Everyone has some aspect of that -- reluctance to change when that involves risk and the unknown and uprooting yourself. Barely scraping by adds to the uncertainty because there's so little margin for error.

    State welfare ought to offer a deal -- you move far enough that going back is not easy and welfare will pay your moving costs and guaranteed one year's welfare at the new location, but only in kind, no cash, and you have to go to school or get job training of some sort at the new location. The minute you drop out or quit, it's over.

    Statists would never allow something so cold-hearted. There'd be so many exceptions and excuses that it would turn into just another cash handout doomed to failure. Private charities could never offer the same deal because state welfare won't let people suffer from their own actions.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    There's an entitled "it was good enough for my parents, it's good enough for me" air, their father worked the mines, they should too.

    I'm not sure you understand what these people feel entitled to: a way of life that is dying and they (rightfully) see city people as the cause of it and a government that really only cares about populated areas aiding them.

    Community is super important to them, and the sense of belonging with family and family friends. The self-pity they feel towards living on the government dime stems from the pride they feel in all the rest of the things they feel that the government wants to take from them. Until urbanites understand this, the urban-rural divide and the must-provide-eternal-welfare mentality will continue. Doing what you propose would be seen by proggies as cold-hearted, and seen by small town an rural folks as the government finally turning their backs on them completely. Do you feel that those people are adequately represented by their government? They sure don't.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    Consider our joking about the proggies finally getting the reeducation camps they want under pinko rule.

    Rural and small-town people think those reeducation camps already exist, and they're called universities. Imagine what the pricks at Yale and Missouri University look like to those people considering what the SJW set looks like to us. It's a confirmation of their very worst fears.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Rural and small-town people think those reeducation camps already exist, and they're called universities.

    I question whether universities are the progressive reeducation camps you believe they are. I have no doubt that some of that goes on, but it went on 30 years ago too, and we (conservative students) openly mocked them. I suspect it's mostly the same today and these progressive nutjobs are simply a vocal minority. I mean, liberals and conservatives have been, generally, equally split for as long as I can remember. If there was this great "reeducation" going on, I doubt that'd be the case.

    I suspect that, as Ron suggests, it's addiction to the welfare state that keeps these folks from attempting to better themselves. They are incentivised to be poor because they can continue to do so without expending any effort. They stay because leaving is scary. Leaving means living outside their comfort zone, so it's better to live in poverty than to take risks. Risks that would be a matter of survival if not for the welfare state.

    And I think the resentment, you speak of, comes from the fact that deep down, they know they are chicken-shit, so they despise those with the bravery to make something of themselves.

    I grew up rural (and conservative). It always seemed like the dirt-asses, getting a welfare check, were the ones rejecting education and advancement.

  • livelikearefugee||

    I went to a state university in north Louisiana 40 years ago. We actually had conservative professors and the progressives mostly kept their heads down. But, we also had good job prospects in engineering, oil/gas, forest products, etc. so not many people majored in liberal arts bullshit "studies" programs. Professors didn't make 6 figures and no one took them seriously. The sexual revolution hadn't quite hit yet so you hard to work real hard to get laid but it was worth it. Yes, by God, it was. Almost too easy, now. No sport in it.

  • Born Again Username||

    I am currently going to a small, private college in "rural" Iowa (only a 30 min drive to a major city). Even here, the prog infection is spreading. Every part of the administration that I have interacted with is incompetent. In my philosophy course, at least half of the students hate the president-elect for not being Hitlery. And, more disturbingly, the engineering department is full of people who are more interested in continuing to play sports than learning. Even the physics department (where I pend most of my time) lacks other nerds. The only department where I have found multiple people who attended college to work even harder is in the computer science department.

    As far as reeducation, the administration actively pushes how much we are able to tolerate before we (I?) just leave. Last year, someone made a pro-Trump statement, and since then, every two months they send out an email that basically says the campus is for progs. So far, we have only had two mandatory indoctrination/reeducation talks (both of which were during the time that was supposed to be dedicated to us learning the layout of campus). To be frank, if the number of gen eds I had to take wasn't so extremely low, I would've left already.

  • Animal||

    There's a major city in Iowa?

  • afk05||

    When I read your comments, I thought back to the grandmother and Whitt both mentioned in the article, that the kids today are not only addicted to drugs, but busy staring at their phones and addicted to their gadgets. So the older generation in these poor rural towns are resistant to change and to sending their kids away, but technology and a change of morals and priorities have found their ways in to even the most rural, remote, desolate places, so perhaps they would be better off embracing positive change versus no change at all.

    They can resist change and cling to community and family, but the younger generations have already lost all of that. Now you have grandparents and great-grandparents raising children who were likely born addicted to drugs. The younger kids are NOT staying because of any loyalties, fear of big cities or government, they are staying because of government handouts, complete apathy and a lack of desire to do anything with their lives. Why bother trying when they can just slack off and get high? It's sad to realize that the older generation should just get their families out of there and move. They can find other smaller towns with a sense of community that still has better access to jobs and education.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    People who go around vandalizing ofther people's property have too much time on their hands, and that's probably because they aren't their own means of support.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    That's what you get for being popular with the drunken hooligan set.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I think this is much closer to reality than Warty's smug and simplistic take. We hear, constantly, about the divide between the "educated" and "uneducated", not just in terms of income or well being, but in terms of politics and values. And there is almost always a subtle (or not so subtle) implication that uneducated equates with stupid, backwards, and just plain wrong, reported by a patronizing media-type.

    I work in a very rural WV county with an outsized population of STEM college graduates and PhDs. People who live here integrate into the community. A lot of people in rural America respect education - they just don't respect the stereotypical values that go along with a university education. First and foremost the smug sense of superiority on display in the first comment.

  • livelikearefugee||

    I think they respect technical and practical educations. What they don't seem to respect are Gender Studies and Revolutionary Art Psychology majors. Neither do I, for that matter.

  • LynchPin1477||

    That is probably a lot of it.

  • cthulhu||

    It varies. I grew up 30+ years ago in a very rural area of the mid-south-central US and was one of exactly two members of my high school graduating class to go elsewhere to college; my town had a small teacher's college, but no engineering program, plus I was so sick of the place that I had to get away.

    Why was I sick of the place? Because there were a lot of people who were very anti-intellectual. I'm not talking about people who disliked and distrusted those who had frivolous college degrees; these people intensely disliked anybody who had any "book learning" at all - anybody with education was automatically seen as haughty, stuck up, a sissy (if male) or ball-buster (if female), "uppity", etc. This attitude was usually held by parents and children alike, sort of a poor white trash (my hometown was overwhelmingly white) version of the well-know prejudice against "acting white" that occurs in some black communities (which has been documented by Roland Fryer). Hell, even some of my high school teachers acted this way. Manual labor was seen as the only honest work; people who bossed manual laborers were the scum of the earth.

    There were people who bucked this attitude, but not too many. I got tired of being bullied in school, and there was nothing for me to stay for, so I left and never looked back. I don't know how to help people who refuse to help themselves.

  • Harun||

    That culture makes a lot of sense in a labor intensive world.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Interesting. Do they all work at an NSA radio surveillance post or something?

  • reformed libertarian||

    All intelligent people need not be educated. But, it is nice to have that local choice. We are dealing with a State that is not concerned with its dearth of educational prospects (not to knock WVU). But, humanitarians must reckon with these things---the uncomfortable truths of the rural poor, whether or not the rural poor care....

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    A college graduate myself, I completely understand their intense dislike for the sneering academic type.

    I have a master's degree, and I hold the academic class in utter contempt, especially in the humanities. Most of them belong to an ideological hive-mind in a dull, conformist intellectual environment but believe they're masters of critical thinking. They embody the Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

  • MetalBard||

    Fuck off Warty

  • ||

    Read a book, you fucking queer.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    The irony is that John's probably more well-read than Warty could ever dream of being.

  • Lord_at_War||

    STAREROYEDS DID NOT OWNLY SHRINK MY BAWLS!

  • Seamus||

    I'm confused. I thought reading was for faggots.

  • ||

    Nope. You won't.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    If you go back and look at his posts, there's rarely anything of substance--his reputation on here is due primarily to SugarFree turning him into a meme.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Oops?

    A famous 1947 photo shows the main drag, McDowell Street, clotted with cars and crowds of stylishly dressed people eager to visit one of downtown's three famous movie palaces.

    But the caption on the picture says

    McDowell Street in Welch, West Virginia, on the afternoon of August 24, 1946.

    Are they different pictures, or is that a typo?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Good catch.

    Also, The Google can't find this place. My grandfather bought a dairy farm 100 miles away in Clinchburg, Virginia

  • Raven Nation||

    Found it on Mapquest.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Damn, The Googles need to step up their game.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You need to Google harder.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    You're turning me on.

  • Robert||

    And look with googly, googly eyes.

  • ||

    What I like about those photos from that era are Lincoln, Hudson etc. art-deco styled cars. Awesome.

  • ||

    Clinton during campaign - "We are going to put Coal miners out of work!"

    Clinton after election - "I lost because of fake news!"

    Watching the dems these days is like watching Monty Python skits.

  • Sevo||

    "Watching the dems these days is like watching Monty Python skits."

    Pay-walled, but here's the headline:
    "The Resistance to Trump is rooted in the Bay Area"
    http://www.sfgate.com/search/?.....Resistance

    Yes, the bay area is to become the hub of the Resistance (sic) against Trump! So says lefty columnist, 'cause two app writers told him so.
    They're going to sign up for medical insurance they don't want! Not burn coal in their fireplaces! Send their kids to government schools! Petition for wars in places you don't care about!

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Direct link which isn't paywalled for me -- I use noscript with firefox and don't allow their cookies, maybe that's the difference.

  • Sevo||

    Interesting.
    If I try through the teaser, it opens for less than a second and I get pimped for a sign-up.
    Go through yours and no problem.
    No body said the Chron's web interns are any better than Reason's....

  • Brochettaward = (((pants)))||

    Most sites with paywalls you can just hit cancel as it loads completely while getting the text of the article.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Typical depressing proggie viewpoint. They are trying to convince tech companies to not support any effort to register Muslims. Great -- but why weren't you doing the same for registering guns? I know the answer, please, it's a rhetorical question meant for hoplophobes. But there are a zillion similar areas where they applauded Obama -- he deported more Mexicans than any prior President. Anyone making a profit or working independently of government control is suspect. Uber? Airbnb? Lip service.

    Buncha retards.

  • Sevo||

    Doncha' love how they're going to 'fix the election cycle'?
    They need to meet the Chicago Ds; those folks KNOW how to fix and election!

  • GILMORE™||

    Californians may be largely locked out of the Trump administration, but they are quickly forming the hub of what's being called the Resistance.... the intellectual headquarters of this surge in grassroots activism is the progressive Bay Area
    ...
    "I've been signing petitions and donating money and calling congresspeople," said Lori Koon, a San Francisco hairdresser who is hosting a Trump resistance meeting Monday at the salon where she works. "And that's all good, but at this point, if I want to see the world shaped the way I want to, the little people like me are going to have to do it."

    She is leading one of the more than 60 small groups organized by California's 1.3 million-member Courage Campaign that are designed to brainstorm resistance ideas.

    This weekend, several hundred programmers are gathering at San Francisco tech company GitHub for a hackathon on how to "transform your dissatisfaction into a unique idea."
  • Flakfizer is Ballet, Jr.||

    They've given me a money-making idea for down here in Texas. I'll start an "Anti-Trump Underground" or some such - because we're a Big Red* state, we can't operate openly - and take "operating funds" from a bunch of lefties.

  • Flakfizer is Ballet, Jr.||

    * - I love that stuff. It'll probably kill me, but I don't care.

  • fish||

    but they are quickly forming the hub of what's being called the Resistance.... the intellectual headquarters of this surge in grassroots activism is the progressive Bay Area

    Because there is nothing more thrilling to a San Francisco leftist than fancying him or herself as a partisan in an existential battle against the existing power structure whilst enjoying $8 lattes and dining at the cities best restaurants before a showing of "Rogue One" at the Metreon.

    meh.....

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    All of this reads like an old Ramparts article by Tom Hayden calling for a new guerilla movement in the US.

  • DblEagle||

    These butt hurt "brave" members of the SF resistance should watch the movie "Anthropoid" and learn the real cost of resisting against true Nazi's The movie does a fantastic job of telling the tale of killing Heydrich and the costs to the Czechs afterwards. Much of it was filmed at the actual locations and shows what dilemmas a resistance movement. I highly recommend it.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Did it get to the part where the Nazis leave and the Soviets show up?

  • DblEagle||

    No. It covers from the infiltration until Lidice. Replacing Brand X socialists for Brand Y socialists would be way too depressing.

    The director gets many small details correctly. First how the surviving resistance members are: "You want to do what?" when the Anthropoid team shows up. How people walk nervously after the attack with the random crackle of gunfire in Praque. With them giving no flinching to stand out because the Germans are killing random people in the streets. Paranoia runs rampant and to be paranoid helps survival.

    The movie is a worthy effort.

  • ||

    If they can't come up with anything better than Putin hacked the election, they'd better give up now.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Yes, you too can be a limousine liberal....

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "Watching the dems these days is like watching Monty Python skits."

    It's been that way for a while, now.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Will this be Ronald Bailey's Garbutt moment? Time will tell.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Social welfare programs keeping people stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty? That's unpossible! Only conservatives and libertarians want to keep people poor. It is known

    Good piece Ron

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Why don't people who live in places with no opportunity just leave?"

    White Privilege?

  • ||

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    So now it is official. As soon as the Palestinians discover they can get a bigger allowance playing this game, they will be on board too.

  • ||

    It probably wasn't too hard for the warmist cult to figure out that they needed people with faith to believe in their crap.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Does that go back farther than that environazi/stalinist who brought Gaiha into the mix in the 1970s or so?

  • ||

    Does seem like religion was often concerned with the climate. Crops are failing? Smoking mountain is making angry sounds again? Time to sacrifice some poor virgins and chillins! The only thing that's changed I guess is now they want sacrifice your standard of living. And the invisible sky gods are Al Gore and other assorted cronies.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Did Gore see his shadow? It is freaking cold here!

  • The Fusionist||

    Here is the actual document causing the fuss (as opposed to a lefty editorialist quoting one section).

    It's a document from the Congregation for the Clergy, "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation," providing guidelines for priestly formation.

    I believe the relevant portion is on p. 70 of this 91-page document:

  • The Fusionist||

    Most of the material you'd find objectionable is quoted from the Papal encyclical *Laudato Si.* The fact that a document from a Vatical Congregation would quote the Pope is not really earth-shaking news; your quarrel should be with the original encyclical.

    While there's talk about an "emerging planetary crisis," it doesn't get into the weeds of global climate-change policy.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Why don't people who live in places with no opportunity just leave?"

    Like large cities with a million regulations and licensing schemes that prevent it's poorer, less educated inhabitants of starting even the simplist of businesses?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Nice one!

  • ||

    A lot of people actually did leave back in the 60s and 70s to work in factories in the north. Now most of those factories are gone also and states like Ohio, Michigan, PA, IN and others have more hillbillies than WV. In one smaller Midwest town I lived in, half or more of the people there were from Eastern KY coal mine country. I think part of them went back though because the factory jobs were gone.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That was a big point of JFK's New Frontier and Johnson's Great Society. One of the foundations of the war on poverty was trying to get the rural poor to move to the cities where the jobs were--and people doing that is associated with the increase in urban poverty and ghettoization.

  • AlmightyJB||

    West side of Columbus and parts of the south end have a large number of folks with Appalachian roots. Has been that way as long as I remember. Of course recently a large portion of that population on the near West side have been replaced by Hispanics and Somalians.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    One of the foundations of the war on poverty was trying to get the rural poor to move to the cities where the jobs were--and people doing that is associated with the increase in urban poverty and ghettoization.

    Part of that strategy was the knowledge that urban residents tended to vote Democrat, as well. Encouraging rural Americans to move to DA BIG CITY was a smart way to increase your voting base by alienating them from their home communities.

  • Rhywun||

    I don't know about the large cities you have in mind but the one I live in is full of neighborhoods with wall-to-wall small businesses run by poorer, less-educated residents. Sure there's too much regulation but your characterization is a bit off.

  • Robert||

    So why aren't people similarly entrepreneurial in the area in question? Besides making meth, I mean.

  • Jerryskids||

    Very good piece.

  • ||

  • AlmightyJB||

    I saw that. The SOS pick seems to be taking a long time. Wondering if there is something very specific Trump is looking for that he's having a hard time finding. Glad Gulliani is out of the pic.

  • ||

    That's what I'm hoping for. Hopefully Romney is also out of the running. He should appoint Ron Paul, that would be a hoot. Although I know Ron wouldn't take it because of his age. So he should just do something truly outrageous like appoint Dennis Rodman. I mean Rodman has connections overseas, right? In some curious places most Westerners have never been.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Definately hoping for a non-interventionist. If I'm holding out hope for any one thing from this administration, it's extracting us from the role of the world police and our boys safely out of the middle east.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I figured Romney was a safe choice: harmless, nice, polite, sort of articulate. He did "rescue" the Olympics, which must have required some diplomacy and budget sense. Sure there must be better choices, but what does the SoS actually do other than translate Trump-speak into something more polite and long-winded?

    What's the big deal with not wanting Romney?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I blame Mother Jones. Both the woman and the magazine.

  • ||

    There's been poverty in Appalachia for a long time. When I was a kid and we would go there to see some hillbilly relatives, I was sort of shocked by it the first time or two that I can remember. I mean kids don't pay too much attention to things like that, but there was no indoor plumbing in a lot of houses for crikey sake. The folks who did have those luxuries were the ones where all the male members of the clan worked in coal mines all day and most died from black lung.

  • AlmightyJB||

    More to life than money

  • ||

    That's most certainly going to cost you money if you want to do more than look. Shotgun wedding for JB.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Lol. Do I get all 3 though:)

  • Adans smith||

    Ive spent much time trout and small mouth fishing and rafting in southern WV. The land not good for farming and it's so remote and the mountain roads make transportation difficult. The two things they have are coal and timber. The government is trying to eliminate coal and much of the timber is owned buy the government and off limits.

  • Adans smith||

    By the way,rafting the Upper Gauley river in the fall is a hard,fun,dangerous trip .And beer tastes so good when your done.

  • ||

    Smallmouth fishing is great in that part of the country. I caught a 6 pounder in a creek in KY. Holy cow those things are mean, that was a hell of a fight. Thing came out of the water at least 5 times and I thought it was going to either break my line or get me snagged up in some brush. Caught it on a yellow rooster tail.

  • Adans smith||

    Here's secret. The Hocking river in Ohio is full of small mouth,spots and rock bass. I have floated it several times and went up and wade . Most ate one half to 2 pounds ,but,I have caught 3 to 4 pound smallies and a friend caught a 5.5 pound. We always took a small gas grill in the boat and grilled steaks half way down for lunch.It's a dawn to dusk trip.

  • Adans smith||

    Here's secret. The Hocking river in Ohio is full of small mouth,spots and rock bass. I have floated it several times and went up and wade . Most ate one half to 2 pounds ,but,I have caught 3 to 4 pound smallies and a friend caught a 5.5 pound. We always took a small gas grill in the boat and grilled steaks half way down for lunch.It's a dawn to dusk trip.

  • Adans smith||

    Here's secret. The Hocking river in Ohio is full of small mouth,spots and rock bass. I have floated it several times and went up and wade . Most ate one half to 2 pounds ,but,I have caught 3 to 4 pound smallies and a friend caught a 5.5 pound. We always took a small gas grill in the boat and grilled steaks half way down for lunch.It's a dawn to dusk trip.

  • Adans smith||

    Thanks to the squirrels it's not a secret now.

  • 68W58||

    Timber and cattle sustained my family in western NC (doesn't matter how steep the pasture is to cattle, so long as grass will grow). There is no coal mining in the NC mountains, so tourism-including white water rafting-is a big part of the economy (snow skiing too). People manage to get by and often thrive-I have never encountered the attitude of contempt for education that the author describes.

  • livelikearefugee||

    Same thing going on here in rural Oregon: feds own most of the timber and it's now, increasingly, off limits. They also own most of the grazing land and strong pressure by the progs in Portland to force the ranchers off the land. A generation ago, a reasonably hard working high school grad could get a good job in a sawmill or plywood plant and make a family wage. Half of the mills are gone and, in the ones that are left, workers have been replaced by automation.

    When jobs move out, government dependency and drugs move in.

  • DblEagle||

    I lived in WY and visit southwest WA for my annual elk hunt. Both areas are as you described. Small towns with limited ways to earn a living but people trying to stay. There is the constant undercurrent of desperation since the remaining industry is further automating and have been under Fed assault since Jan 2009. I was in WA on election day and you could feel a weight lifted from the people that live there. The feeling may well be a a soon to be shattered hope, but it was real.

    I plan on moving back after I retire to live a good life at low (er) cost. But as for now my profession keeps me away. However, I want to give a big hat tip to "River Mile 38 aka RM38" which is a phenomenal nano-brewery in Cathlamet, WA. Great beers and a great atmosphere.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I bet the good people of West Virginia are Kid Rock fans.

    Kid Rock, aka Bob Richie, from Michigan, is now angling to be the Bruce Springsteen of the GOP. If– when– he's invited to perform for Trump at the inauguration, he'll be very lonely.

    Why?

    Kid Rock is now selling obnoxious, vulgar t shirts and merchandise on his website that are pro-Trump, anti-Blue State. One T shirt calls blue states "Dumbfuckistan." Another: "God Guns Trump."
  • ||

    SF'd link.

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • ||

    Except KR doesn't have Springsteen's deep catalog.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I think there's something about the nature of the coal mining industry that breeds a sense of fatalism.

    The work conditions in a coal mine are awful. People cling to their livelihoods, but I doubt any coal miner looks forward to going to work--because they enjoy it. What kind of a work ethic does a society develop over time if most people's jobs are hellish?

    Meanwhile, coal mining continues to be dangerous job. It was much more dangerous before mechanization--thousands of coal miners used to die every year--but mechanization also dramatically increased the incidence of respiratory problems associated with inhaling coal dust.

    In addition to the people who developed black lung, thousands more develop chronic bronchitis. The wiki says 16% of non-smoking coal miners develop chronic bronchitis.

    Why wouldn't the coal industry induce a state of fatalism? You work in a hellish environment where explosions and cave-ins are a constant threat. There were thousands of coal mining deaths every year for decades. If you survived that nightmare long enough, your chances of developing a respiratory disease went way up with mechanization.

    What kind of a self-motivated work ethic could develop and sustain itself across generations in a society centered on that industry?

    FWIW, the coal mining regions of the UK and Germany apparently have a lot of the same ugly features you'll find in the coal mining areas of Appalachia in regards to poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Maybe it's a sunk-cost fallacy -- leaving the industry would be admitting coal mining was a bad choice. Like people who stay married because they don't want to admit it was a mistake or that anything changed.

  • Ken Shultz||

    When it's the only industry in town, you don't jump ship--especially if you got in the union. You're doing a hell of a lot better than the unemployed people around you.

    It's like that with government jobs, too. I don't think very many people decide to stop being a fireman. Being in a union like that, definitely makes you risk adverse. Not that being in a union will protect you from fundamental changes in the economy. See coal miners displaced by mechanization, textile workers in the northeast, and taxi drivers displaced by Uber for examples.

    OTOH, when workers in certain industries tend to have the same problems, , . . .

    The term "drunken sailor" comes from sailors on shore leave. Cross culturally and throughout history, sailors get their paychecks after they've been at sea for months at a time, and they've got a ton of money to spend all of a sudden. It they don't spend it that weekend, there won't be anything fun to spend it on when they ship back out the next day--so they spend it all now. That's what happen when you get a bunch of guns in that situation.

    Combat soldiers are prone to "shell shock", PTSD, whatever you want to call it. Put people in the same situation, and a lot of them tend to react in a certain way. When they went on R&R before being shipped back into battle, a lot of them would party like they didn't expect to survive their next battle--maybe because they weren't sure they would survive the next battle.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Coal miners basically have lived in that situation for generation after generation. If you don't expect to live till you're 50, face constant danger, and end up with respiratory diseases even if things go well, there isn't much of a culture of short term self-denial for long terms gains that's likely to be propagated from generation to generation. When you look at your injured, broken, alcoholic, 40 something father, 1) he's probably not encouraging his coal mining children to save for the future 2) there's not much to look forward to if you're likely to end up like him. To be prosperous, a community has to believe that hard work and denying yourself immediate gratification will lead to prosperity, but for generation after generation of coal mining communities, there's been little good reason to believe that.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    What you described is a big reason why the coal industry was such a huge breeding ground for unions in the late 19th century, particularly the radicals like Big Bill Haywood.

  • GILMORE™||

    So in my Youtube "recommended" feed today was a channel devoted to "PizzaGate" conspiracy-mongering

    wtf, i don't even *watch* these fucking kooks. I blame HM; half the time what i think is going to be a twerk-video is some weird shit that is probably ruining my online profile.

    Still, i can't help but at least try and determine why *this guy* is apparently the BEST of the PizzaGate genre

    Every time i see these people i wonder what the hell their day-job is, and why their boss hasn't discovered that they've got a screaming lunatic on their staff.

  • ||

    "What the fuck is a fake news onslaught?"

    Rape culture? Scary Clown Epidemic? New scariest drug ever epedemic? Hate crime surge? Yes, it's like that.

  • ||

    What the fuck is this pizza gate thing I keep hearing about, anyway?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Don't ask.

  • Adans smith||

    People calling 'deep dish' pizza?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Apparently there is a pizza joint in DC that has been accused of being a place where pedophiles meet children.

    Oddly, back in the 1990s, the Pentagon City Mall food court was the place in the news for that every few weeks or so. Police were using AOL to talk to potential pedophiles and arrange meetings in that food court, then bust whomever showed up. However, none of this hysteria toward the owners of the mall emerged. Nor, as far as I can recall, did any hysteria emerge over the police pretending to be children online either. That bit came later, and was fleeting.

  • wef||

    "the government is paying people to be poor"

    Probably fewer than you think. While there are emotional benefits to remaining where your "people" are or "where it's safe" or both, most workers move their households to where their talents yield the highest expected material benefits for themselves, & importantly for their children. Sure, some people will pay a sentimentality and/or risk premium in terms of foregone money incomes, some perhaps accepting poverty and getting on welfare, & you are likely seeing a higher concentration of those types in McDowell due to a simple selection effect, after the less sentimental and risk averse leave. In such cases you might see welfare "pay people to be poor."

    But more discouraging - & underlying the notion of idiocracy - is that a good fraction of what you seeing are poor families who would be poor and receiving welfare any place they were located. These have, in fact, made an optimal, rational choice of location, given their talents. The occasional doer-thinker does bubble up and out, but a depressing meritocratic reproduction mechanism is at work. To contemplate the policy implications leads to an anxious sweeping under the rug.

  • Steve G||

    50 years ago the country realized that we needed to create a working class to do the menial labor. So we created a lot of social services to make it easier to have babies.

    Besides citation totally fucking needed this just doesn't pass Hanlon's Razor muster.

  • John Titor||

    Insane troll, do not engage, unless you just want to try to out-crazy them.

  • Steve G||

    Oh, I know him. It's less 'engage' and more 'fire and forget'

  • ||

    Excellent stuff, shreek. Did you also know that before humans yet existed, lizard like space aliens came to earth and bio-engineered humans from chimpanzees to use them as slaves to mine gold?

    You should write about that on your website so that you and your dajjal sock can argue about it. Should be fun reading.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Are those the ones that wrap babies in gold foil, or am I confusing my extraterrestrial overlords?

  • gbear||

    I must watch the "Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" again.

  • ||

    That's fucking awesome! 'I told you woman, to not make no slimey eggs! You had that beatin a comin!'.

  • ||

    I watched the movie Deliverance with my wife and she was afraid to drive though West Virginia for 5 years after that. Every time we drove out west to see family, I had to go through PA instead, lol.

  • GILMORE™||

    I watched the movie Deliverance with my wife and she was afraid to drive though West Virginia for 5 years after that.

    It was actually set in North Georgia

  • ||

    I know that. I think the film setting was actually in Tennessee, though, right? Anyway, same deal, scary mountain folk.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    No, Georgia and South Carolina.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    And she thought PA better?

  • ||

    Well, she'd only been in the USA for 6 months, so...

  • Austrian Anarchy||

  • GSL in E||

    As far as "why people stay", I'd guess there's a significant selection effect at work. I went to college in Pittsburgh (about 45 minutes from WV), and met a lot of people from towns like this. My impression is that the public schools where they were from were terrible, as you'd expect in impoverished places, so anyone smart/hard-working enough to get into college got out. And none of the people I met had any plan to go back after graduation. I also met enough ex-WV-ians outside the university to guess that there are plenty of people from these towns who go to places like Pittsburgh to work in, eg, construction, landscaping, etc., and try to better themselves that way.

    IOW, it's not that no one in these towns wants to leave for opportunities. They've just already left, and they're never going back.

  • ||

    In other totally NOT fake news

    IOW, Merkel already blaming her upcoming defeat on Putin! And here's the kicker. Putin, who is now an evil super villain on the order of something out of a Marvel comic series, is going to take out leftists world wide. Now you may be asking yourself why would Putin want to take out all of these leftists and support right wing candidates? Well, now it's been progsplained. Socialism = Democracy and anything right of Mao = anti-democracy? Got that?

    Folks, the left have nothing left and the best they can come up with is this. This is what desperation looks like. Man the tear barrels, there's going to be a monsoon!

  • Adans smith||

    Merkel dug her own grave opening the county to all the 'refugees' for the middle east. As for Putin,he's in charge of a country with a weak ,corrupt,crony economy . Their navy is a joke,most of the army is poorly trained conscripts and the air force is middling. Mostly older planes with no heavy lift of refueling ability .

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, it's not that Clinton and Merkel could have possibly fucked the pooch with moronic decisions, it's... Putin!

  • Sevo||

    How pathetic a candidate was Clinton?
    Sell, she stunk sooooooooooooo bad, she lost to the second-worst candidate evah!

  • BakedPenguin||

    What's amazing to me is the complete denial among so many lefties that she was a piece of shit. I think the vast majority of the left who were willing to see her for who she was went with Bernie. And after Clinton's team fucked him over, they stayed home. But the complete denial is amazing, and kind of frightening.

  • ||

    Anyone tiring of Lebron's political shtick? You have his team mates refusing to go to the WH, he's boycotting Trump hotels, fighting Phil Jackson...etc.

    Yeh. I wonder how these dopes would react if one of their team mates or someone else decided they would skip going to the WH while Obama was in power. Yeh. I'm thinking things like 'not professional' or 'appropriate' and of course 'racist' would be uttered.

    Geez, it's not like we don't have proof of this. Anyone remember Bruins goalie Tim Thomas's decision to not go to the WH? Liberals went mad.

  • Sevo||

    "Anyone tiring of Lebron's political shtick?"

    Yes, and the SF atheletes' posturing also.
    Men paid well to play games whining that their political choice stinks.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    If it were me and Obama was in the WH, I would find something else to do too, probably.

  • DOOMco||

    Thomas is my hero. that guy gave it all up.

  • josh||

    phil should've kept his mouth shut, but nothing he said was offensive.

    as for the white house bit, i know the cavs already visited around election day. i know there have been rumors that maybe future teams might not go, but i haven't heard anything definitive. maybe i missed it. it's a silly tradition anyway.

  • GSL in E||

    The best part of it: if the Russian hacking story is completely true (most assuredly it's not), doesn't that imply that Obama actively worked against Hillary's campaign? Aside from the Comey business, it would mean that he sat on evidence of Russian hacking until after the election.

    So ... why aren't the same liberals screaming about hacking more angry at Obama? (I know, I know, that would require them to think, but still.)

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Unfortunately, it will not be until sometime in January before we can hear more from the biggest talking star in Vegas on that one. Nothing but bank shows until he returns from the Southern Hemisphere.

  • ||

    The fact that they believe they're going to convince the majority of people to believe that Putin is a super villain who now controls elections world wide is so fucking absurd that it's almost unbelievable that even leftists could come up with it. But they're going to run with this, lol.

    Then you also have a number of prominent Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and the apparently next DNC chair, saying that they don't need to change their message at all, even on the economy, and instead just do more of what they've been doing. Even the stupid party, as evidenced by the last several elections, cannot out stupid that no matter how hard they try. If Democrats blamed their losses on space aliens or bigfoot it woudn't be any more ridiculous.

  • Chip Your Pets||

    They're probably right. Trump is going to flame out, and most of the GOP is too stupid to keep their distance from the idiot. His protectionist and govt spending proposals would be bad enough for the economy on their own, but there's also the fact that the Fed hates Trump and has had its finger on the economy's self-destruct button for most of Obama's time in office. It seems unlikely that they will refrain from pressing it now.

  • Red Rocks Dickin Bimbos||

    there's also the fact that the Fed hates Trump and has had its finger on the economy's self-destruct button for most of Obama's time in office. It seems unlikely that they will refrain from pressing it now.

    The irony is that Trump said something to this effect during the campaign, insinuating that they'd do something like massively jack up interest rates to tank the economy after he took over. Of course, if they'd actually restored interest rates back to their pre-2008 levels, they'd have room to work with when the next recession hit, but they've been doing negative rates for years and have nowhere else to go.

  • Steve G||

    mein gott, my doberman has less jowls than Merkel.

  • John Titor||

    You know, you might make you and your colleagues look like a bunch of fucking idiots if the autocrat of a slowly failing nation is able to run circles around you and apparently manipulate your politics this much.

  • GILMORE™||

    her upcoming defeat

    I think "defeat" is probably a mis-characterization - although there's a good chance she will personally be gone by the end of next year.

    the CDU and SPD together have an overwhelming share of parliament; i think the likely outcome is a fragmenting of the "junior partners" in the governing coalition, such that instead of 2 relatively centrist parties running the show, you've got a few harder-right groups trying to twist the arms of the still-dominant CDU

    i'm not super hip to how things work over there, but that's my impression. Even if Merkel is out, the CDU will still be the #1 party - just with less power than they had in the past.

  • Chip Your Pets||

    Thing is, Putin has to be tickled pink that people think he has this kind of reach. It will only drive up his popularity in Russia, that's for damn sure.

  • Response||

    Same problem occurs in the ghettos/barrios/slums of Los Angeles. Why people stay in an area that is economically depressed (compared to the rest of the area) with little chance to really better their lives is beyond me. It's clearly a blind spot for me.

  • The Fusionist||

    When it comes to the point where the choice is moving out and staying put while on welfare, I'd say move out.

    However, the desire to live where you grew up is perfectly rational in itself. In fact it can contribute to social stability - assuming we're talking about communities of non-welfare-receiving people.

    Artificial propping up a community with welfare means the community is dead already and the government is zombifying it.

  • ||

    The rednecks are just doing it wrong, that's why there are no welfare, sprawling ghettos, or homelessness in major blue state cities. Why, as an example, I live in Baltimore where Democrats have been in full control for 50 years and... oh wait...

  • Tundra||

    This is the best thing I've read from you, Bailey. Just excellent.

    I've spent quite a bit of time up on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. It's not as profoundly fucked up as Appalachia, but your stories are quite reminiscent of their situation.

    (Disclosure: I am a partner in a family limited liability company that owns over 2,000 acres of land in McDowell.)

    As someone who has (and does) co-own property with family, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Sevo||

    Fake news, lefty edition:
    "In the wake of the Ghost Ship fire, examining Oakland's "staggering" rent hikes"
    http://blog.sfgate.com/onthebl.....ent-hikes/

    Note the bar chart. Visually, rents have increased 400%. Note the numbers; the actual value is ~60%.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    i wonder if there is any sort of economic force keeping owners from renting more units to people?

  • DOOMco||

    i agree, theres not enough low income housing. we need more zoning for that, and we should probably use rent controls to make sure the $15 an hour livable wage can pay for a 2 bedroom apartment there.

  • GSL in E||

    Zoning for more housing construction in the Bay Area? That's a good one; I haven't laughed that hard in a while.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    IT IS FOR THE CHILDREN!

  • Slumbrew||

    Note the bar chart. Visually, rents have increased 400%. Note the numbers; the actual value is ~60%.

    Tufte is spinning in his grave.

    (also, he's probably is surprised to be in a grave).

  • Stoic||

    Maybe there's some fundamental cultural difference between Virginia and other Appalachian states. When I worked in rural VA I got clients all the time who wanted to get off disability benefits. Since I came to western NC, I can think of 2 such clients. My parents are from southwest VA, and my dad refused to sign my disabled sister up for SSI when she was a kid. It may not have made financial sense at the time, but my sister has been gainfully employed nearly all of her adult life (just had a couple periods of unemployment between jobs).

  • jack sprat||

    I recently read an interesting book on rural poor. "White Trash, The 400 year untold truth of Class in America." Author is clearly a progressive but I got a lot out of it anyway.
    Has the commentariat ever talked about Charles Murray book he recently updated on UBI ? He claims it would already be cheaper to go this way. I have a lot of sympathy for his point of view. It would address mobility issue among other things. But side benefit when he suggests purchase of Catastrophic Health Insurance ,we could start to fix health care too by going down that path.

  • Sevo||

    "He claims it would already be cheaper to go this way."

    Until inflation made that the new 'not a living wage', which means it would have to be increased, until inflation made that the new 'not a living wage', which means...

  • EDG reppin LBC||

    Screw the squirrels.

  • westernsloper||

    Great article, thanks.

    It's too bad one of two things have not happened, and or could happen.

    1) Regulations might be eased and the biggest consumer of coal on the planet might suffer a shortage of inventory and arrangements could be made to maybe sell them some.

    2) Hillary Clinton wins the election and re-trains all these people to make wind mill blades, solar panels and electric cars.

  • ||

    Thank you Mr. Bailey for this. Places like Appalachia exist everywhere including Canada. I think those who still have ties to the old country heard and seen the European version of what grips Appalachia as well.

    Shorter explanation why people stay where they do: Family, familiarity, hope and welfare all acting as anchors.

    Hope in particular when associated or connected with the state can be problematic. Like, "Just breathing the same air as President Obama was exciting."

    And,

    "We can't sit here and wait for the government to save us,"

    /light bulb flashes.

  • LynchPin1477||

    A lot to unpack here, but for some reason this stood out to me.

    Our parents taught us, but somehow the next generation didn't learn to be mothers and fathers

    I'm really conflicted on where blame for that should lie. The parents who apparently couldn't teach their kids to do the same? The kids who didn't learn? Or is this merely symptomatic of a larger problem?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Various attempts have been made to jumpstart economic development in the county. One of the more notable was the creation, on an old strip mine, of the 5,900-acre Indian Ridge Industrial Park just north of Welch. So far the only "business" that has opened in the park is a federal prison, which started housing inmates in 2010. Indian Ridge is supposed to be strategically located along the route of the Coalfields Expressway, a long-delayed four-lane highway that would link McDowell to the Interstate highways. The hope is that the expressway will encourage business development by allowing drivers to bypass winding country roads.

    Who in their right mind thinks the only reason businesses aren't moving in is roads? Maybe you'd have a better argument if you were in commuting distance to a more prosperous area, but as it stands this comes off as the kind of naivete only a bureaucrat could love.

  • Stoic||

    Yep, NC is proof that roads don't create economic development (other than the short-term construction jobs when the roads are being built). Until recently, state highway funds were distributed disproportionately to rural counties (like mine, which has slightly negative population growth) while rabidly growing cities like Charlotte struggled to maintain their infrastructure. And despite those policies, people and businesses still tended to prefer the cities with crappy roads and traffic jams over the rural areas with well-maintained roads and minimal traffic.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I frequently drive on 4-lane highways in WV and if I can actually see more than 5 other cars, I consider it busy.

  • GSL in E||

    The highways in WV might see more traffic from bears than from cars.

  • reformed libertarian||

    The County completely lacks 4 lane roads. Fortunately, since an instance in NC may have been analogous, we can dismiss the notion that a well maintained roadway with dual traffic in two directions would affect the economy. Armchair public policy sure beats implementation!

  • reformed libertarian||

    The County completely lacks 4 lane roads. Fortunately, since an instance in NC may have been analogous, we can dismiss the notion that a well maintained roadway with dual traffic in two directions would affect the economy. Armchair public policy sure beats implementation!

  • LynchPin1477||

    The R Street analysts' proposed solution to the mobility freeze is to streamline public benefits and provide some kind of subsidy to encourage people to move to areas with better job prospects. Perhaps by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is now only available to people with some income.

    It would be interesting to learn how many people who rely on the welfare state understand the details of how it works. They certainly have an incentive to do so. Would they understand that the way to take advantage of an expanded EITC would be to move to a place with better employment? Would the costs of doing so still be too high compared to the subsidies they already receive? Or would they fail to make the connection in the first place?

  • Slumbrew||

    Since folks bust your hump a lot, Ron, I'll add a "good job". Nice long-form writing.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Good article Bailey. But something missing are the voices of the people who are on drugs, out of work, and using the welfare state. I would have liked to have heard their perspective.

  • ||

    BIG OIL for SOS?

    Wow, the left are going to go into hyper-pants shitting mode. Also, Obumbles orders CIA to say that Putin caused Hillary to lose.

    UNCLELEW 15 minutes ago

    Putin's victory is complete. Thanks, Trumpettes.

    LOLOLOL!

  • LynchPin1477||

    One way of looking at Trump's cabinet picks is as a much-needed infusion of real-world experience and a rejection of career politicians. But I worry that a bunch of these people will prove to be cronyist hacks.

  • ||

    I'm sure at least some of them will.

  • robc||

    Ascopposed to career politicians and cronyist hacks.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Against all evidence to the contrary, I continue to hope for something better.

  • Cloudbuster||

    "Why don't they just leave?"

    Short answer: They did.

    Out of a population of nearly 100,000 in 1950 ... Today ... a population of less than 20,000.

    Looks like a massive case of leaving to me.

    Non-story.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Listen I live in Appalachia and it just chaps my ass every time people ask questions like this. This is a libertarian site, right? You get more of what you subsidize, less of what you tax. Stop trying to "fix" Appalachia. If so many people weren't being made comfortable in their poverty with massive government assistance, more would leave. And there would be nothing wrong with that.

  • Cloudbuster||

    You know, the funny thing is that a place like this is perfect for people like me who work in the new economy. I work from home. I haven't worked regularly in an office since early in 2000. I work remotely, or make periodic trips to customers' sites.

    Yet here in Appalachia I live like a king -- property values and the resulting taxes are low. I have privacy, room to own horses, cattle, goats and ample grazing and hunting land. I don't need there to be jobs locally -- I hire locals on occasion for some farm tasks -- roofing, fencing, etc.

    If you need local work, it's a pretty bad place to live. So, obviously, don't stay here.

    Freed of perverse incentives for people to stay put, the area will support what it's natively economically capable of supporting.

  • ||

    I'm currently working about 50% at home. At times in the last 10 years, I was working 100% at home and there's some chance I might return to that. I like working at home myself. And it does give you the option to live where you choose. Which is one thing that is tempting me to go back to it.

  • Robert||

    I've been working exclusively from home for yrs. now, but it wasn't until 2 mos. ago that I finally moved out of the city. Now I have a chance to get out of the hole financially. But I moved mostly to be closer to friends.

  • Cloudbuster||

    "So many folks in McDowell have an entitlement mentality. Everybody owes them a living, housing, clothing, and food. They are the first ones who line up at every giveaway," she says. "Unfortunately that group is expanding."

    No shit, Sherlock. You install umpteen agencies handing out "free" money and, surprise, people line up for the money and want the gravy train to keep rolling.

    It takes a college education to make people this stupid.

  • Robert||

    It's not realistic to expect a population to dwindle to 0. Law of avgs.

  • ||

    All right, so I have a shitload of fairly nice trim that's covered in 50 years worth of layers of shitty paint. It takes way too much work with my heat gun and a putty knife to get down to bare wood. What's the best option here? Chemical stripper? Get a bigger heat gun? Burn the shit off with a fucking propane torch, fumes be damned? Throw it all in a bonfire, gut my house, and start from scratch?

  • ||

    I had a house built in the 1850s and it had all this fancy oak trim covered in about 90 layers of paint and full of nail holes. Who the fuck puts nails in wood trim? Anyway, I used checmical stripper on it. What a freaking pain. Then I saw that it just had so many chips and hammer dents in it that there was no way I was going to be able to refinish it and make it look good. So I stipped the rest off because it had big shitty looking paint runs all over, and then I fixed all the imperfections with wood filler and repainted, after which it still looked a lot better. The people who lived there before also had a window air-conditioner and to make it fit, they chopped off some of the window trim with what looked to be hatchet, lol. Just saying, you might be surprised what you find under that paint. Good luck.

  • pan fried wylie||

    make sure to inspect the area under where that window unit was dripping for water damage.

  • robc||

    Population has gone from 100k to 20k. Sounds like most did leave. Only the tail of the distribution is left. Its like the town near the motor company factory in Atlas Shrugged.

  • pan fried wylie||

    The question then becomes, why haven't the rest left. And the simple but sad answer is that they're not capable.

  • GSL in E||

    Probably some combination of being too elderly/genuinely disabled to work, having good reasons for staying (eg, taking care of older family members, working as a health care professional, teleworking a good job and enjoying the cost of living and natural beauty), and being addicted to welfare.

  • Out of sight, out of mind||

    I live in southern WV as well. There's plenty of blame to go around. The people all want coal to come back even though it never will. The politicians here all run on bringing coal back even though they can't. The schools are awful. The only real industry other than coal is all concentrated around the Kanawha River and the Charleston metro. But even then with the decline of coal, a lot of that has shrunk and most don't want to live in the city anyway. Fortunately for some places like Fayette and Raleigh County (Beckley area) they get some tourist traffic in the summer months for rafting and other outdoors stuff but it isn't a complete game changer because most of the jobs are held by out of state hipsters/hippies. So the only benefit is some spending money, not long term local jobs. I also believe that these people are more likely to take welfare because of the history of government and unions getting programs for coal miners. It's part of the culture here unlike in other rural places where the attitude towards government assistance is a little different.

  • colorblindkid||

    Not gonna lie, I thought you were in your early 50s. I was kinda confused about the "40 years ago" thing.

  • Carlos Diablo||

    Great piece, Mr. Bailey.

  • Loss of Reason||

    First, great piece Ron thanks for sharing.

    I know the focus is on coal miners and why they don't leave for other opportunities. But can't we ask the same for the homeless in San Fran, or the poor in Detroit, Chicago, Philly, or NY? They live on the streets, some are in worse off (no owl house for them) and have violence and drugs.

    That's what they call home and it's tough for people to leave. I do agree, at least for these people, it is a circle. No job, than no education for the future, that more poor.

  • Loss of Reason||

    First, great piece Ron thanks for sharing.

    I know the focus is on coal miners and why they don't leave for other opportunities. But can't we ask the same for the homeless in San Fran, or the poor in Detroit, Chicago, Philly, or NY? They live on the streets, some are in worse off (no owl house for them) and have violence and drugs.

    That's what they call home and it's tough for people to leave. I do agree, at least for these people, it is a circle. No job, than no education for the future, that more poor.

  • Security Mom||

    I know from my own personal bad times that one of the reasons people don't go someplace else is they can't afford it. When you are scraping by, you don't have the money that it takes to move. If nothing else, you need rental deposits, utility deposits, and pizza for the friend with a pickup truck.

  • Hunthjof||

    I have often asked the same question of Native American Reservations. Why do they stay there if there is no economic opportunity and the conditions are so terrible. It is the same reason. Free things keep them there. "Sure the conditions suck but I don't have to work so hey why not stay."

  • EveryOtherUsernameWasTake||

    This makes me think of Sam Kinison's solution to world hunger.

  • برامج انترنت||

    I have often asked the same question of Native American Reservations. Why do they stay there if there is no economic opportunity and the conditions are so terrible. It is the same reason. Free things keep them there. "Sure the conditions suck but I don't have to work so hey why not stay."

    برامج 2017 برامج كمبيوتر.

  • reformed libertarian||

    Of course, like Native American reservations (sans gambling) the problem is insoluble. It is the ease with which these people are casually dismissed as "other", and therefore disposable that shocks the conscience.

    Everyone is also quick to blame "government checks", which really no longer exist, but as disability tend to be about $600.00-$650.00 a month (for those who did not pay in). So, in conclusion, the so-called libertarian party has nothing but ennui for these persons. So, what is its value? It cannot present even a bad idea for this situation. Soon enough it will be these ideological freedom-holders who perish is a long list of ills. I hope we have the energy to blame any government assistance that might be given out. Not, of course, situational surrender. Good luck!!

  • reformed libertarian||

    Of course, like Native American reservations (sans gambling) the problem is insoluble. It is the ease with which these people are casually dismissed as "other", and therefore disposable that shocks the conscience.

    Everyone is also quick to blame "government checks", which really no longer exist, but as disability tend to be about $600.00-$650.00 a month (for those who did not pay in). So, in conclusion, the so-called libertarian party has nothing but ennui for these persons. So, what is its value? It cannot present even a bad idea for this situation. Soon enough it will be these ideological freedom-holders who perish is a long list of ills. I hope we have the energy to blame any government assistance that might be given out. Not, of course, situational surrender. Good luck!!